Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Tea Group - Vertical Tasting of Ban Zhang (2005-2013)

Photo credit goes to Ty Pip. See Facebook group post for complete listing

Last Sunday a group of tea enthusiasts gathered to share and learn from one another under the theme of Ban Zhang. Ban Zhang stands as one of the most famous regions in Yunnan Province for producing puerh tea. The moniker “King of Tea” is bestowed to Ban Zhang tea for its strong and powerful character. An article titled “Liquid Gold, Exploring Ban Zhang Tea by Wang Hau, Lou Ying Tin, Wu De” referenced the astounding prices that the region’s raw materials command in the tea market.

 Photo credit goes to Ty Pip. 

The tea session lasted for 5 hours covering 4 teas from Ban Zhang as listed (see below) in addition to a few others. The order for brewing would commence from the youngest to the oldest teas. I will share what stood out from the tea session.

 Photo credit goes to Ty Pip. 

The classic profile of Ban Zhang was best captured by 2 teas, namely 2008 JXJS and 2005 Gan En. The signature note of Ban Zhang is not easy to describe but once you experience it you will not forget it. The note presents a dark green vibe with elements of mushroom, herbal medicine and wood. The brew was pleasantly sweet, soft and expansive in the mouth. There was depth and an induced sensation of moving cha qi. You get this in both teas. The difference between the two was that the Gan En was noticeably stronger and more potent. This is perhaps in line with the exploitation and decline of the natural growing tea habitat that has affected the strength and potency of some of the newer productions. The increasing demand for this famous tea region continues to soar. This has unfortunately lent itself to bad practices associated with excessive leaf picking alongside the increasing use of fertilizers and chemicals.

Lao Ban Zhang Cha Huang 2005 Xi Zi Hao

The odd one out was the Lao Ban Zhang Cha Huang 2005 Xi Zi Hao. This is an excellent teacake. The problem (or not) is that the profile of the tea is off on a tangent and possesses none of the classic Ban Zhang profile. The character of the tea is indicative of a wild tea. It is medicinal with woody tones and a slight tartness. The taste and aroma is underwhelming but this is not where your focus should be for this kind of tea. The cha qi is wonderfully relaxing and potent at this stage of maturity. This raises the question, “Does all tea trees in Ban Zhang have to have the region’s signature profile?” in this case the answer would be – No and no regrets.

 Photos credit goes to Soroj Wongsiri. See Facebook group post for complete listing

The tea acting as the stabilizer for the occasion was the 1990s Menghai Orange Label (HK Private Commission). This tea helped to ground the senses and restore normalcy after being buzzed by the accumulative effects of drinking so many active teas in one session. It was also pleasant to see those that previously had doubts about appreciating puerh tea associated with wet storage enjoy this tea and warming to the category of traditional Hong Kong storage.

A brief note, the sample of the 2013 by Teadezhang will not be expanded upon here out of fairness. The tea sample used had undergone less than ideal storage and as a result the tea was not able to present its best quality on the day. Other notables that were kindly offered and added to the tea session includes, i) 2003 Yiwu, solid but the plantation leaves means that it is still rough. Expect it to be much better in the future., ii) 1980s Xia Guan (or perhaps 1990s) that was wet stored. This was still rough and potent making it hard to drink too much. Definitely has the strength to age further and become better.

As someone who personally believes there is nothing more real and transparent than to conduct comparative tastings this without exception was a success. This gathering was made all the more enjoyable by the refreshing open-mindedness and camaraderie shown by all. A big thank you goes to Thaneadpol and Ty Pip for organizing and managing the event, as well as taking and sharing photos. - Bonus points for Ty Pip for also providing the most vital component of the event – WATER. A heavy load that had to be carried up 5 flights of stairs as the lift was out of order. You Sir please consider yourself the strongest and most noble of us all. None of us could have done what you have done. We will be keeping these thoughts in our hearts and in our minds for next time :)

 Photo credit goes to Ty Pip. 

Tea Masterclass Organized by Thaneadpol
Lao Ban Zhang 2013 ร้านชาทีดี (Teadezhang)
Lao Ban Zhang 2008 JXJS
Lao Ban Zhang Cha Huang 2005 Xi Zi Hao
Ban Zhang Zhen Shan 2005 Gan En
และชาพิเศษ หนึ่งตัว (and a special "secret" tea)

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