Wuliang/Ailao Raw Pu’erh [February 2015 Tea Drinking Report]

Big shoutouts to Carolyn & Brian (a different Brian from last month) for providing several of the teas for this month and allowing the content to be what it is! I hope you like long-form content, because this tea of the month report is truly massive.

In the month of February 2015, the tea of the month was Wuliang/Ailao Pu’erh. During this month, I had Wuliang/Ailao Pu’erh at least once a day (unless totally unfeasible). I’ll still consume other teas, but the primary focus is understanding and building a palate for a specific type/genre/region of tea through repetition. This is the most personal blogging type style of post for TeaDB, and the goal is to stretch my palate as well as give recommendations to interested parties.

Producers sampled from:

  • Nanjian
  • Yunnan Sourcing

Also featuring teas from many other producers. Teas were principally acquired from Yunnan Sourcing.

Wuliang Ailao

Wuliang Ailao. Source: Puerh.fr.

Approximate Brewing Parameters

About 7g/100 ml yixing, 5g/80ml gaiwan. Single (for better teas) or double rinse and short steeps.

The Report

These two mountains run mainly north/south in Simao. They also extend far north and there are considerable overlaps with other regions (see the even more section). This report is divided into three sections, Wuliang, Ailao, and even more.

2006 Nanjian Wuliang

2006 Nanjian Wuliang.

Wuliang

2004 Nanjian Zhaizipo (Nanjian, Houde)

Fruity nose. Slightly citric sour at the start. Fruity and herbal with a medium body. A little earth and vanilla. The taste is generally deep with a nice texture, a definite step up from the other Nanjian. It is slightly numbing with a nice coating aftertaste. Due to the fruitiness I place it most closely in companion with the Jinggu teas. This was classified as hongchapu/oolongpu by Hobbes and I can understand that, but don’t particularly mind as this tea is quite pleasant.

2006 Nanjian Wuliang (Nanjian, Yunnan Sourcing)

Starts out kinda raisiny without being super sweet. The initial taste is raisins before quickly showing its considerable astringency and a slight sour/tanginess. It softens in the middle and eventually becomes buttery/grainy. The fruit goes away quickly and it is replaced by a wood taste that is unfortunately not very sweet or pleasant. It is overall a bit thin and there is bitterness and astringency throughout which makes it difficult to push the infusion time. It does sit in the mouth a bit, but I’d rather have something syrupy sweet like the 2006 Yunhai Nannuo instead. Brewed a few times the aroma eventually begins to resemble some of Scott’s younger teas, becoming more floral and the taste more citric around 5 or 6 steeps. Fairly dynamic steep-to-steep, but frankly mediocre. The raw materials isn’t particularly enticing leaving some hope for Scott’s cakes.

2009 Wild Wuliang (Essence of Tea)

Thanks to shah for the recommendation and Essence of Tea for producing and sending it. A tea that was likely exposed to some oxidation (due to it being off the beaten path) and was also kept in maocha form for four years. As a result, nearly all the roughness is gone. Interesting slightly lemon/citric/grainy nose. Soft, sweet floral aroma. A bright, sweet slightly citric, fruit taste with a nice body and a very pleasant soft finish. Deeper taste that extends to the throat, a characteristic missing in many of the teas from this month. The sweetness is sugary and floral + fruity. Salivating tea that coats the top of the mouth. I originally had this tea pegged at a similar level to the Zhaizhipo and Lao Wushan, however it’s a step better in my opinion.

2010 Lao Wushan Gucha (Houde, Xizihao)

Ripe fruit, vegetal aroma. Dense flavor of stone fruit and wood. Texturally silky. Induces salivation. Most of the aftertaste is in the lower parts of the mouth. The tea is astringent although it is hard to get bitter and very similar to the box Jinggu. I find it to be somewhat numbing. There’s some throatiness but not as much as other regions. OK longevity and easy on the stomach. Decent tea.

2010 Organic Wuliang Brick (Nanjian, Yunnan Sourcing)

This is carried by a couple vendors for around $5 and I can see why. It’s quite cheap and despite having wimpy looking leaves, there’s a fairly pleasant vegetal, fruit taste. Surprisingly aged and it starts off with a reasonable body. It thins out really fast and doesn’t have hardly any aftertaste or depth to it, but I could see this being a fun little daily drinker for those on severe budgets. Grassy aroma comes out a bit later.

2010 Wuliang (Yunnan Sourcing)

Fruitier than the 2012. Sweet grain. The scent and profile become more familiar and similar to the 2012 once brewed a few times. Country, hay flavors. Body is decent in the middle with a soft buttery finish. It lacks the vigor of the 2012 but has rounded out a bit more and has more balance. Has some nice mouthfeel. The aftertaste coats the mouth and doesn’t touch on the throat.

2012 Wuliang (Yunnan Sourcing)

Grass aroma. Sweet, hay/grass, granary taste. Buttery thickness. Thins out around steep 4 or so and starts to get a bit watery. I like it a bit more than the Fengchun. It’s also a bit tough on the stomach. Some huigan. Highly enjoyable and the only tea I bought from this month.

2014 Wuliang (Yunnan Sourcing)

A little weaker than the 2012 version. It’s a bit softer and more floral. Not quite as sharp. Still quite good. Numbing of the mouth.

2012 Wuliang

2012 Wuliang. Source: Yunnan Sourcing.

Ai Lao

2002 Ailao (Hailanghao, Yunnan Sourcing)

Definitely dry stored. Slight stone fruits and smoke. Can definitely get bitter/astringent. A nice smooth finish. Tickly feeling in the mouth. Heavy coating feeling. Floral. Reminds me of a more aged version of Yunnan Sourcing’s 2010 Wild DXS. Just in the mouth and no throat. It’s Kunming aging has rounded and softened the taste in a pleasant way, as long as you don’t expect anything too great.

2011 Ailao (Yunnan Sourcing)

Vegetal base with pale green leaves. Sweet/sour/acorn/floral taste. It’s got kind of an interesting base that comes after the initial floral sweetness. I put it as a less bitter and my personal taste places it as a bit less interesting than its Wuliang cousin.

2011 Wild Mountain Green (Mandala Tea)

Ailao material. Very sweet. Acorn, floral nose. Ends up being a bit different from the YS one. Sweet from start to finish. On the third steep begins to move into the savory/tangy/sour finish. It is very similar to the YS one. It is a bit sweeter and the sample may’ve been handled better so I do end up enjoying it marginally more.

2014 Ailao (Global Tea Hut)

Big thanks to Brian for supplying this tea for the tasting. Sweet and light. It is softer and more green tea/oolongish and has that same sort of base that can be found in the 2011 Ailao and is otherwise quite different. I tasted three of the Ailao teas with a friend and this was his favorite.

Yunnan Sourcing's 2011 Ailao

Yunnan Sourcing’s 2011 Ailao.

Even More!!!

Some more teas that made it into this report. These are from areas nearby or areas that bleed into Wuliang/Ailao. Some of these are probably more closely tied in than others.

2004 Jiaji Tuo (Nanjian, Yunnan Sourcing)

Grainy, smoky, nutty aroma. Tastes like it smells. Dense grain, smoke, floral with a bit of bitterness. There is a basic sweetness here that helps to balance out the less pleasant aspects of the tuo. Kinda your standard factory tuo, it’s not really similar to the 2006 Nanjian. This is denser, with a stronger body and the taste is almost the opposite to the 2006, evolving into a sweet taste. Despite the age, it is still stomach quenching. Floral aroma comes out later.

2007 Kunlu ( – , Bana Tea)

Big thanks to Caroline for sending this tea in! Plummy, graiy nose. Consistently thick in the mouth for many steeps. The taste is heavy in stone fruits, with hints of developing earth. Menthol-like cooling. Still some astringency in the taste that lasts for 8-10+ steeps. Leaves are small with a few stems mixed in. It hits the throat, inducing salivation and also coats the bottom half of the mouth. A very calming qi. I had a hard time placing with this tea, especially due to its high price point. It doesn’t really smack you over the head and deliver fireworks that some teas do, but reviewing my notes it is a very well-rounded tea. Any rating for this tea would be somewhat meaningless, as it stands in a different range of teas (in both price and quality) from everything else this month. Some aspects of this tea reminded me of the Wild Lincang from Teamasters.

2008 Jinggu (Bana Tea)

Thanks to Carolyn for sending this whole cake! Floral, brown sugary aroma. Good thickness, stone fruit sweetness. Really easy drinking tea. Citric, floral aroma starts to come out later. Coats the mouth. The huigan is pretty light. Brewed long the astringency is drying. It’s a good easy-drinking tea, but would probably put this a step below the XZH Jinggu + Lao Wushan.

2009 Jinggu (Xizihao, Houde)

The mini gift box tea from Houde. Dark, ripened fruit scent. There is a leathery texture, sweet plummy taste, with a hint of vegetal notes. The aftertaste covers the roof of the mouth very quickly. Eventually the fruit becomes a bit more stone fruity. Isn’t particularly harsh to the body. Fruit aroma begins to go away and a really nice vegetal aromatic sweetness comes out. Some throatiness.

2013 Fengchun (Yunnan Sourcing)

Grainy, grassy, perfume aroma. A decent body and strong bitterness that causes me to question if this tea has a yesheng elements to it. I suspect people that like the Wild Monk might really love this. More grassiness/graininess comes out in the middle steeps. It’s an alright tea, but I definitely lean heavily towards the Sanhezhai. Gets bitter rather quickly, A bit more diverse/balanced out than the Wuliang. Some stomach punchage. My guess would be some sort of Wuliang mixed with purple yesheng.

2014 Kuzhu (Yunnan Sourcing)

Had this sample lying around. Kuzhu is in the general area of Wuliang, lying close to Jinggu. Acorn sweetness with the expected astringency. Fairly numbing in the mouth, especially along the roof. It’s a decent enough tea but I find it to be a bit anonymous as far as Scott’s teas go.

Recommended Teas:

  • 2009 Wild Wuliang (Essence of Tea)
  • 2012 Wuliang (Yunnan Sourcing)
2004 Nanjian Jiaji

2004 Nanjian Jiaji.

Thoughts & What I learned?

As expected, this month was a more minor month than last month’s large Lincang undertaking. Both Wuliang and Ailao are a bit off the beaten path and it is reflected in in this piece. That being said, there were still plenty of respectable teas that represent good value from this month, most being offered for well-below top $.

No teas really blew me away as in previous months. The best tea (actually from Wuliang/Ailao) was probably the 2009 Wuliang from Essence, but its price also makes it unfortunately stand out in a less appealing way. It’s an elegant tea and is worth a sample for interested parties.

Rhythm & body. This tea was a pretty good mix. I didn’t do too many sessions of the stomach churning pu’erh (young tea not made by XZH/Global Tea Hut) back-to-back and generally got on quite well throughout the month.

As far as the question of can Wuliang/Ailao be aged? I don’t know if this tasting adds to much to the discussion and I’m not sure that i have much more to add to the discussion. The one 10+ year old tea (2002 HLH Ailao) was decent enough, albeit unexciting. I don’t really think that it’ll age into nothing, but there’s also no real historical track record of aged Wuliang. Many of these teas have plenty of strength and it’s hard to project their exact aging path. The teas also don’t hit the throat (exception being the Wild Wuliang) in the way that old arbor teas from elsewhere do.

Tea Vendor Producer $ Quantity Cost/g Rating
2002 Ailao Yunnan Sourcing Hailanghao $29.00 200 $0.15 Good.
2004 Zhaizhipo Houde Nanjian Good+.
2006 Nanjian Wuliang Yunnan Sourcing Nanjian $39.00 357 $0.11 OK+.
2009 Wuliang Essence of Tea Essence of Tea $157.18 357 $0.44 Very Good.
2010 Lao Wushan Gucha Houde Xizihao Very Good-.
2010 Nanjian Organic Wuliang Brick Yunnan Sourcing Nanjian $5.00 100 $0.05 OK+.
2010 Wuliang Yunnan Sourcing Yunnan Sourcing $31.00 250 $0.12 Good.
2011 Ailao Yunnan Sourcing Yunnan Sourcing $32.00 400 $0.08 OK+.
2011 Wild Mountain Green Mandala Tea Mandala Tea $35.00 250 $0.14 OK+.
2012 Wuliang Yunnan Sourcing Yunnan Sourcing $34.00 400 $0.09 Good+.
2014 Wuliang Yunnan Sourcing Yunnan Sourcing $35.00 400 $0.09 Good.
2014 Ailao Global Tea Hut Global Tea Hut  –  –  – Good-.
2004 Nanjian Jia Ji Tuo Yunnan Sourcing Nanjian $12.50 100 $0.13 OK+.
2007 Kunlu Bana Tea $975.00 500 $1.95
2008 Jinggu Bana Tea Bana Tea $54.00 200 $0.27 Good+.
2009 Jinggu Xizihao Houde Very Good.
2013 Fengchun Yunnan Sourcing Yunnan Sourcing $35.00 400 $0.09 Good-.
2014 Kuzhu Yunnan Sourcing Yunnan Sourcing $49.00 400 $0.12 Good-.

Next up for March: Yancha + Taiwanese Oolongs.

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4 Responses to Wuliang/Ailao Raw Pu’erh [February 2015 Tea Drinking Report]

  1. Hello James,

    Great compilation and very informative!

    A month of channeling your mind and senses to Wuliang/Ailao Pu’erh +1

    For someone without much experience with these 2 regions, I was wondering if you felt that there was a specific regional character that one could easily pickup on with these 2 regions or whether the characteristics from the teas were too mixed and varied. If you feel the former to be true, was there any one particular tea from each group you felt stood out as representing the regional character. The tea does not necessary have to be the best tea but a tea that most clearly represents the character of that region. That would be a good reference to have.

    Best, Varat

    • James says:

      Hi Varat,

      Thanks for the comment. You bring up some good questions and points!

      After drinking teas supposedly from these regions, I think these regions are tricky to place. They share some characteristics, but due to covering a fair amount of ground north-south and overlapping other areas (i.e. Jinggu) it’s kinda tricky to pin down. An imperfect region in my opinion. Alot of the tea openly marketed as Wuliang + Ailao seems to be from the northern parts (at least from Yunnan Sourcing).

      Cheers,
      -James

  2. Glazed says:

    Thank you for these monthly drinking reports – they are kind of like Consumer Reports for tea, with price/g and ratings. What is really useful is not only the comparison of a whole group of teas, but the background information and tasting notes together which I personally find a lot more informative than even a video format (although both are good in different ways). I am adding teas to my Yunnan Sourcing cart right now, making these a valuable resource, and I hope you always continue to write these. My only suggestion would be to have an explanation of your rating scale alongside with each monthly tasting notes (and has this evolved at all?). I think that can be definitely tough to put into words since they are very much your own tastes (and can depend on external factors, how you were feeling that day, etc), but without a standardization or even examples of “Excellent” to “Meh” you run the risk of devaluing the ratings themselves, although I find you do a good job in general.

    • James says:

      Hi Glazed,

      Thanks for the comment. This is my pet project, so I appreciate the feedback! Personally speaking, I have a really hard time (and mixed feelings) about any rating system and teas. As a result, the ratings here are intended to be very comparative and represent how I would make any sort of purchasing decision of my own.

      I have tended towards a bit more standard rating system in recent months (Excellent, Very Good, Good, OK, Meh). My dilemma breaks down to how to define good vs. very good. In my opinion very good is a notch better than good, and I’m not really sure how else I would define it.

      Appreciate your thoughts and cheers!
      -James

      PS. Will be announcing the next three tea of the months this week.

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