This raw puer was pressed and packed in 2008, so it has matured significantly and lost most of its qing-bitterness. Laobanzhang has all the classical characteristics of quality sheng puers: it is durable, it has a notable dry fruit flavor, and it starts yielding that lingering sweetness after 4-5 steepings. A must-have for a puer drinker!
Why we like it?
Laobanzhang took its name after a village in Menghai where great-quality puer has been produced for many centuries. This cake was pressed a few years before the prices on maocha from famous puer mountains skyrocketed, and we have been lucky to secure a source that provides it to us a reasonable price. Laobanzhang can easily yield ten excellent steepings. The large full leaf content ensures that the tea has great cha-qi, giving off plenty of strength and vigor to those who like their over-clocked. We recommend that you steep it sparingly, so you can watch the flavor change as the leaves open up and let out their goodness one brew at a time. Roman’s personal score: 85/100 Miha’s personal score: 83/100 The scores above represent how the Daoli co-founders Miha and Roman feel about each particular tea. The ratings are given on 0 to 100 scale and absolutely subjective. We simply translate into numbers our first impression about this tea.
Basic facts about puer
There are two kinds of puer tea: shu (ripe, cooked, heavily fermented) and sheng (raw). Shu puers undergo an extensive (several months to a year) fermentation process, whereas sheng puers are not fermented at all. Shu puers produce dark brown infusions quite similar to black tea. The color of sheng puer tea may range from lime to intense yellow – the spectrum typical of green teas, but that’s where the similarity ends. A typical sheng puer has a pronounced bittersweet flavor and a lingering mellow aftertaste called huigan (回甘) or liugan (留甘) in Chinese. Some people are discouraged from exploring puer teas because of erroneous perceptions that all puers taste like earth or have other unpleasant qualities. This only applies to low-quality puers that were either made of bad leaves, processed in a wrong way, or stored under inappropriate conditions. Brewed properly, good quality puers may seem unusually strong to an inexperienced palate, but they should not feel disagreeable in any way. Shu puer tea is often divided into supreme (gongting), extra, 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th grades. Sheng puers are sometimes classified into extra, 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th grades, but this system is far from universal. The grade of puer tea is primarily determined by the buds vs. leaves ratio, as well as the size and shape thereof. Supreme-quality shu puer (aka gongting), for instance, is supposed to be buds only with each bud averaging up to one inch in length. Extra class shu is 50-60% buds and 40-50% leaves. First grade shu puer is approximately 30% buds and 70% leaves. Third grade has leaves that are larger in size and the bud content is accidental. Fifth and seventh grades are almost entirely made up of leaves, the main difference being in size, thickness, and texture of tea material used. Shengs follow a similar pattern, but, again, standards vary significantly among manufacturers.
General steeping suggestions
Tea can be steeped in a tea pot, gaiwan, or a strainer placed right in your cup. Feel free to experiment with time, temperature, and quantity. If tea feels a bit strong or bitter, just use less leaves or steep it for a shorter period of time. The purpose of the first brew is to rinse the leaves, so it shouldn’t last more than five seconds and should be discarded. Pour the hot water again. This time, steep it for longer periods. Avoid leaving the leaves soaking in water between brews, because it makes tea taste bitter and steals a lot of its flavor. If used properly, about six grams of tea leaves can yield several middle-size cups of excellent tea. Chinese people enjoy the original taste of tea, so they never use milk, sugar, or lemon.
Steeping suggestions for Old (lao) Banzang
Start with this, then experiment:
- one serving: 6-10 grams
- water: ~ 70 °C, 100-250 ml (~ 170°F, 3-9oz)
- time: 30-45 seconds
- number of infusions: 8-12
- discard the first brew
Have you tried this tea? Do you have any comments? Please use the space below to share your thoughts and ask us questions.