This is another very interesting aged puerh, courtesy of Peter from pu-erh.sk. I found it to be a challenging tea session as there are several changes the puerh goes through, meaning it is somewhat more complex than your standard puerh. Here are my notes…
This tea is VERY tightly compressed and is tube-like in appearance. Breaking apart the puerh requires a bit more work and “elbow grease”. Using my puerh pick I managed to carefully break off a nice 8 gram nugget of this. After 2 quick rinses I smell the nugget…I am not detecting any bitterness at all but rather a lovely sweet aroma with just a very mild hint of smoke. The nugget is still completely intact…the 2 quick rinses could not penetrate it and break apart the leaves.
As the puerh is still in the compressed stage for my first proper steep I decide to let this sit for a full minute. The end result: A lovely thick, golden liquid. I take my first sip and am not left disappointed…very clean, very pure, very sweet and a very slight hint of smoke. I check on the nugget in the yixing…it is still very much intact.
Steep 2 and 3 both yield very similar results…I am beginning to question where is the bitterness that Lao Ban Zhang is renowned for? I check the nugget again…it is still intact, the leaves resisting and refusing to let go.
The 4th steep is when things really start to develop. This time I decide to steep for another full minute and the result it a much darker, almost amber brew which for me looks more like an aged texture. I smell the wet leaves and indeed I am starting to get a nicely aged aroma…still the sweetness in the background with the slight hint of smoke. I slowly sip the 4th steep and this is where the magic begins…there is the bitterness but it has been tamed and matured. It feels thick in the mouth, rich and robust. A lovely aged taste is beginning to develop rather nicely. I am still getting the lovely sweetness, however not as prominent as in my in first couple of steeps. The QI is beginning to develop…not the raw energy you get from young Lao Ban Zhang, but a far more sophisticated, relaxed approach. I look into my yixing and this nugget is still intact. “will it ever let go?” I ask myself.
Steeps 5-6 and I am still getting a clean aged taste, with mildy bitter overtones and lovely returning sweetness. By now my body is fully relaxed and I need to take a break and contemplate. This really is an exceptional puerh.
I actually lost count on how many steeps it took for the leaves to eventually give up and break. This puerh just goes and goes and goes. If you decide to get some of this set some time aside…it will keep you charmed and guessing for several hours before it reveals its full beauty and elegance. The leaves are so strong and potent that you will probably have a few tea sessions that may last several days. You may give up before it gives up on you.
So, the bottom line is that this is an excellent example of nicely stored Lao Ban Zhang. It is very clean and pure, extremely complex in its taste and character, and nicely aged. It will take you on a “rollercoaster ride” with its complexity and reveal itself to you over time.
From a price point this is exceptional value for money. 50 grams is only just slightly over 18 euros, however take into account how many steeps you will get, and when will you be able to try Lao Ban Zhang with age at this price? It is a beast of a tea that has been tamed, but do not underestimate it. A big thanks to Peter at pu-erh.sk for giving us a chance to try this complex puerh.
Flavors: Bitter, Smoke, Sweet