; Cwyn's Death By Tea: 2006 Guoyan Lao Ban Zhang ;

Monday, March 19, 2018

2006 Guoyan Lao Ban Zhang

2006 Guoyan LBZ
Recently I purchased Wilson’s 2006 Guoyan LBZ, a tea I might have missed entirely but for a heads-up from another collector. This tea is stored in Malaysia under a brilliant strategy and network of tea friends and tea shops. When you already have too much tea, a good way to acquire more is by storing with your network. In this way, the wife will not know you have more tea until you bring it home with the quip “this is heading right back out the door.” Of course any tea that does not sell, well then…when enough packages are gone already, what’s another cake in the already full closet? Nobody will notice a thing.

I like very much the 2005 Autumn Guoyan I bought from Yunnan Sourcing last year at twice the price. This new beeng is an excellent deal for a 12 year old Malaysian stored anything, and only $10 shipping. (I have purchased old Liu Bao before just for the Malaysian storage.) The tea arrived with a nice aroma however I let it sit in storage a couple of weeks to relax. I decided on porcelain gaiwan to enjoy the storage notes fully.

Nice oily appearance
The tea indeed does not disappoint with the early obvious Malaysian storage, a woody, old-book type of flavor. The color of the tea is nice, but the soup shows some cloudiness which could be storage aggression or some other issue. I need to see if this clears up in later steeps.

On a hot boil the tea is not bitter, I can feel my mouth prepping for the bitterness, but as Wilson notes in the listing the youthful bitter edge is definitely off of the tea. As the tea cools, the bitterness is more marked, although not hair raising bitterness like the recent 03 Pink Dayi, nor hair balding bitterness like Wilson’s 08 Haiwan LBZ. Steeps 6-8 have a bit of a sour note, which suggests fermentation and this clears a bit more on steep 9. What is remarkable so far is the “sweet vapor” that comes up into the throat from the esophagus. 

First steeping, bit of cloudiness
Many teas give that returning sweetness on the throat or in the mouth, this tea is definitely more sweetness on a vapor cloud, a quality many people look for in an aged tea. The nice floral top notes are evident after steep 8 when all the storage is off and the tea clears, underneath is a more aggressive whiskey Menghai-ish flavor.

Third steep, deeper color, reddish aging early for 12-year old
The tea is not smoky and I did not see much for char in the strainer. I did see some powdery wet filaments which can contribute to clouding, for the tea has plentiful buds.

Leaves are plushy, decent thickness
I think we have a mix here of teas from regions around the Banzhang area. The tea is relaxing, but not much qi to speak of. Its real enjoyment is the full flavor profile ranging from floral to aged oak barrel booze. I can tell I have had a number of one-note teas lately when a full range profile sticks out at me. 

Steep 6
The soup gets thicker in later steeps, a light hand on the steep time will give a yellow brew, adding some 30 seconds gives a more reddish brown stronger tea which I prefer. Controlling the bitterness, if you need to with this tea, is all about short steep times as well as brewing on the boil and drinking as hot as possible.

Leaves are green with evident browning, having turned from youth
In comparing this 06 Guoyan with the 05 Autumn beeng, I think the 05 Autumn with the long leaves and pronounced qi may be the better experience, and the 06 is a bit more of a pedestrian factory blend of area teas. The 05 Autumn was also twice the price. When I think of where prices are going now, I feel as though the $92 price point for 357g is actually a bit on the low side given the 12 year storage, full flavor profile, the sweet vapor. Someone already owning excellent examples of LBZ teas may prefer to chase a more premium experience at this point in their collecting. But for a new collector stretching a budget, this tea is a good opportunity to grab a nice tea below that $100 mark, a point where aged teas overall are quite frankly rare.

Bud plus one leaf common
This tea is a bit rough on the gut if taken on an empty stomach because it is still very green, and I feel I can do something with the cloudiness via more storage. It needs 5-10 years, worth trying once to check the current state, but not one to drink regularly at this time. Wetter storage would surely work on that green, but at the risk of the floral notes I tasted in the middle of the session. I like where this tea is at because I can play with the storage on it, the good start is all I need.

Steep 9 with pretty leaves picked out


  1. Ah! The return of the mysterious "char"

    1. I specifically wrote above "no char was noted." Check your strainer on some teas and you will see black charred bits from some teas, due to burning during chaqing. I suspect you forgo a strainer, but one is necessary for a blogger attempting to look carefully at what is a very expensive purchase for many people.

  2. Like this description words very much. "old-book type of flavor".