Ancient tea gardens from Lao Man E village, Bulang Shan, Menghai
Majority of bitter varietal, aged in the village for nine years
Strong bitterness, powerful experience
We visited Ai Xiang Nan over the Summer. We've sourced his tea from Lao Man E since 2019. In his brand new tasting room, we tried samples from his past productions.
There are two varietals growing in this village: the bitter one and the sweet one. These two varietals are present in every garden surrounding the village, but each of the gardens have a different ratio. We like Lao Man E tea with a strong but quickly vanishing bitterness. The bitter tea varietal features a lingering bitterness and seemingly potent 'digestive effects'.
So far, we've avoided it in our selection. That was until this morning, in Ai Xiang Nan's tasting room. We were sleep deprived and slightly hungover, yet, nothing better than a selection of Lao Man E tea to awake you.
I was interested in trying better examples of the bitter tea varietal. Ai Xiang Nan pulled up this cake from a shelf. He pressed it in 2019, using a 2014 maocha. It was made from a garden with a high amount of the bitter varietal.
I was surprised by how well the tea had aged, no off-smell, slightly wet storage (the village is at the same altitude as Pu'er City, but closely surrounded by mountains).
The tea starts very gentle. Bulang Shan tea likes a marathon session, you won't get the whole story in five brews. The bitterness ramps up steadily and reaches a plateau that seems never-ending. During this quick session, we were browsing tea, we didn't push it to its limits. He offered me a cake and I had a few sessions back in my tea shop. It is one of the most powerful tea we have on offer. The aging has likely toned the bitterness down, you can feel the result of aging in the intense sweetness that follows the initial slap on the tongue. The bitterness is straightforward and consistent, supportive until the end of the session. Thick mouthfeel, deep Huigan and a good buzz make the experience complete.