More About Ban Zhang Pu-erh Teas
What is the “real” Lao Ban Zhang Tea?
Last week I wrote about the Ban Zhang Pu-erh Teas I have brought back to my store from Yunnan. These are a rare type of green/raw Pu-erh tea that many people were very interested to know more about. These teas have just recently become popular and are hard to find as the best ones are kept by collectors who appreciate this tea and know its true value.
Lao Ban Zhang is the best of these teas, with a very unique bitter-and-sweet taste with a long lasting aroma and sweet after-taste or “hui gan” and still tastes strong and fragrant after many infusions. In just ten years it has earned a reputation amongst Pu-erh Tea connoisseurs as one of the finest green/raw Pu-erh teas.
Lao Ban Zhang tea trees grow at high altitude between 1,700 to 1,900 meters above sea level (about 6,000 feet), in a subtropical monsoon climate zone. This area does not get too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer and the climate is separated into two distinct dry/rainy seasons. The Lao Ban Zhang plantation is well preserved and located in an ancient forest which is not easily accessible by outsiders. The soil is fertile and is formed from a mix of sand and fallen leaves. This environment gets abundant rainfall and sunlight, both excellent conditions for large leaf trees. Leaves that are harvested in this forest are large, thick and vigorous looking with a shiny and deep green colour. The tender tips are covered with shiny silvery bristles/hairs.
Many teas claim to have some or all Ban Zhang leaves. A way to tell is the length of time the bitter taste stays in your mouth before it turns sweet. Lao Ban Zhang is the best quality and turns the most quickly and has the most intense sweetness. Xing Ban Zhang is the next best and then Lao Man Erh.
Some fake teas have no Ban Zhang leaves at all. These are produced from randomly blended, thick, sturdy and bitter tasting “tai de cha” (mixed with bush tea). Another kind uses Mengsong bitter tea as the base and other types of leaves are mixed in. This tea gives a distinct bitter taste, but not a sweet aftertaste or “hui gan”. It is easy to spot this kind. The leaves are not clean and tidy nor strong and vigorous looking with the silvery bristle/hair.