2010 Dragon Bro Shu Pu'er Bing (龍弟熟茶餅, Lóng Dì Shú Chá Bǐng, "Little Brother of the Dragon Shu Tea Bing") - In 2012, when we started West China Tea Company, we selected an affordable new Shu Pu'er cake that had been produced that year in order to offer a good daily drinker as part of our starting catalogue. Since 2012 was the Year of the Dragon, this bing has a stylized dragon on the front paper wrapper, and it became known as Dragon Bing. Over the years, as this cake aged, it became more and more valuable, ultimately becoming one of our all-time favorite Shu Pu'ers. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and in 2018 we acquired the last of the Dragon Bings. We immediately began searching for an equivalent bing that could match the Dragon Bing's rich, smooth, and earthy profile--without being prohibitively expensive.
We were able to secure a large batch of the same blend of Nannuo Mountain Pu'er, fermented in the same Xiǎo Duī Zi 小堆子 (“Small Pile”) style, picked and processed in 2010 and pressed in 2013. Although 2013 was the year of the Snake, we named this caked Lóng Dì 龍弟, meaning "Little Brother of the Dragon," because it is the successor to the celebrated Dragon Bing and because a snake is kind of like a little dragon! Like the Dragon Bing, its profile is smooth, rich, earthy, and sweet. It is made from a blend of different patches on Nannuo Mountain, resulting in a broad-spectrum, classic Shu Pu'er taste reminiscent of the Dayi Tea Company Shu Pu'er Bings. Being blended not only makes it more affordable, but also helps to create the appealing pallette that makes it a daily drinker. Dark and complex, this bing lacks any bitterness or astringency, and its profile is dominated by a cheerful, petrichor flavor and character. Also notable is its syrupy huí gān 回甘 ("returning sweetness"), and a marked difference in Qi from the Dragon Bing. The Qi of Lóng Dì is noticeably more even-keeled and composed than its older brother, which presents an intensity befitting the pioneer sibling. This second edition of the Dragon Bro is from a later 2017 pressing, and has a similar profile of the original as it is from the same source leaves.
I was fortunate to purchase a bing of this tea just before Li Shulin's tragic fire before the price became prohibitively expensive. I've always had great tea from West China tea but this shou is just okay. A nice malty, earthy aroma, and decent flavor/mouthfeel on the first steep or two, but it doesn't have much resiliency or depth. I let it rest in my house for a couple of months to acclimate, then broke up the cake and stored it in a clay jar with a bovita humidity pack and have been sipping on it since Christmas. Perhaps it will develop over time (I've had teas go from just okay to some of the best I own within a couple of months simply because of letting them rest), but for the price and reputation of Li Shulin I expected a little bit more from this one. Certainly hasn't turned me off from his teas by any means, but I'll be slower to invest in a full cake before getting a sample next time.
This is the best shou puerh I've had. I can drink this tea all day when normally I crave variety. Its thick, rich, smooth and sweet, everything I want in a ripe puerh. I'm excited to try all of West China's teas. I recently decided to stop buying tea for quantity and go more for quality which is why I decided to try West China and I am very happy with my decision!
This is the tea that got me into Puerh. I have not found another that is quite as satisfying as the ol dragon bro. Warm, cozy, earthy, dark-oh my!