Monday, March 18, 2013

Appreciating Beautiful Packaged Samples & A Sampling of 2012 Spring Lao Ban Zhang from Tea Urchin

A few months back one received a splendid looking little package. It was one of the most beautiful presentations of tea one has received to date, sent no doubt by someone who loves his tea. The little touches, but not overdone, packaging of these samples showed care, consideration, simplicity, modesty, and wabi-sabi. The box that shipped was a reused China Post box (Stephane Erler of Teamasters Blog noted that this is in fact a Chung Hwa box with some China Post stamps and stickers on it). Its simple, sleek design of simple animation of a white bird and green background was contrasted by slightly worn corners, patch marks revealing plain cardboard underneath and old stamps and ink marks from previous shipping. It was something that was so common, yet so unique, and slightly exotic but so simple.

Cutting the box open with a single blade box cutter revealed a simple sheet of bubble wrap folded neatly over the samples. The distorted nature of the bubble wrap built the excitement for what was underneath as you could hardly make out the contents. When the sheet bubble wrap was folded back as if turning a page from a book, it revealed a perfectly stacked column of hand folded opaque wax paper envelopes. Each envelope was simply labeled with small printing in black ink on the bottom edge. The nature of the packaging ensured that each envelop could only be viewed as the envelop on top was removed. This resulted in an experience like flipping through the pages of a book, not knowing what would happen next, or in this case what samples would come up next.

So who sent such a beautiful and mindful presentation of samples? No other than Eric of discipleofthetealeaf blog!

The first tea that one will review from these samples is a 2011 Lao Ban Zhang. Only one tong of these cakes were pressed by Eugene of Tea Urchin- the story how this cake was sourced is available here.

The misty opaque of the packaging seems to match the day outside- foggy and overcast. One is in need of a boost this morning and this tea might just do perfectly.

The dry leaves smell of sweet piercing sweetness with a continuous soft pungent trail. A faint, muggy depth is found in the trailing pungent odour.

The first pot is prepared and soft, light, creamy-sweet initial taste carries a slight pungent forest edge. There is a meaty salmon finish that turns into a pure-sweet-light-plum honey sweetness. The mouthfeel is full and slightly viscous in the mouth, in the throat it is most active. A strong coolness develops in the mid-throat. The tea and muddled forest pungency expands the chest, bringing the breath deeper.

The second pot has a soft creamy slight bitter initial taste which turns creamy and very smooth. It develops into a candy sweetness as it stretches over the profile. There are slight creamy-sweet florals that float on the breath especially in the throat. The throat cools and softy swells and expands.

The third infusion is sweet with slight sour-wood-oak tastes underneath which helps add depth to the profile of this tea. The sweet notes emerge from these flavours and stretch into the aftertaste. The sweet tastes are at first bland-sweet then turn into a creamy sweet then they move back to a bland sweet. The tongue now feels like soft, slightly sticky, sand has covered it. The throat feel is deep and expansive. The qi now pushes gently down on the abdomen it has a soft relaxing effect on the mind.

The fourth infusion gives us light, plumy sweetness with oaky-edged muddled forest tastes giving it depth. A very light pungent note appears then disappears under creamy-sweet notes. It still carries a nice cool throat feel.

One then is abruptly distracted from the tea session from a phone call. Feeling activated from the tea and heeding direction from the phone conversation, one was forced to leave the house. Upon returning not even an hour later the session with this tea resumes. Immediately it is obvious that many pots have been made in the hour but no guests can currently be found in the house. So one continues to steep this tea...

The following infusion is way too watery and light- maybe a good four pots of tea must have been made in that hour.

So the tea is put under longer infusions and gives off sweet, blandish woody edges of oak and forests starting to eclipse those light edges. There is a woody-candy-like finish of sweet plum. A cool sensation in the throat still holds. The infusion after this has much the same profile.

A few more pots are made and a cool, slightly menthol muted sweetness is muddled with barely floral-foresty water. A woody aftertaste is left in the mouth.

This tea is put to a few more infusions leaving watery, very light, sweet tastes with undertones of dry-oaky-wood. There is a very faint taste of lingering sweet banana-candy taste under the wood profile.

Although this tea session was seriously disrupted, the tea session was quite nice.

Thanks Eric

Eric's (discipleofthetealeaf) Tasting Notes



discipleofthetealeaf said...


How surprising to see this post! I am glad that you enjoyed the packing, etc. You will laugh, the box was actually a recycled Teamasters shipment box. :)

I am happy that you enjoyed the session. I wonder who the mystery steeper was??!

I have noted the lingering cooling throat sensation you reference more than I had in initial sessions, so I am glad you referenced it.

Anyway, I hope all is well. I am awaiting my package of first flush Darjeelings from Thunderbolt. Excited!

All the best,


Alicia Conway said...

Looks really tasty. I'd like to try. Moreover, I've found out how many healing properties it has:
Healing tea.
By the way, I followed you up with GFC, it'd be great if you follow me back.

Matt said...


Hahaha... Suspected it was from Tea Masters after Stephane's email. He is a classy no nonsense kind of guy. Maybe next time he will pack his puerh samples in wax paper! Haha

Also have some 2013 First Flush Darjeeling samples coming from Lochan Tea. Have heard great things about Thunderbolt Tea will have to give them a try sometime. We will have to compare samples online? Mr.lochan said that quality is up this year but so are prices.

Freelance Mommy,

Lao Ban Zhang is expensive medicine! Think that this tea will be more therapeutic after 20 years of aging.

Thanks for your interest and the interest of all mommies out there!


Steph said...

Good packaging makes the gift even more special! And I love furoshiki, recyclable! ;-)