Daniel Lui's Blog

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.

I am carrying limited quantities of the Organic Xing Ban Zhang Tea Cake from Import/Export Corporation (CNNP). I also have the 100% Lao Ban Zhang Collector Edition with tips and large leaves.

For more information about Ban Zhang tea, see my blog from last week “Ban Zhang – A New Kind of Pu-erh Tea”.

Be Sociable, Share!

    Ban Zhang – A “New” Kind of Pu-erh Tea

    Big Leaf Tea from an Ancient Hidden Forest 

    Last May I was in Yunnan province in China buying new teas for The Chinese Tea Shop. At a visit to a Pu-erh tea factory I was given a tasting of a wonderful Lao Ban Zhang (Raw/Green) Pu-erh tea. This was a very lucky day as it is quite rare to find this kind of Pu-erh tea. I have wanted to buy Ban Zhang tea for ten years but could not be sure of the quality until now.

    For those who have tasted Lao Ban Zhang, their first experience is often overwhelming. This tea has a very unique bitter-and-sweet taste and the “cha chi” (tea energy) is very strong, but leaves a balanced and long lasting sensation in the mouth and throat.  The distinct bitter taste dissolves within seconds and turns into a sweet after-taste or “hui gan”.  Another special characteristic is its mild sweetness that becomes more and more apparent after multiple infusions.

    There are a few types of Ban Zhang teas on the market.

    1. The best quality is from Lao Ban Zhang village.  The plantation is in an ancient forest which is not easily accessible by outsiders so this Pu-erh tea was largely unknown until 2008.  The rarest teas are made from 100% Lao Ban Zhang leaves and are not blended with any other types of leaves. Today this tea is regarded by connoisseurs as among the very best of Pu-erh teas.
    2. More common are leaves grown in nearby villages such as Xing Ban Zhan and Lao Man Erh. These are often blended with leaves from other parts of Bu Lang Mountain. The appearance, flavour, energy, long lasting “hui gan”, special aroma and other unique qualities is similar to Lao Ban Zhang.

    Because of the growing demand and rising prices, many fake Ban Zhang teas have come on the market which have no Ban Zhang leaves whatsoever. If your Ban Zhang tea has a bitter taste that does not go away quickly, it may be an indication that the tea is “tai de cha” (mixed with bush tea).

    What constitutes the best Ban Zhang and how it is different from other Pu-Erh teas is still very much a fascination to many tea drinkers. This is due in large part to its scarcity on the market because the best ones are kept by collectors who appreciate this tea and know its true value.

    I have brought back limited quantities of two Ban Zhang teas. One is the Organic Xing Ban Zhang Tea Cake from Import/Export Corporation (CNNP) and is a good quality and reasonably priced. The other is the 100% Lao Ban Zhang Collector Edition Tea Cake I found at the tea factory I mentioned above. This tea was a special order by a private collector who requested young tips and large leaves in the recipe which gives the tea a delightful sweet and intense taste.  I was able to purchase some of these cakes from the factory who had kept some extras for their own collection. The Collector Edition comes with a beautiful wrapper and calligraphy and is more expensive but a must for Pu-erh tea connoisseurs.

    To learn more about Pu-erh Teas, visit the tea section at the Chinese Tea Shop. To purchase top-quality pu-erh tea now, visit our online store.

    Be Sociable, Share!