Friday, May 24, 2019
Oh yes… did the puerh ever drop this year (not in price of course)…
It started with fireworks, rather unintentionally, really…
Weeks ago James of TeaDB kicked off a storm when hepresented (by complete accident) a dichotomy of budget vs premium Western puerhvendors. Scott of Yunnan Sourcing rightfully defended his brand as being both premium and budget (and probably everywhere in between). He also threw the gauntlet down with his own dichotomy, reframing the topic to be about Western vendors with high markups vs low mark ups.
Then, within days, Scott also moved to further differentiate his brand Yunnan Sourcing by stating explicitly that his wrapper designs “avoid using controversial, obscene, political, or kitschy subject matter” and are “inclusive as possible”.
It actually sounds kind of nasty but it is, in fact, Scott attempting to re-define or at least remind us all, about what Yunnan Sourcing is at its root and what it is not. Did Scott say anything mean? Hateful? I don’t think so at all but it certainly doesn’t follow a certain unsaid rules. Sure, it’s a bit controversial to talk openly about how much you think your competition marks up their product… it’s something I wouldn’t do. But there it is… Scott just says it the way he sees it, an open book. Read all that info about each tea he presses- It pretty much includes everything that you would possibly want to know (except how much he marks up the raw material of course). He likes to give us information and what we do with that is up to us. That’s why I like Scott and Yunnan Sourcing and will continue to support him and his vision.
So, those into puerh know who Scott is trying to differentiate himself and Yunnan Sourcing from, its main competition Paul of white2tea… we all know this. And the fact I am still talking and thinking about this, and repeating what was said is, well, probably good for the Yunnan Sourcing brand (if you hear something enough times then people start to believe it).
Alright then, so Paul of white2tea, isn’t one to respond directly (nor is he one to just take it) instead he responds in his own roundabout way- some rather brilliant satirical, and sarcastic responses on his Instagram… I mean how do you respond to the accusation that your markup is higher when that information is confidential? You aren’t going to open your books up for everyone to see your accounting… and besides he has no way of knowing Scotts mark ups either…. Anyway, this past week Paul has been dropping lots of sarcastic and profane commentary about marketing on his Instagram in lead up to this 2019 puerh release… hahaha
While this was happening… Yunnan Sourcing was first to release some pressed 2019 puerh, their 250g (dare I say) “premium” Yiwu line from some pretty famous areas such as Wa Long, Ding Jia Zhai, Xiang Chun Lin… all tested for pesticides and the like. I love all of these areas that have become more famous over that last 5 years or so. Plus look at those wrappers… they are pretty amazing… a bit playful, and inviting… I really like them. Great work Scott. I’m very temped to try these.
Then… Boom… white2tea dropped its Spring 2019 sheng puerh line up. If You Are Reading This, Lucky Puppy, and Splendid are the only teas to make a re-appearece in 2019. Every year white2tea has a creative theme which comes from the names, descriptions, and wrapper art. This year’s theme seems to be playful and loving, full of positive energy. There is no controversial, obscene, political, or kitschy messaging what so ever (Ok maybe 2019 Astro Kittens is a bit kitch). Only I love it!
The other theme I noticed is the use of blurred words and images on the wrappers. To me this is a deliberate response to the critique that white2tea is never clear on the origin and terroir of their tea and its use of blurry marketing. It speaks to their lack of transparency. It also speaks to the ambiguity and uncertainty surrounding their productions.
However, this year I think Paul of white2tea did a great job of explaining what the material is all about and what to expect from each puerh product. He is actually a lot less ambiguous in his descriptions this year and clearly outlines the goals for each of his products way better than past years on most of his 2019 puerh cakes. Paul also sent an email with a quick list of recommendations with links that best describe you. When you click on the description it takes you to the tea that is best suited for you. Its like a personality test that matches you with a puerh. I thought this was pretty fun and helpful (see photo). Great work.
Paul is genius in the way he drops his product too. He is the Taylor Swift of puerh tea and actually uses a very similar marketing technique of dropping his product (see here), by teasing sassy, sarcastic, and vulgar but by then actually going in the completely opposite direction and releasing love and positivity. This creates a really shocking effect when what you expect is overturned. This is the true creative genius and marketing that Paul brings to puerh in the Western world and this is why I like Paul and white2tea and will continue to support him and his vision.
Wait, where is David and Yingxi of the Essence of Tea in all this fuss?????
They are barely on social media at all, not on any of the tea blogs, no youtube channel, no showing off the new wrappers… no nothing… Where is David in all of this marketing posturing? I bet he’s meditating and staring at a blank wall and just chuckling to himself. In fact the Essence of Tea rarely makes a fuss over marketing, their word, their product is their marketing… it’s that simple. They are almost anti marketing but by keeping us in the dark they are creating their own kind of excitement. And this is why I like David and Yingxi and the Essence of Tea and will continue to support them and their vision.
I tell you… when the Essence of Tea drop their 2019 puerh pre-sale it’s going to be a big deal, things will sell out, it will be perfect.
Thanks again to these vendors (and all of the others as well) that have chosen to make a career by putting their love into sourcing, pressing, marketing, branding, and most importantly, selling this wonderful thing called puerh…
I got to go and stare at a blank wall for a while…
Monday, May 20, 2019
This complimentary sample came from KL Wong of Teapals in an order I placed a few months back. Mr. Wong tells me that Bang Bing is a mere 15 KM from the famous Bing Dao. I know 15 Km sounds pretty close in proximity but if you have actually been to the tea mountains and understand a bit about terroir, it is really quite far. There are lots of these puerh areas that are near more famous areas that try to ride off their popularity. In a way this is harmless, but it is equally deceptive because most of these areas even ones only a few KM away have such different profiles.
KL also informs me that this cake is now sold out. So I report here only for the purpose of recording my experience from a cake from Bang Bing, an area that I’ve only tired blended into Shuangjiang Mengku cakes in the past… please sit down and join me at the tea table, pals…
The dry leaves smell of very clear high noted sugar notes, crisp wood and distant dry grasses. The sweetness is pretty strong.
The first infusion starts off with vegetal tastes which are barely sweet and bitter.
The second infusion starts with a slightly bitter edge which has layers of vegetal tastes underneath. The bitterness is notable and long as it recedes in the aftertaste a malty sweetness is paired with bitter.
The third infusion starts with a buttery sweetness then turns quickly to bitter there is a pop of fruit before a cooling wave heralds in malty sweet tones. The tea liquor feels reasonably thick there is a bitterness found throughout.
The fourth infusion starts with a buttery malty sweetness with bitter underneath a soft cooling wave comes in and reveals interesting mix florals and fruits, creamy sweetness, the aftertaste is reasonably long here. This infusions taste is very nicely balanced and quite delicious. The mouth feeling is soft and sticky the throat is mildly stimulated. The Qi sharpens the mind and concentration. The body feels loose in the lower body and knees.
The fifth infusion is much the same as the fourth with a mainly sweet profile of malty, vegetal, bitter then after the distant coolness creamy sweetness, tropical fruit, malty sweetness and underlying bitterness over a soft sticky mouthfeeling. This is a real nice fairly dry stored sweetness.
The sixth infusion tastes even sweeter with more of a sweet entry initially, a beautiful buttery thick sweetness which stays throughout. There are some tropical fruits and creamy sweetnesses that appear in the long sweet aftertaste. The bitterness has significantly reduced but is still underneath giving this tea much depth. The saliva in the mouth pools a traps in the aftertastes even minutes later.
The seventh infusion has a light, juicy fruit mixed with malty sweet depth onset. The liquid feels less thick in the mouth in this infusion but still stimulates the throat nicely. The mouthfeel is grittier now.
The eighth infusion is thick, malty sweet, mild cooling and long sweetnesses throughout the profile. There is a creaminess thoughout, some vegetalness. The sweet aftertaste is trapped in the throat. 9th infusion is the same, but more pronounced sweetness. This is a very nice experience, I’m having here.
10th is creamy sweet malty, it turns talc and slightly floral before transitioning into long sweet tastes. The mouthfeel is really nice here, velvety coating. The 11th has a pronounced pungency to it. The taste is sweet throughout with just edges of astringency and bitter barely presenting now. The sweetness is very apparent and very nice. The layers of sweetness is enjoyable.
12th has a bit of a thinner profile now but has a long butterschotch sweetness throughout, a touch of coolness, nice tongue coating. The 13th becomes a bit sandy in feeling and less substantial. Just flash steeping it still.
The clock of the day runs out on my session so I put this guy into an overnight session and awake the next day to some major deliciousness- thick and sweet and still very nuanced and interesting…
Great tea, very sweet, layered sweet, saliva pushing flavor up throat action, lots of depth, pure, clean, nice dry storage, good concentration enhancing Qi, too bad its gone….
I noticed that KL Wong has recently added a few different puerh to his website. From what I’ve tried, he’s worth paying attention to…
Friday, May 17, 2019
Comparing Storage: 2003 HK Henry Conscientious Prescription Taiwanese Dry Storage Vs Malaysian Humid Stored
I was sent this sample thanks to commenter Spatulab. This Taiwanese dry stored version comes from Teas We Like and sells for the same $130.00 cake but has very different storage than the more humid Malaysian stored Essence of Tea version that I purchased and reviewed here. The Malaysian cake went through an interested change since trying it about a month ago which I documented in an edit to that initial post. You can check out that post for all the background about this famous puerh. Lets taste and compare this dry stored version, shall we?
The dry leaves have a much sweeter creamy wood penetrating odour than the much more humid stored Malaysian storage offered at the Essence of Tea.
First infusion starts a touch creamy sweet with a vegetal taste initially there is a mild cooling suggestion then a slight creamy sweet dry wood finish. Very clean, tight dry storage off the bat.
The second infusion starts with a slightly creamy dry wood onset, there is a vegetal base with mild cooling then longer pungent dry wood aftertaste. The mouthfeel is mildly sandy and mildly astringent here. There are light creamy woody sensations long on the breath.
The third infusion starts off with resinous pinewood, creamy sweetness underneath, vegetal taste deeper in the profile, then a pungency rings out with nice creamy sweetness balanced with woody pine notes. The profile is clean and clear and crisp. The qi is mildly relaxing here and mildly alerting. I can feel some qi pooling in the head. The mouthfeel is slightly sticky and barely astringent.
The fourth infusion starts off pine wood, almost vegetal, resin, there is a mild pungent coolness that opens up a little sweet creamy woody taste which attempts to stretch out on the breath.
The fifth is more piney and resinous throughout, a slight pungent taste comes through then slightly creamy sweetness. The pine wood taste dominates all the way through. The taste is clean, crisp, and long in the mouth. Good clarity. The mouthfeel has a tighter smoother feeling but not as gripping or deep feeling compared to the Malaysian stored.
The sixth infusion is very pine, resin, almost sour and astringent stimulating throat now a touch, pine dominates profile, some mild cooling and sweetness trying to push through pine taste. The sweetness is more distinct and untouched in this Taiwanese dry stored version but also the resinous pine note is more dominating- it is really dominating.
Taiwanese dry storage seems much more pure and true to the original material but in its purity it looses some complexity than a more humid storage brings out. The 2003 HK Henry Conscientious Prescription has pretty simple and clear profile, it isn’t super complex so this can be seen as a positive or negative here. Or to put it another way the more humid Malaysian stored adds complex storage humid nuance to the original materials.
The seventh infusion starts off with an almost vegetal pine taste with an almost soapy creamy sweetness underneath. The pine is less dominant in this infusion and the sweetness has almost a plumb and candy edge to it which is more distinct and long in the aftertaste here. The sweet plum taste is quite nice.
The eighth infusion carries a pine incense taste now slight pungent returning arrives then a clear woody long plum sweetness. The returning coolness and pungency is less in the dry stored version compared to the Malaysian but the sweetness in the aftertaste is now much more distinct, pure, and vibrant. The mouth and throat feeling is different as well. The dry stored is more stimulating the tongue and mouth with a tightness and mild stringency but is just mildly opening in the throat where the humid Malaysian stored has more throat feeling than mouthfeeling and a deeper throat feeling. The qi is mildly relaxing and it pools in the head, slightly alerting the senses, and visual acuity.
The ninth infusion nice pine wood profile, creamy sweetness lingers underneath, clean pure, simple taste, sweetness comes out a bit more in the aftertaste. Cooling pungency is mild here. The Qi starts to make the head feel like its floating. The qi of this Taiwanese dry stored is slightly less warming but seems to have more bodyfeeling in the head slightly.
The tenth infusion starts off with a touch off pine incense then to just pine wood then to a mild pungent then to wood over mild creamy sweetness. Pretty woody here. There are no earthy, foresty, soil tastes in this very clean dry stored version at all. Simulating sandy and tight coating on the tongue mild but deeper throat opening.
The eleventh infusion the mouthfeel becomes stronger and gripping, almost drying, a distinct dry wood onset then there is a woody resin returning with mild pungent. The sweetness is less here the pungent cooling is more with the stronger, tanic mouth and throat feeling. The Qi is quite relaxing now. The odour of the wet leaves smells of red Korean ginseng but it doesn’t show in its taste.
The twelfth infusion has more of a creamy sweet plum onset with wood that emerges slowly. The mild creamy sweet taste is still more apparent here. The thirteenth is more woody and dominating but still the sweetness is mild but throughout and more obvious than in previous infusions. Wood and creamy sweetness- simple tastes in these infusions but enjoyable ones.
14th is woody, creamy sweet, this tea is fading here if not the last few infusions. Plum note is clear and the mouthfeeling is milder here. Nice fruity wood. 15th is mellow fruity woody enjoyable thing with a touch of cool pungency.
15th infusion I push it with a 60 second infusion but get much the same maybe even a slight sour note in there as well. Woody more pine and resin. More cooling pungent.
16th I do a long infusion and it pushes out a lot of pine, more resin and some incense notes which mask any sweetness underneath. The cooling pungent is more obvious with this push the sweetness shows up a minute later. Nice.
17th I do another minutes long steeping and get a very resinous pine taste with cooling pungent aftertaste with no sweetness found. I enjoy the pine woodiness.
It’s put into an overnight infusion and comes out quite fruity plum after a few days. The Malaysian stored comes out tasting just dirt in these days long steeping.
Overall, I feel that this drier stored Taiwanese version is better at preserving some of the teas original essence and is will be a better option for long term aging in people who are looking for a slowly evolving puerh with age. It is closer to a Qing Bing type of storage and feeling and its stamina and flavor has not been pushed out by humidity.
However, I prefer the Malaysian stored version which is warming and harmonious to drink now. Will it age more interestingly than the dry Taiwanese stored version? I doubt it, but right now on these unseasonably cold Spring mornings I seem to be going to it instinctually and this dry stored version didn’t satisfy me in the same way. Part of this preference is my history of drinking similarly more humid stored cakes like this weekly around the tea tables in Korean teahouses. I still think it would be interesting to pick a dry stored one up to see how it will fair in 10 years.
Sunday, May 12, 2019
I had my eyes on some Gao Shan Zhai from another vendor over the last year but still haven’t purchased any. The Gao Shan Zhai region in Yiwu is known for some pretty delicious puerh being higher altitude relative to other regions in Yiwu and all. This production ($114.49 for 250g cake or $0.46/g) is a collaboration between Zheng Si Long and Chen Xi Hao of which the wrapper bears its name. It was kindly sent in a complimentary care package by Tiago (thanks again)...
Dry leaves smell of perfume florals, subtle fruit, and woody rainforest floor.
First infusion is a woody almost flat syrup taste there are almost floral notes in there as well but strong predominating dry wood tastes. The mouthfeel is slight sandy and astringent, slightly bitter.
The second infusion has a flat dry wood, slight malty taste with slight brown sugar taste. The mouthfeel is fairly stimulating slightly dry and astringent. There is a very mild cooling then a long brown sugar and dry wood aftertaste which lingers on the breath.
The third has a more cohesive dry wood, slight malt, and brown sugar taste which plays out in the aftertaste. The taste profile is pretty simple and obviously single origin material. The mouthfeel is slight dry and slight astringent pretty simple as well but enjoyable enough.
The fourth has a distinct deep malty sweet, almost syrupy medical herbal taste. The menthol returning is more pronounced and there is dry wood underneath everything. The thickness of the liquor here increases its viscus feeling and it makes for a denser taste. The Qi is mild and relaxing.
The fifth has more of this malty, herbal medicine taste with wood underneath. The liquor remains medium thick now and the aftertaste is long carrying some of the initial tastes of wood, malt, and herbal medicine but in a mild wave of menthol and in a brown sugar sweetness. The taste is long on the breath and now has a nuance of complexity and charm.
The sixth infusion becomes denser and more complex still with a dense layering of herbal medicine, woods, malty butterscotch but now there is a pronounced tropical fruit sweetness that lingers throughout it almost has a bubble gum sweet edge to it. The Qi starts to mildly alert. The mouthfeel is slightly oily but mainly mildly astringent- the dryness is gone. This infusion the sweetness becomes quite apparent.
The seventh infusion is dense and malty sweetness, mild wood now and herbal medicine tastes. It has a nice medium to thicker feeling and long menthol sweetness with slight tropical fruit and almost bubble gum sweetness.
The eighth is becoming heavy on the menthol/eucalyptus from start to finish. There is more woody taste in the initial and sweeter taste in the aftertaste with a strong medicinal herbal quality throughout.
The ninth is very menthol, malty sweetness with topical sweetness under heavy camphor much the same as last infusion. This infusion seems to be more licorice tasting.
The tenth is strongly menthol/eucalyptus in taste so much that it drowns out other aspects of the profile.
The eleventh is almost creamy menthol onset woodier in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is significantly astringent, almost but not really dry, slight pucker. The Qi of this tea is mildly relaxing with a bit of head sensation of lightness of the brain.
The twelfth infusion is strong menthol/ eucalyptus through and through. The tea is becoming more astringent to in these later infusions.
The 13th is much the same this infusion is a bit more sweet wood and menthol. The profile changes very little from initial to aftertaste.
The 14th shows signs of sweet woods, herbal medicines, and an underlying tropical sweet taste under medical notes. The taste is quite bold even now but is not as sweet as it is astringent and pungent menthol. The pungent menthol is really something.
The 15th has an almost peachy sweet onset now, woody, slight licorice, almost herb, long cool sweet aftertaste. Still lots going on here, much to enjoy. 16th is a touch bitter and astringent but similar tastes, more wood almost a sour grapefruit taste. Faint tropical fruits.
The seventeenth is sweet peach, woody, almost herbal medicine like before shifting to a slight cooling and long sweet aftertaste. This puerh has some great stamina with the taste complex and full late into the session.
The eighteenth and nineteenth give off sweet tastes, medicinal tastes, woody tastes, long sweetnesses.
I really stuffed the teapot with these leaves but this tea could go on for quite some time, I suspect. I overnight steep it and a greeted the next morning with a very viscus and dense butterscotch/ caramel sweetness. It’s so full that I decide to put it though another few day-long steepings.
This tea has what I consider “harmonious Qi” it doesn’t overtly feel relaxing or simulating and to someone with little experience almost feels like no qi but in the end this qi makes you feel good. If you are tired, you will feel more alert and if your simulated it kind of makes you feel relaxed. I think this puerh has this type of energy to it. It can easily be overlooked by those who are less sensitive.
Tastewise, this tea is a winner. It has much to enjoy as far as tastes go. It’s a bit unique in how pungent it is. This feature will do it well 10 years down the road.
I believe that the storage is clean moderately humid Xishuangbanna Storage. I remember a time that Xishuangbanna storage was a dirty word in puerh circles. It was synonymous with poor storage or forgotten tea. It’s my understanding that Mr. Zheng of Zheng Si Long has been instrumental in elevating the profile of Xishuangbanna storage of which this cake seems to be a good example of.
*I ended up trying to replicate this type of greatness a few days later and was unsuccessful at pulling together a great session like my first experience above. The second time didn’t have as much pungency, depth, or stamina, Qi seemed weaker too. Might have to pick up a cake to investigate further when I finally do an order of Zheng Si Long from Tea Encounter.
Saturday, May 11, 2019
Over the last few years, I’ve taken the time to look a bit at the marketing and branding behind Western puerh vendors here on the blog. Since returning back to puerh buying, I noticed that marketing has become a driving force these days. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that, in fact, I enjoy the marketing on display. However, I have sometimes openly questioned whether we are buying the puerh or just buying into the marketing.
I recently read this article about how we rate a wine label influences how good we perceive and rate the wine. It talks about the research by a Master’s student at the University of British Columbia.
The article is titled “Like the label? You'll probably like the wine, says UBC researcher”. The subtitle proclaims, “Masters candidate Darcen Esau says people want wine that matches their personal identity”.
I got to thinking that you could easily replace the word “wine” with “puerh”.
His research look to answer these questions: "With so many options available, why do some labels appeal to some people but not others? And then taking it a step further, does that label actually impact the wine drinking experience?”
The research essentially had different parts to it such as an online survey and a taste testing.
For the taste testing, he employed a triangle design with 3 glasses of wine and 2 of the 3 were the same wine. Esau also used two types of labels in his research: a contemporary design and a traditional design. No single design was found to make the wine taste better. However, if the person identified with a label they would perceive the wine as actually tasting better.
Do you think, as I do, that this result could easily be reproduced among puerh drinkers in the West?
Do we really like the puerh we are drinking or are we just unconsciously picking the Western puerh vendor and/or puerh wrapper that matches our personal identity?
Thursday, May 9, 2019
One of my favorite blog posts is this article by Marshal’N’ of A Tea Addicts Journal where he introduces The Speed Test as “a more honest and straightforward method of determining whether you like a tea or not.” Its method is simple- the teas you drink through the fastest are likely the teas that you enjoy the most.
I find there is a lot of truth to this measure. I really like it to the point I’m considering publishing how much of certain cakes I drink through in a year as a measure of their value. Actually, I have even came up with my own straightforward/ practical metric that follows from and increases the reliability of The Speed Test, The Re-Order Test (see comment here). The Re-Order Test is also practical way of assessing the subjective value of a tea.
Anyhow, there are a few consideration about The Speed Test that you might want to take into consideration for it to be a more valuable measure…
First, the tea that you are speed testing has to be readily available for daily consumption. It can’t be locked away in some complex storage vault. It has to be easy to get at.
Second, it has to be something that can be easily re-ordered. If you can’t ever re-order it again and you really like it and want to age it, you might be more reluctant to drink through it as quickly. As Marshal’N puts it in that article, “I have to control myself from drinking, lest I run out of it.”
Thirdly, and most importantly, you have to consider the stamina and potency of the tea you are drinking.
What do I mean by stamina? - How many enjoyable nfusions can you get out of the dry leaf?
What do I mean by potency? - How many grams of dry leaf do you need to get the maximum amount of enjoyable infusions?
The above considerations will drastically impact how quickly you drink through your tea. It might even skew the results of the Speed Test. I know it influences how fast I drink though my puerh.
Wednesday, May 8, 2019
I got this complimentary sample from Tiago of Tea Encounter (the cake sells for $124.95 for 350g cake or $0.36/g) in a care package a few months ago. An interesting thing about this puerh is that it has been stored in the drier more Northern Heibei province of China…
Dry leaves are small, likely plantation, and quite tippy. They have the odour of strawberry yogurt with slight wood.
First infusion has a slightly sour almost fruit like onset, barely dusty old puerh taste before it arrives at a mild almost minty peak. It then becomes slightly creamy and sweet. A strawberry fruit note comes to mind here. The sweetness is long and creamy. There are pops of various fruit tastes in the aftertaste as well as a bubble gum flavouring. The overall feeling and tea liquor suggest pretty dry storage.
The second infusion starts off just mildly astringent like the skin of a grape with slight dusty aged note before it becomes barely minty and cool with a nice bubble gum taste in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is slightly tight and astringent. The storage is nicely dry. The long candy finish is uninterrupted by other nuances and is long on the breath. The qi is pooling in the head and the body feel relaxed, the joints nimble. The qi is sedating and tranquil as things slow down around me.
The third infusion starts a touch astringent, dusty, almost sour grape peel before it goes into a short mild mint and long distinct candy breath. The bubble gum sweetness is long and obvious on the breath. The mouthfeel is slightly tight and tart. The throat feels open at the mid-level. This puerh is not overly complex but rather pure and obvious in its presentation of grape, dust, mint, and bubble gum progression. Almost a red wine like taste and odour in there as well.
The fourth infusion starts off almost legume like, almost coffee or coco mild bitter and oak barrel then transitions to mint and long clean bubble gum finish. The Qi is real nice I feel a bit euphoric now with my bubble gum breath. There is a oak aged wine like taste to this, almost alcohol. The dry storage finish is nice.
The fifth has an almost merlot onset that is simple and pure almost oak barrel then barely/ not really minty then long bubble gum. The merlot taste is throughout. The profile is real simple, crisp, nice very dry and compressed storage. There is some faint floral and fruit that is hard to pin below the surface. The mouthfeel is slightly astringent and sticky on the lips.
The sixth infusion has a nice oak barrel wine merlot taste, more woody now with a very faint lingering creamy sweetness. The mouthfeel is a touch tart. Sweet bubble gum finish.
The seventh infusion has a velvety mouthfeeling now, a touch dry. There is a subtle smoke oak taste in these initial tastes that melt well with mild grape tastes, then mint then a creamy sweetness appears more the bubble gum. The sweet taste is uninterrupted and long.
The eighth and ninth infusions have an oak barrel merlot taste to it then eases into a long bubble gum sweetness. Qi feeling is gently sedating here. The sweetness on the breath is long. The flavours are simple and enjoyable and clear.
The tenth has a slight pungent medical wood touch under oaked wine, mint, and creamy sweetness. The eleventh is back to the same profile. The 12th shows signs of slight medicinal again along with the other tastes. The simple consistent profile is evince of single estate. The mouthfeel is slight astringent almost velvety. The tea liquor is slightly thinner but consistent broth.
The thirteenth is similar in profile the grape skin of early infusions is gone and there is a touch of medicinal tastes in there the finish becomes merlot like. The profile is simple and enjoyable.
In the fourteenth the initial taste is dry wood and slight cherry fruit there is some very mild cooling mint then a long merlot wine sweetness. The fifteenth is much the same with more of a creamy sweet finish than wine. The slight bit of astringency in this puerh gives it some substance despite the thinner, dry stored broth. It feels very pure in the body, the Qi seems to wear off by mid-session.
The next few infusions are dry wood with slight wine profile and long slight sweet finish. I decide to steep it a few more times.
I enjoy this simple, clean, pure, example of dry storage. The clean merlot taste and long bubble gum aftertaste is quite enjoyable.
The long dry storage bubble gum sweetness is also described in China as the plum taste but I have tasted plum before and it really is more like bubble gum or cotton candy too me so I usually describe it this way. A nice long dry machine compressed storage is sure to bring about this note in a reliable puerh. The last cake I purchased with this note and similar long dry storage was a cake of the sold out dry Shanghai stored 2003 CNNP Small Green Mark Iron Cake from Yunnan Sourcing which also has this characteristic. This 2003 Ban Zhang is a bit different in its profile but for those who enjoyed that cake and storage I would recommend this one.
So the question remains: Is this really from the famous Ban Zhang area? Well, it’s always possible but also probably more unlikely than possible. Part of these older “Ban Zhang” are just the fun of imagining that they may in fact be from somewhere in or near Ban Zhang… most likely not Lao Ban Zhang but it’s always possible that it is some plantation fixture from nearby, I suppose. Hahahah…
Certainly this one is much more possible than some Six Famous Mountains Factory Banzhang cakes I have or my cakes from Laomane Menghai Banzhang Factory. This 2003 is far far more enjoyable that a comparison to these factory cakes doesn’t do this Yuanjiutang any justice!
I actually blind sampled this one that was labeled “2003 Banzhang” and appraised it at $200-300 for 357g cake. So in my eyes this cake is at least a 30% value.