- Changtai Tea Group 2006 "Banna" Tuo Cha
- 2006 Banzhang King Imperial (bing?)
- Menghai Tea Factory 2006 Cha Tou Brick
My good friend Davin and I drank them in that order last night while listening to Philip Glass, The Seoul Ensemble, Beethoven, Holst, and some random traditional Chinese music. I'm including both of our notes below. His thoughts are in green.Changtai Tea Group 2006 "Banna" Tuo Cha
The leaves of this tuo supposedly came from Mengsong and Jinggu, supposedly sifted to remove dust and stems. Interestingly, you won't find Jinggu on a map of Xishuangbanna; Jinggu Shan sits in Simao. Not that in a blind taste test I could tell cooked pu'er from Jinggu from that of Mengsong.
I brewed this in a qinghua doucai gaiwan and pitcher set I purchased in Shanghai. Davin took the helm for much of the brewings. It began smooth, sweet at first, then finishing with an interesting herbal aroma. It became earthier, with a thick mouthfeel that paradoxically finished light on the tongue, mild flavors with a grain quality. The herbal notes transformed into what seemed like sweet onion, progressively sweeter and very consistent in strength and character.
The wet leaves revealed that the tuo contained small buds, fannings and chopped leaf, but indeed not much fine dust or big twigs as mentioned in Puerhshop.com's description. It lasted a pleasant 6 infusions.
All in all, we both really enjoyed it. We brewed all samples with the same filtered and remineralized water, and this one did not dry my mouth, while the others did. I appreciated this tea's interesting herbal quality, while Davin said it was an improvement over the first pu'er he tried, an aged shu zhutong pu'er.2006 Banzhang King Imperial
The 2006 Banzhang King Imperial is a gong ting "tribute" grade xiao bing. Because I didn't catch the grade of the leaf from its appearance, I used too much leaf initially, which probably explains the unpleasant characteristics mentioned below. Also, the other samples came in chunks; the Banzhang came mostly loose.
I caught a hint of mint amongst the thick creamy, overpowering flavors in the first three brews. Acidic initially, then stout and woody consistently thereafter, it died around infusion 5, retaining its oily mouthfeel but yielding only mild, dusty flavor. The liquor started and remained dark and cloudy; I wondered if the producer overcomposted the tea.
Menghai Tea Factory 2006 Cha Tou BrickCha tou means "tea nugget"; expectedly, this tea arrived in the form of tight fingernail-sized clods.
To me, this was the most "traditional" tasting of the three tea samples. Woodier than the others, its wood had a refined character departing from the mulch flavors of the above samples. Creamy like the Banzhang but sweet like the Banna, the mintiness in this tea appeared strong and fresh; Davin felt this tea was more herbal than the Banna, tasting something like green cocoa, if you could find it. I found it more nutty than herbal, but I agreed with his perception of cocoa in the flavor, especially after we let a later brew sit and chill by the window.We both agreed that the flavors seemed cleaner, and the transparency of the brews made this apparent, though my cups don't show this particularly well. Most amazingly, this tea lasted over 10 brews, yielding consistent strength and enjoyable flavors to the end. We gave up before the tea did, sometime around midnight. Rarely does a shu pu'er yield this much. We could see part of the reason for this as we brewed the tea: the last nugget did not unfurl completely until the 8th infusion. Somehow, this relay of unfurling elongated the session life of this tea.
It was our favorite, and this flight of pu'ers gave Davin a good opportunity to practice gongfu brewing. I sent Davin home with some gift tea and teaware. I feel like a pusher giving a new client a free bump to get him hooked! Spread the addiction!