I must admit it was all happening usually during my working time when I was supposed to be creative and write something intellectual, as this is what I should do at my work, but somehow I was lacking inspiration and could not concentrate. As I tremendously enjoy browsing through online teashops, discovering the Zhi Zheng website made my heart sing: it is full of interesting information about their own production, tea trips and Puer areas and I would also like to mention their blog The Horses Mouth that I started to follow ever since.
Zhi Zheng Tea Shop focuses on high quality Puer tea from old, or ancient arboreal trees, which is exactly what I most enjoy. Their 2012 production offers interesting cakes from Bulang, NanNuo and one called Kong Shan Xin Yu, the area of which I still have not figured out but always found the name interesting. Apart from the last mentioned, which I received as a bonus sample, I ordered samples from 2011: Xin Yu Qiu Lan that I might review in the nearest future, and Lao Ban Zhang that I would like to introduce today:
In a nutshell, it is beautiful at first sight. The leaves are long and clean. They in fact look lighter and shinier in my tea bowl than in my low-end tablet picture (but somehow I gave up on trying to picture the "reality" as I consider it to be an infinite and actually quite futile struggle).
Before ordering the sample I somehow overlooked a small note on the ZhiZheng Tea Shop website, where there is some explanation considering tea from Lao Ban Zhang area and this cake especially:
* There are essentially two areas in Lao Ban Zhang, each with a distinct type of tree; one quite bitter, the other softer. Most farmers have trees in both areas and their tea reflects the mix of trees they have, as they typically mix the two together. Also, Ban Zhang tea often has Lao Man E tea in it - bringing a stronger ku wei. Our Lao Ban Zhang Tea does not have this kind of profile. It is softer, less baqi.
Unaware of this I expected the sample to be rather strong. Right after opening the package I was however surprised by its wonderful aroma which was intensely sweet and promising. It smells abundantly of marmalade, ripe fruit, perhaps with a hint of wet herbs or wet hay, a bit of YiWu, a bit of YouLe, a bit of BangPen, and a bit of something more. I could identify many various tones I knew and still was not sure how to describe the complex aroma emanating from the sweet lovely packet.
The smell of wet leaves in the pot after a quick rinse remained intensely sweet and emphasized my feeling that this tea is a little treasure. Its taste is surprisingly honey-like and juicy, yet rather mellow and soft. It closely corresponds with the information given by ZhiZheng at their website, with the exception that the tobacco hints might have already lessened considerably with time. I in fact did not notice any tobacco-like presence in aroma or flavour, just a very gentle kuwei which I welcomed with joy as it brought nice dynamics to the flavour.
Despite its interesting complexity that I try to describe here, this tea is somewhat beyond description, truly delicate and rather soft, nothing comes too forward, nothing is too hidden. Opening the packet, preparing a dose and drinking the infusion, all of this is pleasure I can fully relish. I unfortunately cannot afford buying the whole cake but I do not regret as I want it to remain rare to me. Knowing this, I enjoyed every sip of this sample even more. For me, this tea is something like a Christmas fairy-tale that I do not feel a need to read or watch every day but when I do, I feel completely satiated for the rest of the year.