; Cwyn's Death By Tea: 2004 Lao Ban Zhang Bamboo puerh-sk ;

Monday, July 27, 2015

2004 Lao Ban Zhang Bamboo puerh-sk

A bit warm for aged puerh these days.
In spring I picked up a sample of this tea from puerh-sk after purchasing a teapot. I have no business visiting puerh-sk except that my friends on Instagram egg me on with photos of Novak and Bero teaware and eventually I am worn down enough to buy something. I have already written about the decent Sejak I also bought at the same time, a nice find. And as I recently tasted a fine leaf quality LBZ during a session with TwoDog, I think now is a good time to compare my earlier purchase of tea from the same region. Currently you can get a 25g sample of this for 9.2€, or 3.10 if you only want a single session, but I like to get at least a couple sessions from samples.

This tea is a local craft bamboo stuffed tea, so as with other bamboo stored teas the leaves are highly compressed. Dry storage on this one, and the tea arrived with a nice sweet-dry fragrance exhibiting the appropriate humidity levels. I don't smell any bamboo storage odors or anything dusty, so puerh-sk's storage is very attentive. Not too often I get an aged tea that doesn't need airing. Selected 6 grams for brewing, mostly the loose tea to save the bigger chunks for later.

Tea steep >5 with the storage poured off.
Initial impressions: tea is very smoky, in fact I'd think this is a Xiaguan if I didn't know better because the taste is very similar. Flavor-wise, most of this pours off after two rinses and a couple steeps, still can smell it in the tea leaf. I tasted the first cup and dumped the rest on my tea pets to keep moving on the steeps. Two cups later and I had a very similar stoned feeling to my eyes and forehead that I got with the LBZ from TwoDog, but here I also get the sweats.

This tea has lots of warmth in the throat and stomach. I get the same warmth from older made-for-Tibet teas, and older Xiaguan before 2006. It's more than just aging, I think tea leaves are just different now. Flavor-wise, however, I'm not noticing much huigan. The bitterness in the tea itself is changing over, but right now the stage of fermentation combined with the smokiness is just at a sour point. It is in-between the bitter young years and sweeter aged years. Which means this is a good tea for me to work on with my crocks, I can rely on the body effects being there because the tea is not flat and dead, all I have to do is work out the smoke which takes a year or so and then wait for the leaves to continue to ferment. Perhaps this tea will be nice and sweet, well on its way now. I will revisit this sample in a year to see if I've worked out the smoke. The leaves show promise with a few thicker stems, and small, but plushy leaves.

I can't say this is a great tea right now nor recommend everyone run and pick some up. Or that it will ever be a great tea. Or that it is worth the premium price tag to just to have Lao Ban Zhang in the name. Still, if you're visiting puerh-sk on a teaware hoarding mission and want to add something to your cart, a sample of this might fit the bill.

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