In recent years, Lao Ban Zhang (老班章) is regarded as the “king” of pu-erh tea. As it is becoming harder to find “real” Lao Ban Zhang in the market these days, it would be an honour and blessing for pu-erh tea lovers to taste the real Lao Ban Zhang. The Lao Ban Zhang tea cake we have in the shop is attained from a tea collector who actually went to the village of Lao Ban Zhang and gathered the tea leaves to make the tea cake. This tea cake has a special formula which gives it a unique aroma and taste.
The leaves appear clean, thick and very fresh, with silvery glistening hair, which give the leaves a light and airy feel, yet also stout and fertile.
The aroma is not apparent from a distance, but with closer proximity, one can smell a strong, subtle aroma of orchid fragrance combined with a smooth woody scent which is long lasting and powerful. The aroma brings one to an ancient forest, reminiscent of a flower garden surrounded by old trees of a few hundred years of age.
Tea soups from different age of Lao Ban Zhang have different colour and thickness. Those from younger tea possesses a bright greenish yellow colour; while those from older, aged tea possesses a deeper orange colour and more rich with tea oil.
The most distinct taste from Lao Ban Zhang is its sharp, overpowering “bitter” taste. However, in the real Lao Ban Zhang tea, the bitterness quickly dissipate and the moment the tea travels down the throat, a full, delicious, ice sweet taste emerges and stays for a long time in the mouth. The sensation from the taste is both stimulating and mesmerizing. Even after ten infusions, the tea still taste strong and sweet.
Tea:2012, 100% Lao Ban Zhang (老班章) Pu-Erh Tea Cake, Collector Edition, (Raw/Sheng)
Factory: Ba Da Shan Lao Zai Tea Factory
Origin: Yunnan, Xishuang Banna Region, Bu Lang Mountain, Lao Ban Zhang Village
Harvest Period: 2012
Introduction and History of Lao Ban Zhang
Lao Ban Zhang tea can be traced back to 1476, which originated from the region of Xishuang Banna situated in the province of Yunnan, Menghai County, Bu Lang Mountain, Lao Ban Zhang Village. The “old” or Lao Ban Zhang village is located apart from the “new” or Xing Ban Zhang village.
Following are some general statistics of the Lao Ban Zhang village and its surrounding region:
There are a total of 145 families in the Lao Ban Zhang village;
The village resides at an altitude of 1,700 to 1,900 meters;
Average temperature of 18.7 oC;
Average 2,088 hours of sun light per year;
Average rain fall between 1,341 to 1,540 mm;
At this high altitude, the village often experience thick fogginess with average annual foggy days between 107.5 to 160.2 days.
There are 4,700 acres of land growing the arbour tree with merely 50 tons of average annual raw tea leaves (green Maocha) production. The original area where Lao Ban Zhang is produced is well preserved with diverse vegetation and culture. The soil is fertile and the area gets abundant sunshine, thick fogs, high humidity, all are optimum conditions for growing ancient trees. Farmers in the Lao Ban Zhang village still use the traditional method to harvest and preserve the ancient tea trees. The leaves are hand picked and no fertilizers and pesticides are used. The leaves are dried under natural sunlight to kill green and are pollution free.
According to 2007 statistics compiled by villagers, the number of existing tea trees in the Lao Ban Zhang village includes:
More than one hundred years old: 78,555
More than two hundred years old: 70,886
More than five hundred years old: 37,076
More than eight hundred years old: 9,412
Due to Lao Ban Zhang pu-erh’s exceptional stimulating taste and its small raw tea leave production quantity each year, the price of this tea has escalated each year since 2004. Also during this time, more tea collectors would visit the village to purchase the raw leaves. The raw tea leave was selling for 800 Yuan/kg in 2006 and the price almost doubled to 1,300 Yuan/kg in 2007. It takes 3.6 kg of fresh raw leaves to produce 1 kg of dry tea product. In 2011, Lao Ban Zhang raw leaves sells for 1,600 to 2,000 Yuan/kg and in 2012, the price increased to 1,800 to 3,000 Yuan/kg. With raw leaves selling for 3,000 Yuan/kg, it would be impossible to purchase a real Lao Ban Zhang tea cake (357 grams) for very low price per cake. Many of the cheaper, “so called” Lao Ban Z|hang or Ban Zhang tea cakes selling in the market contains a fraction of, if any, real Lao Ban Zhang tea leaves mixed with tea leaves collected from nearby regions.
The taste of Lao Ban Zhang is very unique and even tea leaves harvested from nearby villages do not taste the same. Generally speaking, Ban Zhang tea selling in the market refers to tea produced from the newer villages surrounding Lao Ban Zhang village, such as Xing Ban Zhang and Lao Man Er. Even though the taste of these teas may be similar to the Lao Ban Zhang, even the aroma and fragrance may be consistent; yet, these teas seem to lack Lao Ban Zhang’s cha chi (energy).
It is important when purchasing Ban Zhang pu-erh teas to pay attention to the following few aspects. First is the unique aroma of the tea which is thick and long lasting, and the fragrance pierces straight into the heart, which is referred to by tea lovers as the dominance of the tea. The bitterness of Lao Ban Zhang disappears very quickly which turns into sweetness. The different level of bitter/sweet flavour is very distinct. The long lasting and powerful taste leaves one with a gasping and bewildered sensation.