2010 Spring - Lao Ban Pen Mao Cha - Loose Pu-Erh Tea

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Pu'erh Tea
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205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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  • “This is a lovely smoky-earthy young sheng that I got as a free sample with a recent order. I did a parallel tasting with another very nice young sheng, and the link below is to a version of this...” Read full tasting note

From Norbu 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.

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2 Tasting Notes

311 tasting notes

This is a lovely smoky-earthy young sheng that I got as a free sample with a recent order. I did a parallel tasting with another very nice young sheng, and the link below is to a version of this with photos on my tea page.

This tea has long intact-appearing leaves and a fair bit of stem. The leaves smell sweet and earthy, with a bit of mushroom odor to the Lao Ban Pen.

I put 2 grams into my tiniest gaiwans, with 1.5 ounces near boiling water. After a flash rinse, the leaves smell even stronger and more delicious.

First infusion, 205°F/96°C, 10": smoky, earthy, sweet

Second infusion, 205°F/96°C, 15": sweet and earthy, woody, bit of anise and smokiness lighter already

Third infusion, 205°F/96°C, 20": sweet and earthy, woody, bit of anise, smokiness almost gone

Fourth infusion, 205°F/96°C, 20": earthy, sweet, smoky

Fifth infusion, 205°F/96°C, 35": sweet and earthy, bit of herbaceous flavor

Sixth infusion, 205°F/96°C, 60" (stopped to take a picture of the leaves): sweet and earthy, deep, warm, rich

Seventh infusion, 205°F/96°C, 1’: both a little dilute, should have let them go longer, more sweet water with hints of earthy

Eighth infusion, 205°F/96°C, 3’: oh, this is much better, my anise and earthy flavors are back. Still delicious, yum. Young sheng star.

Losing count—10? 11? still wonderful. Troubling fact: I want to shoot the spent leaves, lay them out to show the size and pluck, but they’re just not quitting, now 15, 16 infusions in. It will be a long night.

1.5 liter later (the kettle was filled completely when I started), not as rich, but still, better than just sweet water. Based on the kettle volume and the gaiwan size, both of the young shengs gave me about 20 infusions. Nice teas.

Wet leaves are are mix of light brown and green, quite intact, and small to medium sized, about an inch to an inch and half long.

Full review with photos:

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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