2017 Lao Ban Zhang Chadao

ft One of my swaps from the Steepster meet, this is a Lao Ban Zhang, aka the king of teas, aka the expensive stuff. Number 16117-1 from Chadao.de

First off – amazing colour & fuzz on the leaf! That’s some seriously show-offy silver hair.

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The session starts with a glorious sweet perfume right off the bat. It’s one of those tastes that manages to be indefinable, yet so obvious when experiencing. Soft pineapple sweets are there too, such a nice flavour.

Chaqi is strong, but not so much that it’s uncomfortable, I feel relaxed, & over the course of the day I expected bitterness or sour to creep in but had been informed by Rui that this one goes twenty steeps, and so I took it there, and it followed perfectly. I didn’t detect the bitter notes of young plantation trees, so if they were there they were skillfully blended in as not to affect the taste. It also wasn’t face melting aggressiveness like people seem to expect from Ban Zhang, but instead elegant.

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Seriously good tea. Throughout twenty steeps it stayed harmonious & balanced, and only when I got near the magic number did it just fade off quietly into a perfume water. I also noted the body still being good well into the teens.

 

1st London Steepster meet

So, my first London Steepster meet happened.  This has been a long time arranging as me & Rui have missed each other, but finally it did, which was handy because I had a big bag of teas to give to the English members of the group buy I did from Singapore.

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Rui, Jeremy , Heather VoirentTea and Husbear  settled down opposite me in Mei Leaf, Cambden for some puerh. We paid corkage as it was about us bringing tea along and sampling, I handed over some 7536, Lincang Wild & Dan Cong from singapore, while Rui brought out some 2009 Yiwu, 1990s Green mark, Lao Ban Zhang, Mengsong, HK stored puerh, & a LOT of White2Tea Samples.

Woop!

Rui thought the  2009 Yiwu maocha from Chadao.de should be tasted. It was perfect for the first tea of the meet. A chadao Yiwu was actually how me and Rui started chatting in the first place, he shared me some, I loved it & bought a bing.   We have similar taste, leaning towards the floral, sweet, smooth flavours as opposed to overly strong, aggressive, smoky, tobacco, sharp puerh.

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This Yiwu was delicious. No other words for it – amazing long leaf, and with a perfumed sweetness that carried throughout the session.  I think it was about 9-10g and 5 of us were happily drinking it for over an hour. Top quality, thick, smooth, elegant but strong where needed. Quite a sensual taste – I couldn’t fault anything about it.

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After the Yiwu, VoirenTea & husbear left, & it was now a triumvirate. We drank some Hong Kong stored, aged Sheng. This is apparently from a magic shop that only Rui & TeaDB know about. It had some storage which dissipated, and some interesting apple huigan. We discussed tea & more tea over the course of a couple of hours, maybe more? I could have say there for longer but we had to leave.

I left with some of their King Plum & Young Gushu 2017.  The plum was tasty but oh so pricey.  The Young Gushu is probably more my price range (cake-wise anyway)

Please make friends on Steepster or Insta with us for future meet info!

Next year we will meet again, perhaps for longer. Everyone welcome!

Thanks to Don Me Leaf for allowing us to do this.

Singapore Tea Tasting: pt 2

Well, after the great day with Wilson and Mrs Chong at D’Art Station, & thanks to the lovely teas I failed to go to sleep then the next morning went north of Changi to meet with Alex Lau, who kindly took me to meet Alex Lim, or Eagle Tea Merchants.

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We got tea drunk. Seriously tea drunk.  I cant remember the last time I drank that many teas.  How many puerhs did we taste? I dont know but it was quite a lot – jingmais, Yiwus, Lao Ban Zhang, Lincang, Bulangs, the list goes on.

I tried some fantastic Yiwu, Bulang, Lincang (wild tree) & Lao Ban Zhang.  I couldnt afford the Yiwu or LBZ, but bought some of the Lincang and Bulang. I would also go back for the cheaper Yiwu (the yellow label), it was fantastic.  I think Alex lim has got good taste in puerh. Those three all varied in taste from each other and good quality.

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Both Alex’s were into their teaware which isn’t something I involve myself in yet, but it was fascinating to hear them talk about specific clays and pots. I cant talk much about them here because I was more interested in the tea tasting.

Alex goes himself to china to select the trees or leaf he uses for processing. Hes a good honest vendor – the lincang wild tree was described as a ‘massive tree’.  No stories about fantastical age magical properties, just first hand knowledge, which you could taste in the tree.  Not a hint of bitterness, just a wonderful ‘wild tree’ fruit taste.

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Above is a picture of the trees Alex sourced for the Lincang. Wild huh?

Singapore Tea Tasting: pt 1

I was lucky enough to get the chance to go to Singapore, and so the first thing I do is ask on the Steepster forum if anyone knows any good tea shops there. And the answers I got were even better, with me ending up having two days of meeting actual tea friends out there and curating a small group buy!

My first meet was with Wilson, from Adventure in Every Cup/Teapot News

Wilson was a great host, he took me for brunch from a Chinese food market, we also had a coconut juice, which was well deserved in the heat. (the food in Singapore is amazing! They have a michelin starred noodle place, and its about $2 for a main dish there.  The food is very good and very cheap) & then from there to meet a lady called Mrs Chong from D’Art Station, 20 Sago st.  (it is behind the Buddha’s Tooth Relic Temple). Wilson said he took me to see her because she is patient, and will let us taste the tea. Which I needed to be able to do.

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It was here I tried some aged sheng & dancong.

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I will have to say that tasting tea in a humid environment is hard – Every taste and smell felt slightly diminished compared to my colder drier flat in London. As I was buying with friends in mind (the first time I have curated) I settled for the 2006 Fuhai 7536 as being the nicest. Some of the other teas had a storage taste that I didnt know how people would react to, particularly an aged Yiwu which could have been nice but I rejected it quick due to this.

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The 7536 wasn’t the strongest of teas, and later proved to be fussy when over brewed, but when I added a bit more leaf it shone with a wondrous rising cool fruit/floral huigan that isn’t always obvious but when present is really good, it can fill your mouth, nose & head with its flavour. When I tasted it back in the hotel room I couldnt even taste anything in the mouth, then two minutes later the rising taste came again.  Its really good with a bit of care.

Wilson also states on his review that he adds 1g more than normal, and that is what I had done when I had my best session of this so far.

Its mellow & refreshing, sweet & clean for an aged puerh,  inoffensive, which was my aim in trying to please a bunch of critical Steepsterites. There is also a hint of special something that sometimes makes itself known.

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This is the 7536 (in red) with another tea, a 2005 Liming tea factory ‘ba jiao ting’, aka ‘8 sided pagoda’ The Liming had a tobacco notes, punchier and sourer, lacking the delicacy of the 7536.

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Yes, that is a SG$6000 (£3500/$4500) Lao Ban Zhang!

I very grateful to Wilson for meeting me, and taking the time to show me around, and Mrs chong for letting me sample the teas. I will be back someday.