Monday, July 19, 2010

Long Yuan Hao - Bing vs. Tuo - Round 2

On August 8, 2007, I first did a comparison style "cupping" of my 2006 Gold Medal Long Yuan Hao Puer Cake (金級龍園號普洱餅茶) and Tuo-cha (沱茶) for my MySpace tea blog (does anybody still remember MySpace?). Almost a year later, when I started this blog, I reposted it (linked here), and at the end of that post I stated my intention of recupping these teas together every 3 years... and now here we are, late July 2010! Boy, how time flies!

During the last three years, these two sheng puer teas (生普洱茶) have been waiting on my puer shelf behind a curtain in my bedroom. I haven't drunk either of them since 8-8-07 and I did not read the original post prior to today's cupping so that it would not influence my taste buds.

I am now aware that these two teas are not exactly the same leaves pressed into two different shapes (as I had assumed back in 2007). The tuo-cha has the name Banna Tai Zi (Banna Prince) (版納太子) and the cake has the name Banna Yin Xiang (Banna Impression) (版納印象). Their vintage (2006), factory (Long Yuan Hao), and origin (Banna, Yunnan, China) may all be the same, but they are definitely two different teas.

The dry leaf on the Tuo seemed to be a bit smaller with a few more silvery leaves than the Bing (cake). This may be partially due to the leaf compression on the Tuo, which was considerably tighter.

Mr. Tuo

Mr. Bing

I used 5 grams of leaf in a bowl with about 8 ounces of boiling water (this being roughly the same cupping method that I used three years ago). I then reinfused the leaves five times, while constantly stirring and smelling the broth with identical ceramic spoons. My wife joined me halfway through (just as she did three years ago) to offer her opinion. As I type this post, I am drinking the cold liquor of both teas which have now been steeping for several hours.

The stage is set.

The aroma of the Bing was consistently maltier, smokier and rounder than the Tuo's which came through as brighter, pine-needle-y, and kind of "fruity and hoppy" like a light fizzy beer. Of interest to me was the evolution of the Bing's aroma over time into a more savory, soupy and sometimes unpleasantly tobacco-like smell. The Tuo, on the other hand, always seemed to have a sweet, crisp and playful smell regardless of steeping time.

The Bing was sweeter on the tongue with a hint of cacao flavor and a finish like charcoal baked oolong. The Tuo was more susceptible to bitterness and even reminded me of over-steeped Dragonwell green tea at one point. That being said, I slightly preferred the Tuo this time around, because now that both teas are cold, the Tuo is still clean and refreshing while the Bing is swampy and tobacco-y.

These teas have both changed quite a bit since my 8-8-07 cupping and I would no longer say that these puer cakes are "both superb." They are very good and I'm happy to have them around... but other sheng puer teas have impressed me more in the last couple years.

Good night Mr. Tuo and Mr. Bing. I'll see you both again in 2013!

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