Wednesday, 10 February 2010

2005 Gan En Lao Ban Zhang (Essence of Tea)

There is a poem in Chinese that ends with the line 'and to eat in Guangdong.' referring to the food in the southern province being the finest in all of China.

For the select few who read my blog may well know that I'm on a bit of a hunt around for Ban Zhang tea at the moment. It's awfully expensive and as such is the target for unscrupulous business men/con artists to exploit the name to jack up the prices of their tea. We all hear about how good it is like it's the holy grail or something and poor sods like myself spend reasonably large amounts of paypal cash trying to obtain the real deal.

Today's offering is from a familiar source, one that is trustworthy and needs no more introduction. You can pick up a bing of this tea for a smidge under £80, so it's not cheap but in comparison to fresh Ban Zhang bings it's not a massive mark up for nearly 5 years of storage. Another thing is, I believe this to be what is says on the wrapper.

The rinsed leaves still hold onto a little legume but it's clear that this tea is on a pivot edge in it's life as the last of it's youth is in decline. The resulting soup is vibrant to behold and a decent shade of light amber but what taste awaits me?

This is more like it. There is no mistaking the initial layer is one of bitterness that interestingly enough concentrates on the rear portion of my mouth. The transition to sweetness is a rapid affair and I can best describe it as being like dried apricots. I start to fumble the brewing and push the leaves too far, it's still not overly bitter but the tobacco and leather tones become too emphasised.

I curse the flu gods for my congested nose, I suspect my session is muted because of it, however, all is not lost as the marvellous properties of this tea are still evident. The bitterness doesn't hang around forever  and sweet tobacco with leather predominates with the apricot and peach kernel finish. I'm left thinking that this tea isn't quite ready yet to be drunk though although highly enjoyable, I just feel that there is better to come.

Perhaps a new line should be added to that poem, 'to drink tea from Ban Zhang.'


  1. Another LBZ that I too have been tempted to buy. But the price makes me wince. I wish you had taken some pics of the spent leaves, as they tell a tale. Did you get a sample or the whole cake?

  2. I went for a sample only this time around, I've been spending too much! I'm glad I did though as I do like this tea. I should really try to include more pictures of spent leaves though in the future, it's just so dark here in my appt. for nice photography.

  3. And the question is, will you buy a bing of the 2009 Hai Lang Hao Lao Ban Zhang you discussed earlier - or this one?

    Hi there BTW! I'm a new (UK) reader of your Blog.

  4. Ah yes.. What I thought I would do is try them both again before I made my mind up. Any excuse to drink some more nice tea!

    Welcome onboard..