- 4 Teas containing from some Ban Zhang to 100% Lao Ban Zhang material
- Typical bitterness turning immediately into sweetness
- Complex taste with good transformation from beginning to end
- Powerful calming and enlivening Qi
If you want to drink LBZ (Lao Ban Zhang) you have fundamentally two choices:
- fork out $1000 for a new Chen Sheng Hao LBZ, or about $2000 for something like an aged CSH LBZ or various Xi Zi Hao 2005/2006 productions (a few more are generally recognised as “true” LBZ, but they all come about this price range)
- or explore all the other productions trying to find which have some actual LBZ tea in it —> this is the focus of this sample set
There are countless teas claiming to be from LBZ (Lao Ban Zhang), these claims are more or less true (eg: contains some % of LBZ, contains some % of wider banzhang area, it’s actually mostly other areas in bulang).
Among the many I tried, I selected four that I believe contain either 100% or a significant % of LBZ and can teach something about this area.
Typical of the Lao Ban Zhang (Old banzhang village) area is bitterness immediately turning into sweetness, this is harder to find in other banzhang or bulang area teas, they tend to either be just bitter (like a Lao Man E would) with sweetness coming after a good while, or not have as intense taste and aftertaste as deep as LBZ does. Astringency and bitterness in LBZ should be relatively low and balanced with high values in thickness, sweetness and aftertaste.
If you are new to LBZ, I strongly suggest the 25g size as these teas can really benefit from multiple sessions to be better understood in their complexity and what really makes them special (the Qi is very obvious, but the taste can take a bit to master).
1: 2018 Private Label – Lao Ban Zhang Huang Pian (250g brick)
Huangpian meaning “yellow leaves” (mature leaves, as opposed to the usual new leaves picked for most tea production), this is a “soft” Yin take on LBZ.
Made from a friend in Taiwan, this has a lot of typical ‘aged’ LBZ bittersweetness and some enlivening Qi, but not the strength you’d usually associate with a new leaves LBZ.
He made a very small production, just for his friends and close associates (generally a very good sign). When I asked him “what exactly are the leaves in this tea?” the answer was “we’ve gone door to door in LBZ asking for leaves, the bulk of the material is huangpian, and this is 100% LBZ old tree material”. Since this is huangpian and it has a very intense bittersweetness that I’ve never seen in huangpian before, this seems to check out.
Processed as brick to facilitate aging while keeping most of its flavour and smells intact. I’m aging a few of these bricks myself.
2: 2012 Guang Yang Hao – Ban Zhang “Royal special” (357g cake)
From a small taiwanese boutique producer, this cake is quite refined and stored relatively dry, both taste and Qi are in the direction of a tea processed to be complex, with “elegant” feeling, but still very powerful, the tea has quite a bit of “bite”.
Producer calls it “pure ancient tree lao banzhang”, I’m not sure what to make of it. It certainly has power and refinement to it, to a degree that would take a few sessions to understand.
Note: A blogger (Mattcha) reviewing this tea writes that “This is a blended material with most of the blend being of high quality older trees and possibly some LaoBanZhang blended in there? There is lots going on with it- too much for single origin.”.
3: 2005 Lao Ban Zhang Shengtai (250g Tuocha)
Shengtai meaning a grade of tree quality somewhere between plantation and “old tree garden”, sometimes translated as “eco arbor tree”.
Taiwan storage between dry and natural, clean, still has quite a bite to it both in terms of flavour and qi.
This has perhaps the roughest material of the bunch, but also tastes of typical LBZ.
~ sold out, I’ll add another BZ tea if you buy this sample set: CSH 2013 Golden Banzhang.
4: 2005 Grateful tea factory – Banzhang Zhengshan (357g cake)
Zhengshan literally means “middle of the mountain”, this cake apparently won some competitions for LBZ tea in Taiwan and is pure LBZ material.
It certainly has a lot of boldness and power to it, though it’s fully comfortable to drink because it has matured a lot (natural storage).
This tea now has its own listing: 2005 Lao Ban Zhang – Grateful Tea Factory Banzhang Zhengshan
Bonus tea #1: 2017 Chen Sheng Hao Banzhang Ancient tree (200g brick)
This is brutally strong tea with breath-taking Qi, I suggest using about half of your usual dosage for a pleasurable session (can always add a bit more).
The contrast with the 2018 huangpian brick is very interesting, if that’s Yin this is definitely, definitely Yang.
With this tea you can really taste and feel how much strength is required in younger tea for them to age like the 3 older teas in the set.
Available for purchase separately from the rest of the set.
Bonus tea #2: 2006 Xi Zi Hao White wrapper
The legendary LBZ cake, part of what made XZH so famous, market price around $2000 (though it was “just” $1000 last year).
Available for purchase separately from the rest of the set, very limited quantity. 02/03: Sold out.