Wednesday, May 8, 2019
2003 Yuanjiutang Ban Zhang Thoughts on the Plum Essence Taste
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.