Tuesday, May 24, 2011

2005 Gan En Lao Banzhang

Sunny... kind of.  Warm... sort of.  But the house is so dark and the tea so warming and the body so longing for spring.  Seemed a good day for an outdoor tea session.  Today's tea of choice, the 2005 Gan En Lao Banzhang currently being offered at Essence of Tea.  This cake has a bit of celebrity to it, being featured in an excellent article about Banzhang teas, linked here, from The Leaf Magazine.  I've had teas marketed as Banzhang before and had been forming an opinion of them as characteristically potently bitter, but this tea (along with the article from The Leaf) has been an eye-opener.  I've been fortunate to recently pick up another cake featured in the article and look forward to comparing the two to further expand my understanding of Banzhang teas.

Initial aromas, both from the wenxiangbei and the yixing lid revealed rock sugar sweetness mingled with soft citrus kumquat yumminess.  Like inhaling candy (those chewy-sweet citrus-orange Botan Ame rice candies come to mind).  I brewed the leaves carefully and conservatively, still expecting a punch of bitterness despite the promises from the article, but infusion after infusion I found that any bitterness present was quite mild and seemed to bypass my tongue, instead settling deep in my throat as a sort of assertive dryness (not unpleasant).  Rather than a characteristically bitter brew, I found this tea to be wonderfully sweet in a very round and long-lasting way.  It was an interesting study in contrasts, with a deep dry bitter and simultaneous full wet sweet, reminding me of sweet tannic grape skins.  The long-lasting hui gan referenced in the article was certainly present, as well.  In fact, it was so persistent and lasting that it seemed to me to transcend the concept of "returning sweetness" as it was less about 'returning' anything and seemed more a nearly solid physical manifestation of how this tea expressed itself in the body.  Overall a very pleasant tea session.  Sweetness on the tongue and sweetness in the air and a satisfying calm pervading all  :)

All that arises 
is essentially no more real 
than a reflection, 
transparently pure and clear, 
beyond all definition 
or logical explanation. 

Yet the seeds of past action, 
karma, continue to cause 
further arising. 

Even so, 
know that all that exists 
is ultimately void of self-nature, 
utterly non-dual.

-- (words of the Buddha)


  1. I just ordered 7 grams of this tea myself. How many infusions did you make? Were there any heavier flavors as you progressed like wood, syrup, flint?


  2. Hi shah8 -- I lost track of how many infusions and didn't keep lots of notes. Maybe 9 or 10? By the end I was steeping for minutes at a time, but this tea seemed to stay very light for me. Keep in mind I've been drinking a lot of older stuff, so perhaps this one came across lighter than it might have if I'd been sticking with younger sheng. But both the color and flavor stayed light for me, and to be honest I was wishing it would go a bit darker/deeper for me. I'm also wondering how much this new water I'm using skewed it toward 'sweet.' But overall I enjoyed this tea, even if it was a lot lighter than what I've been drinking lately.

  3. Yeah, I was thinking about LBZ, initiated by wondering whether the Tai Lian had any.

    When I first started into puerh, I got a bunch of expensive samples, which included the 2005 XZH LBZ, the 2006 XZH Yan and Yin, among others like the CGT fall Yiwu and XZH '06 Yiwu, the '06 DinJin, etc, etc.

    I wound up getting two of the '06 Yans, essentially because it will go for 20+ infusions, and the back end of the session is very nice, sometimes with a Kahlua bent, but with many flavors, including nice woods, sweet nuts, maple syrup, etc. It's biggest flaws was that it is quite subdued in the beginning, and doesn't really explode out of the throat. It also needs 8g instead of 7g to be properly thick. The '05 XZH LBZ does do that to a certain extent, but it gets simple at about infusion 7 and peters out by 12. From what I read, sometimes I get the feeling that LBZ can be a wee bit boring once you look past the immediate effect. I haven't had enough to know though. Generally, I've been happier with the '07 Puzhen and Huangshanlin than with '06 or '05 LBZ. Even the '05 Youle is more pleasingly traumatic...However, the cost of getting more probably mostly LBZ is quite expensive. Could only rationalize one serving when ordering from Nada, for example.


  4. nice review, as usual...

    "You and I and every other thing are a dependent arising, empty of any inherent reality" Tsong Ko Pa


  5. I also have piece of this cake on its way to my teapot -and now look forward to it even more. Thanks.

    Enjoy your day

  6. shah8 -- Truly, your tea knowledge blows me away (as always) :) Thanks for the tip about the back end of sessions. That description of "Kahlua bent with many flavors" is just too good to resist. Always a pleasure to have you stop by :)

    wuyi -- thank you, and love the quote!

    Petr -- sure would love to share a pot of tea with you :) All the best :)