A sample of this fine Lao Ban Zhang cake was gifted by Daniel Liu of The Chinese Tea Shop. He provides excellent background on this tea and on Ban Zhang in general on posts on his vendor blog (see here and here). Especially interesting is his commentary on Lao Ban Zhang, Xing Ban Zhang, and Lao Man Er and the statistics on tea in Lao Ban Zhang. No doubt, old Lao Ban Zhang is the talk of puerh circles. Let's see what this cake has in store...
The dry leaves are a multicoloured mix of medium young fuzzy leaves, mainly buds, which give off a savory-meaty odour with thin tobacco smoke, strong pungent deep forest odours and sweet light fruit smells under all of it.
The first infusion pours a pure vibrant yellow. Sweet, cool, pungent tastes expands in the mouth there is a light, savory base that is barely noticed underneath it all. A long pungent pure tingling occurs on the tongue. Minutes later sweet, slightly creamy, root beer tastes pop up in the mouth.
The second infusion presents with sweet, clear, pure initial tastes which numbs the mouth with a soft tingling mouthfeel before pungent-sweet notes bring on light candy-melon-fruit notes. The mouthfeel reaches the mid-throat and opens it with a soft-creamy-candy-sweet coolness. Saliva pools quietly in the throat.
The third infusion has an initial taste that is pure, sweet, and stretches into a cool, sweet taste. The mouthfeel sticks to the teeth, saliva pools deep in the throat, and a strong vibrant banana-melon, sweet creamy-candy aftertaste is left lingering in the mouth.
The fourth infusion sees a sweet, pure, initial taste that is smothered by a mouthfeel which coats the whole mouth and throat. After this sensation recedes, there are barely savory-pungent notes under more vibrant, distinct sweet creamy fruit notes which open into the throat. The qi is very relaxing and cooling to the extremities. In the core there is a slightly warming sensation. It feels very nice in the body.
The fifth infusion is much the same with more distinct sweet candy-like fruits in the initial taste. A cool sweetness starts to gain momentum in the throat then slowly expands outward. There is a very light pungent taste caught in the mouthfeel which adds separation and depth from the dominating sweet high notes. This depth is clear in this fifth infusion.
The sixth infusion has even more distinct fruits and sweet high note tastes up in the initial flavour. The thick mouthfeel overtakes these light flavours somewhat and leaves a long, fruity-sweet aftertaste behind.
In the seventh and eighth infusions everything becomes slightly softer with the high notes still quite strong but more smooth, less distinctly vibrant here. There are noticeably tangy melon edges now. These high note tastes are most noticed along with distinct returning coolness in the aftertaste where they maintain there overly vibrant quality. The qi strongly brings up the mood, and intensely focuses the mind, and makes the hands and feet feel cool, almost tingling.
In the ninth infusion crisp, sweet high notes begin to be muddled with forest notes in the initial taste. Tangy melon notes from the initial taste stretch into the aftertaste.
The tenth infusion sees a slight, quick flash of savory and bland forest which turns sweet then is washed away with a mouthfeel which later brings sweet-creamy fruits on the breath. The mouthfeel continues in the deep-mid throat and mouth but is becoming slightly less dense now.
In the eleventh and twelfth infusions sweet, but mild banana-like fruits are in the initial taste and distinctly span the profile of this infusion. The flavour has softened considerably now. The mouthfeel softens but continues its strong presence. There is a long-candy-like aftertaste left in the mouth.
In the thirteenth infusion there is more wild foresty depth found but still may high notes to be enjoyed. This tea has stamina because in the fourteenth infusion is finally starts to loose lots of its flavour. There is still a faint spattering of previous flavours, the mouthfeel still full in the throat.
Put to an overnight infusion these leaves give a pungent, cool, vibrant offering of fruity high notes.