2017 Theasophie Lao Banzhang
4g/60ml gaiwan, Toronto carbon-filtered tap
Perfumes I, from Pale Bloom, Sarah Davachi
When I first bought this in 2017, it was very green and roasty (not smoky), and initially tasted quite strongly of Sencha. It certainly seemed to be a “green puerh” at the time. When I tasted in 2019, this aspect had reduced quite a bit, and now it is gone, there is no explicit “green tea” taste that I could detect. It is also presenting *now* as a normal new-make sheng, i.e. 2020 production. I would have guessed this is new puerh with decent processing and not “green puerh” at this point. I am storing this chunk of cake sealed in Mylar at 23C and 63% generated humidity.
Material: The material has typical Lao Banzhang style blend of buds (or bud-ish leaves) and more mature leaves, leading to a salt-and-pepper appearance. It also has quite downy leaves, another supposed characteristic of LBZ.
Aroma: The rinse and subsequent liquor has a good pungent aroma, not cat pee, not sweet, not perfume, but more a mix of subtle florals. On the empty cup, there is some faint Tibetan incense aroma, musk, roasted herbs. But it is faint, and this tea could never be described as smoky.
Taste: There is a very typical taste I associate with LBZ: slightly roasty green bitter hay. It’s impossible to capture this taste because it is a very unique taste. I am sure there is a way to produce this taste with material from multiple regions, but every legit LBZ I’ve tried has this taste (except XZH LBZ… that one manages to avoid the stereotype 😉 ) Not sweet, neither in the arrival, development or finish. Initially florals and moderate bitterness, with a typical rough taidi young sheng profile. The tea starts to give more juice in the mid steeps, and we get a juicy tartness somewhat like chewing on a wad of boiled spinach. slight sourness with a dull bitterness. Green and chalky long aftertaste.
Energy: It is heating, and gives a noticeable radiating flow from the head down to the arms and legs. But the intensity is very much medium at best. With long steeps the intensity can get quite high, and the stomach suffers. But there is a long lasting liquidy frisson which is quite nice.
Conclusion: I believe this is a real LBZ, perhaps one of low relative quality. I believe it is a good example of green puerh: it started with a pronounced roasty sencha note, and has evolved slowly, so that only now does it present like a normal new-make sheng. It retains a spinach like quality, and about 30-40 minutes after the session, my stomach hurts, in that harsh green tea kind of way. While the shaqing was higher temp, it was not so high to completely kill the enzymes: the tea has evolved noticeably even at 23C. So based on this processing I would guess that this tea should progress well but rather slower than the average speed for sheng. The underlying tea is not bad but is relatively straightforward and almost completely without sweetness (water might change this). The most interesting aspect was the noticeable sourness it produces in steeps 4-5. I am glad I got this sample chunk as a LBZ reference, but this is a perfect example of why it’s better to get a great Mahei than a mediocre LBZ.