Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mengyang Guoyan "Gu Hwa" Sheng Lao Banzhang Beeng Cha 400g



Lao Banzhang

Lao Banzhang Mountain has been long revered for its ancient tea forrest, which considered by some to be the strongest pu-erh avaliable, both in qi and in taste. Of course these qualities are what makes a great pu-erh, and as a result Lao Banzhang has a tremoundous following. Most puerh collectors will agree that no collection is complete without Lao Banzhang. Collectors will pay an exuberant about of money to have them and no doubt make them the corner piece of their collection.

This love affair with Lao BanZhang is one of the reasons why Lao Banzhang is one of the most marketed and mislabled products on the market today. For example, if you scan pu-erh vending sites, you may come across a beeng which claims to be a geniune Lao Banzhang product selling for $16 USD. The uninformed collector, hearing of all of the good things about Lao Banzhang will of course decide to buy a beeng believing they have just purchased a pure single estate Lao Banzhang. However, the reality of the matter is what they really bought was a beeng which may only contain 10% of Lao BanZhang in a blend. How can I be so sure that a $16, $17 or even $20 beeng are a blend and not a pure single estate without tasting it? Simple, just do the math. Currently, Lao Banzhang maocha is selling for 1500 RMB a kilogram or $203.00 USD for spring maocha, slightly cheaper for "Gu Hwa" or fall harvest. The price is justified due to the fact that only 10 tons of Lao Baozhang leaves are available each year for puerh, of which mind you, 30% will be useless material. What does this mean? IT MEANS THAT THERE ARE ONLY 7 TONS OF BOTH SPRING AND FALL MAOCHA FOR COMPRESSION

Product Informtion

Now for some of you, MengYang Guoyang needs no introduction. Ms. Dong, formally of the MengHai Factoy has taken the Pu-erh world by storm. Her products are being praised for their quaility, consistency, and affordability. For further information about Mengyang Guoyang please refer to my previous post Mengyang Guoyan Factory.

This particular example is "Gu Hwa" production. This means that the leaves are of the fall harvest and therefore slightly cheaper than spring harvest of which are said to be harvested from ancient growth trees. Fall harvest maocha has different characteristics from that of a spring harvest, the most noticable of which is that the maocha is less bitter. The leaves are also generally much larger than that of the spring harvest.

Initial Inspection -

From my initial review of the maocha it can be suggested that the leaves were not heavily rolled during the maocha proccess as they are nice "striped" leaves. The maocha has a nice floral and musky scent. The leaves have a considerable amount of down on the underside of the leaf. Ususally a good sign that the prescription contains ancient tea trea. The compaction is light; clearly stone mold pressed.

Brewing Parameters

Source - Dragon Tea House (Ebay Vendor)


Water-Bottled spring water.

Source of water - Frontier Springs, PA

Amount – 5.2g

Water Temp - Boil then cooled for 3 breaths

Brewing Method - Gongfu

Brewing Vessle - Yixing Teapot 150ml

Infusion times
1-15s
2-12s
3-16s
4-17s
5-26s
6-38s
7-60s

First Infusion

Aroma

The aroma was pungent which did not dissapate easily. It was floral and musky which remained constant in the sniffer with very little variation.

Taste

From the very first sip, my taste buds where awaken. This was a nice active tea with excellent huigan. Very woody with floral undertones. Silky viscosity with long lasting finish.

Second Infusion

Aroma

Still floral with more honey this time. The pleasant musk keeps the sweet aromas in check. Still very little variation as it cools.

Taste

The bitterness is starting to assert itself which seems to be most active on the sides of the tongue. There is a nice warm filling in my throat long after the swallow. More huigan this time.

Third Infusion

Aroma

The aroma is starting to balance. There is a fantasic woodiness almost reminscent wood dust. The huigan is still quite active. More salivation this time. My mouth and tongue are now both being affected by the liquor. The warm feeling in my throat is still present. There appears to be a hint of berry this time. Very interesting palate.

Spent Leaves



The leaves appear to be of the Gu Hwa harvest in that they are large. They do appear to have nice veins and a hearty texture. Nice and healthy.

Overall Impressions

The beeng faired will with other Lao Banzhang that I have tasted. It had an excellent huigan with a profound woodiness. Oddly, the liqour had an aged feel and taste to it. The subsequent infusions were all flavorful with with hints of berry, mint and camphor. Although this beeng is expensive it is considerably cheaper than other Banzhang out on the market; especially spring harvest Lao Banzhang. It should age nicely.

21 comments:

Brent said...

Nice to see you posting again, now that finals are over! I've seen a lot about banzhang recently, and from what I've read I'm a bit scared it will kill me... :/

Thanks for another great post!

-Brent

Bill said...

Hey Brent, thanks for the kuddos! Yeah, I will be posting more frequently now. Well, until I get swamped. Say, why does Lao Banzhang scare ya?

Brent said...

I keep hearing about how powerful it is, heh. I guess I'm not really scared, I'm just a bit intimidated by the idea of lots of qi. :)

-Brent

Hobbes said...

A welcome post, yes indeed! You're a Mengyang Guoyan fan, I can see! I'm hoping to try the "Dragon of Bulang" before I make up my mind... ;)


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

MarshalN said...

Actually, bill, please be aware that 1) fall 2006 cost a lot more than spring 2006 for Banzhang, and 2) there is no way this cake is pure old tree lao banzhang material, at the price that Gordon quotes. Most likely it's a heavy blend with just a little lao banzhang material... if even.

Bill said...

Thanks Hobbes! I am sure you will enjoy that once you try the Dragon of Bulang, you will be quite pleased! I look forward to reading your tasting notes. Funny, just yesterday a friend and I were discussing your beautiful pics on Teachat. I am indeed a faithful reader. My only hope is that my small contribution may be informative.

Thanks~

Bill said...

Good observation! When compared to the Xi-Zhi Hao "spring" that I have, it was different. But not much different in flavor, just the mellowness. I automatcially attributed the difference to it being GuHwa. I do not have much experience with GuHwa so my reference point has not been established.

I have always been cautious about such claims - even for non-Banzhang maocha. this is why I aways preface with stating that the producer "claims" ;) The flavor did have some Banzhang quality to it. Although, I must say that my experience with pure Banzhang is quite limited. However, I do belive there is some old growth leaf in the prescription at is was very active in flavor.

Thank you Marsh, your input is indeed helpful! P.S. What kind of camera do you use? I just love how your pics look almost 3D like.

MarshalN said...

I'm not even convinced the XZH is pure old tree, but that's only a suspicion of mine.

Camera? Canon powershot s-60

Michel said...

interesting !

well seems anything in a 100 mile radius around banzhang district is banzhang.

marshallm most cakes under $100 are a blend.

What is a true banzhang cake and where do you get it from?

Bill said...

I have been doing research on single estate Lao Banzhang and unfortunately, they are certainly hard to come by. But of course this would mean that the purchaser would mean that you would of course have to put total faith in the producer that they are telling the truth. I guess the only sure fire way to own a single estate LB is to oversee the process from picking to processing. HAHA

Yes, I am curious as well, Marshal, do you know any producers?

Cheers

MarshalN said...

I wouldn't say most cakes under $100 are a blend. You can work out the cost of a cake of tea, and Banzhang is the most expensive. Based on last year's fall maocha prices, a cake of Banzhang has to be around $80 USD in China for a seller to be reasonably profitable if it's 100% pure old tree Banzhang. A Yiwu would be cheaper. So I wouldn't say anything under $100 is a blend. That's not quite true.

Of course, when it makes its way to the M3T, it will be many times that price. Besides, I am not even convinced half their stuff are what they claim them to be. There are at least a few cakes I know of from those guys that are definitely problematic. But I digress.

Yes, I know producers, and everybody can tell you that real Lao Banzhang old tree materials are all snapped up before they show up on the market.

Michel said...

Marshaln

concerning the M3T, although I don't always like their élitism, they do have overall, not all (about 90%) great tea, although often very high priced.
But it remains a very good supplier, if you don't buy the 10% mediocre and overpriced stuff.
For pu ehr you can get GREAT bings at a Heavy price.
If you age pu you want the best tea at a reasonable price.

As you state very well one can find reliable top quality unblended bings for under $100, but where?

MarshalN said...

Michel:

I think it's not so much that it's expensive (I don't expect tea in Paris to be cheap) that bothers me, but rather that they're lying about age and condition of their cakes. I know of at least two definite instances where a cake's age is wrong (and of course, claimed to be older than it actually is).

Where do you find good cakes under $100? They're everywhere, less so in France, perhaps. But for cakes like those from Wisteria that M3T sells.... I'm sure if you want to buy a lot, you should just find somebody to buy it for you from Wisteria. They're all under $100 here. Heck, you can buy yourself a plane ticket and come to Wisteria, buy 2 tongs of tea, and it'll be cheaper than buying the same two tongs from M3T.

MarshalN said...

I should add that

1) While great teas are rarely cheap, expensive teas are not necessarily better than cheaper teas.

2) There are things that are a reasonable margin of profit, and there are times when a tea is so out of reasonableness it becomes ridiculous. I think from what others have told me about prices at M3T (and they're not the only one, but since we're on the topic...) they fall into the "too much" category. That's what I meant by the plane ticket thing -- when buying two tongs of tea is cheaper if you come to Taiwan than getting it at M3T, then I think something is quite wrong with the pricing there. This is especially true if you know the cakes are coming from Wisteria in Taipei -- I just went there today and saw their price list. Pretty reasonable. A cake that Aaron thinks is the best young cake he's ever tasted costs $50 here. Modern day transportation being what they are, they simply shouldn't be able to sell at that kind of margin.

Michel said...

Interesting- but are you sure that all the M3T cakes do come from wisteria?

The age incident I know of it but that is quite normal that one or two insidents of this kind happen. their pu ehr is very well stored,

Price wise it's hard for me to judge without taking clear examples. but I know that medium range pu like the 2003 orange mark or a feng king 2001 are
30% more than on the internet. For the top stuff I found nothing to compair it with.

the thing is there is a big black hole in what I can find between a good red mark at 45$ a bing for a 2005 and these 'top' bings like the tahe dashan. ($340)

I love pu from the modest bing to the exquisite extravaganzik .. but wild pure bings of highest quality is what I want to collect for my children and my old age.

there is so much written about not bad but not super pu. It is great to read Bill's post taking about what he really likes!

Marshaln, you have a wide experience of pu, do tell us wich bings you really love, what makes you tick..

iwii said...

Dear Michel,

Never anywhere was quoted that all the m3t selection was coming from Wistaria. What MarshalN is talking about is the same thing as you are: that is to say, the 2005 TaiHe.
As far as I know, the thing sells at €300 there, while the current Wistaria price is $100. A couple of months ago it was still $80 and when the m3t listed them a year ago, it was still something like $60 I believe, and even less for wholelsale.
So these guys are buying $50 cakes (at most) that they sell you €300 (times 1.4 to get the price in USD).
You can call it whatever you want, it can boil down to only one thing: crookery.
Now, because you are mentioning "the incident" about age (and trust me, I am really able to savour the fact that you call that "an incident"), let me tell you that before this "incident", pretty much all their selection of antique cakes (95% let's say as you seem to like percentages), was composed by faked nastily wet-stored crap.
I don't know their selection that much, but it is sufficient to have a look at the various sites proudly showing off their "prestigeous antiques" cakes or pots to know what it is about. I am sure you know what I mean so no need to add more.
After the "incident", things have become a bit cleaner there (thanks to the fact the most questionable bings being suddenly and mysteriously "sold out"), but that is still a rip off industry. Unless of course you assume that it is fair to charge 6 times the original price for a cake.

Now about the orange mark you mentioned, I don't know the m3t cake, nor do I know the Internet shop you are talking about, but the one I have seen listed on some puerhshops (let's say), was already outrageously overpriced. Besides, this is in my opinion not a really first class bing, so no wonder the m3t does not sell it for $400.

Anyway, I think there is no real point in blabbering about the fact a bing is pure banzhang or a blend or if it should cost less or more than $100 before trying to tell apart what is faked and what is not. Especially if you want to collect for your old age. As far as I know, none of the real antiques were pure banzhang or anything close to that, so just buy what you like instead of buying what others tell you is "prestigeous".
Not knowing about something is not a sin, neither is the fact to be blind to a certain point. Being voluntarily blind is a bit more questionable though, and constantly advertizing what one now is fake is simply despicable, because it spreads confusion in the spirit of newcomers too.

Have a Merry Christmas!

PS: And stop burning your cakes, or throwing them away. Give them to me!

Michel said...

iwii , let me thank you for sheding light on some questions that have been on my mind for some time.

First of all I don't buy most of my cakes from the m3T. They are too expensive and horribly pretentious. But I have sampled a lot of old and young pu from them.

I don't have a problem with wet storage provided it
does not 'rubbish' the cake.
Out of the 10 old pu ehr I sampled from there one was undrinkable. the other were very good.

iwii, I must have got you fired up.
You may judge me as being an ignorant frenchman with more money than sense that buys pu ehr for 'prestige' and drinks with his little finger in the air .. I don't think that's me .

I agree with much you say though, the orange mark is drinkable that is all , a good bing does not need to be pure wild or cost 340$ to be good now and later ..
Some bings have they special interest though, some tend to also happen to be expensive; just how expensive depends on the crook that sells them.
I'm the only French blogger that dares openly critisise the M3T .But I disagree with your comment 95% of pu was composed by faked nastily wet-stored crap.
It makes no odds, because most of the great old bings have been taken off the list (presumably to be sold off to some chinese millonaires) and the new pu is now, as you have exposed -overpriced.

thanks marshaln for correcting me.
iwii email me your adress if you are ready to pay postage I might have some free unwanted pu for you.

Merrry Xmas!!!!!

iwii said...

Michel,

Don't worry, the only reason I was a bit upset is that you tend to extract wrong knowledge from posts, and just making strong claims which are wrong. Like "every cake under $100 is a blend" or that "all the m3t cakes are from Wistaria" MarshalN never said any of these, so just don't extrapolate. It would not be fair to find these claims on other blogs afterwise, because it spreads confusion.
Now (and this is a bit annoying as I once decided not to bother with French bloggers, but let's do an exception), let me tell you that again, you shouldn't make claims about what you don't know. It is a bit upseting to hear you claiming you are the only French guy who criticise the m3t (well ok you said "Blogger"), since I am the one responsible for the "incident", and I posted on Philippe's blog a way for everyone to check their cake was wet stored. At that time, noone on any French blog was talking about wet storage, nor did people know how to check the leaves. Cloud's book was not out yet.

I got bashed, by some of your friends, at the limit of impoliteness. Some said my intentions were obviously bad (let me laugh). Eventually, my posts were removed. And now, all this bunch is casualy talking about the non-importance of wet storage as if they knew what it was for centuries.
MarshalN also on various occasions pointed out fake cakes they were offering, but his claims were ignored or contested (with stupid arguments but anyway) by some French "seven year pu erh drinker" you know who I am talking about. If one wanders a bit on his blog, one could see with delight than in 2006, this person was not able to tell a sheng from a shu, that a "1982" tong qing (which cannot exist in any way) was "clearly of its age" and "correctly stored" while the pics itslef show a very nasty wet storage. Do I need to say more about how one should consider the reviews of a such a sharp connoisseur?
MarshalN who know much more about these cakes than I do would be able to tell you this cake is a Vietnamese one, and when you think about all the things spread by the American during the war in this country, about the carcinogen moulds on some of the m3t cakes, you'll understand collecting that for your children, or constantly advertising that is perhaps not very wise. But what we read about it is "I am like in Chambord's castle when I am tasting this tea" or such kind of crap.
I saw you liked Montaigne, so I am confident you know Molière too. Read _The_Affected_Ladies_ once more, read their blogs, and enjoy!

I don't mind that you or other people like these cakes and even buy them at that ridiculous price, tastes are what they are after all. But again, we warned these people on different occasions, and only got answers like "Yeah we know you are right, but we trust the m3t anyway" (no contradiction at all), and what is scandaleous is the strong claim they keep making saying that only the m3t sells the top noch stuff, that their cake send oneself in another dimension or such ridiculous statements. Doing so, they help the m3t fooling more and more people and I cannot believe they haven't got any single interest in that. They are not honest in their statements, so there is no reason they would be in their behaviour.
I could also write a full book on the wonderful "terre épuisées" pots, but this is probably not the place. I saw that you were praising these ones too in a comment some time ago, but I hope it is just because you didn't see them in person, since as a cermaist, it would be a bit amazing. It is rather funny to see them criticizing pots of other vendors as "submachine gun-sanded" while they are buying this kind of stuff at that price. This simply shows a complete ignorance about how a pot is made.

Anyway that sounds very bad and I never considered you as an ignorant French guy, since I am one myslef, since I like your enthusiasm about tea, and since I don't think you are dishonest. I would not bother talking to you otherwise.
There are people that are honest on their blogs and that I enjoy reading. I enjoy reading the posh-like style blogs too because they are agreat laugh. A great recent post was about someone buying a wonderful "Iron cake red mark" (from 1983!!) whose wrapper looks as genuine as a chalk work from a 4 year-old boy.
So as I said, your enthusiasm is appreciated, but just stop repeating things you heard and you haven't got the time or opportunity to check by yourself. And don't try to extract different things than what people actually say. I see the fact of having a widely read blog as something that brings a great responsability regarding the truth of the statements made. Just refusing to see the truth and advertising otherwise is despicable

As for the tea offer, I appreciate that honestly, but you probably understand now that I do not really want to get the wonderful m3t tea samples, so I cannot accept it. Besides, I have too many things to drink for many lives already. But maybe we'll meet in person a day, and I'll be happy to share tea with you at that time.

Take Care.

Michel said...

sorry Bill for skwatting your blog.

iwii. Point taken about me doing overstatments, I am not a tea professional or an expert. And most probably am out of my depth sometimes, bloggs are an exchange of viewpoint not primairy evidence.

However iwii, how can you discredit the 3MT so categorically without tasting, or wanting to taste their pu?
I think you are very angry, and most probably rightly so. I would very much like to converse and bitch a little further with you about all this, my email is hicbibitur@hotmail.com.

iwii said...

Maybe because I tasted and know them very well already? Or sufficiently well let's say.
But I agree this is not the place to discuss or discredit a tea shop. Take that more as a complaint against the "X years knowledgeable drinkers" whose strong statements and claims are misleading every newcomer.
I don't mind you to be friend with them. They are probably very nice people as long as you think their way. So you can tell them they are great and so on, but just don't start spreading their ignorant advertising further.
After all I have shown some m3t samples to some people there already, and all of them have been "impressed" but not in the sense you think.
I am not complaining about the fact a tea is wet stored, provided a 5 year old cake is not presented as a 20 year old, with the corresponding price. Their tea lack throatiness and aftertaste, but it is true the taste itself can be quite pleasant, to me at least.
The problem is that taste is not what I find the most interesting in tea, and that nasty storage just kills the tea. I am not sure there is any aging potential after that.
But students read these advertising blogs and go spend their money on some wet-stored cake, because they have "the best tea in the world" and "everything coming from elsewhere is fake".
And if one dares thinking it is too expensive, one can read the prejudice-riddled post about Kevin, to convince oneself that one has to buy the things no matter what the price to be able to match the greatness of this wonderful community of cultured people.
That is why I mentioned the responsibility of bloggers in general. Think about that.
Besides and as I pointed out, some cakes might be dangerous, even though I am not a mould specialist so that is a claim to be taken with caution.
So it is not much about the m3t, there are other questionable vendors, that claim they do not know where their best tea is coming from for instance. People don't find it strange... well ...fair enough...
But let's end up with this. I'll email you, but probably a bit later if you don't mind.

emmanuel said...

Interesting thread guys!

Iiwi, Do you know any reliable alternative to m3t for aged puer (online tea salers since I do not plan to fly to Taiwan in the immediate future)?

Bill, very good and interesting post!