2010 Spring - Lao Ban Pen Mao Cha - Loose Pu-Erh Tea
-Harvest: Spring, 2010
-Growing Region: Ban Pen Lao Zhai, Bulangshan, Menghai County, Xishuangbanna
Mao Cha from Bulangshan is a very hot commodity in the Pu-Erh industry. This spring in Banna, I spent some time in search of good, verifiably sourced Lao Ban Zhang Mao Cha like I stumbled into purely by blind luck last year. Unfortunately, no authentic Lao Ban Zhang mao cha was to be found at a reasonable price while I was there. Upon my return to the US, I talked to my suppliers and asked them to keep an eye out for a Mao Cha from the Ban Zhang area at a workable price. This tea from Ban Pen Lao Zhai is what they came up with, and I am absolutely thrilled with it.
Because of its proximity to Lao Ban Zhang, teas from Lao Ban Pen are obviously very similar to their more famous neighbors. To my taste buds, the only perceptible (albeit quite subtle) difference is the slower emergence of the Hui Gan (bittersweet aftertaste) from Lao Ban Pen vs. Lao Ban Zhang.
This Mao Cha from Lao Ban Pen is an excellent example of the elegant assertiveness of Banzhang area tea varietals. When steeped, the resulting liquor is a crystal clear, gold honey color. The initial flavor of this tea is assertive with a nice bitterness, although it is nowhere near as bitter as other old tree teas from other areas of Bulangshan (Lao Man E, for example). The Hui Gan has a bitter/sweet balance unique to teas from this area that lingers for an amazingly long time.
To steep this tea, I would recommend starting with about 7.5-8 grams of leaf in a 150 ml gaiwan (or you can use about 12 grams if you like it strong like I do…just use really short, 5-10 second steeping times). Steep Gong-Fu style with water just off the boil, and start with about a 15 second first infusion. Gradually increase your steeping times to bring out the deeper levels of flavor from these leaves. I haven’t taken this tea past about 10 steepings yet; but, even after 10 quick Gong Fu steepings it still has plenty of flavor to give.