23 November, 2007

2005 Xizihao Laobanzhang

Cold November mornings were made for teas like this.

Thick and gloopy, this is a tea with "trousers". Chunky tobacco aromatics and flavours abound, and the leaves are similarly robust, and amply hairy.

Heading into the thick (thick) orange soup, it opens with the straw-like freshness of a good young tea, before diving into delectable tobacco characteristics that set up camp in the nose and refuse to budge.

Unlike some Xizihao leaves, this has a well-balanced acidity that leads to a long, tantalising huigan: it's bold Banzhangesque presentation stays within the realms of what one might consider sociable. I recall Phyll Sheng coined the phrase "hitting like a truck" to describe Banzhang teas, but this isn't quite in that league (thankfully).

Fine, rich yunxiang of tobacco, buzzing notes on the tongue, and large leaves in the pot.

Despite becoming a bit simple by the fifth infusion, this tea is a bit of a winner. I loved it. It's a great pity that it's no longer available, as I'd be the first in the queue. Perhaps it's a good reminder that we don't need to own everything... (sniff).

It's an interesting diversion from the 2006 Xizihao Banzhang, which was much more in the high, camphor-esque zone. Something changed at Sanhetang HQ, methinks, 'twixt production of the two cakes.


iwii said...

Actually one of the reasons why you found it so different than the 06 one is that you are not comparing the same cakes.
The 2005 version was claimed to be pure wild banzhang (and I believe it could be). I am really surprised you found it gentle since this tea hit me very badly on many occasions... but I am not too banzhang-proof.
The 2006 cake you tasted is actually the natural habitat banzhang, which is from plantation trees (That is the reason why it was the cheapest of the 2006 XZH). The 2006 versions of the wild banzhang were actually the two cakes of the taichi serie. As a personal opinion, I think you are lucky to had the 05 one since I found the taichi ones not nearly as good, despite being outrageously overpriced. Reading your notes, I think like the natural habitat one was a better bet. I haven't tasted that one unfortunately...

Hobbes said...

Dear Iwii,

Thanks for the details, I appreciate the extra information.

In terms of which is the better bet - the 2005 is definitely more accomplished, I'd say. There plenty going on, while the 2006 was "sweet and simple" but not quite up to its elder sibling.



iwii said...

Sorry, I meant a better bet than the 2006 taichi. I believe the 2005 one is a good quality cake on the opposite. And I would be surprised if the natural habitat one was matching it. But it is hard to tell since I just can't drink too much of that without feeling very bad.
I'll should probably wait for the next century before considering trying them again.

adrian said...

I'd be interested to know your brewing parameters for the 2005 xizihao -- i am drinking it currently with a 100 ml gaiwan and 5gr of leaves. it seems like a regal tea but has absolutely no fireworks to it. i'm on the 4th infusion and can feel it in the body but most of the flavors are hints of this and that. a subtle tea. was hoping for more. i wrote about it on Cha Dao quite some time ago and revisited after reading your notes. Don't know what to make of this tea. I don't need explosions to enjoy a tea, but this does seem quite restrained.

Hobbes said...

Dear Adrian,

I used a 10cl heavy, dark zisha pot and used 7-9g of leaves (at a guess). I used a fresh, zesty water which is a good compromise, being neither too heavy nor too light in minerals. I pushed the tea quite hard, with very hot water - the selection of the pot made quite a difference, too. Opting for one that retains high heat gave me the best results.

Give it a good, hard kick and see what happens. :)



Adrian said...

Thanks. We're using the same size vessel; you're using more leaf. I always brew sheng with boiling water. I'll try again. I think corax will be posting my notes on a recent tasting (re: this tea) shortly on Cha Dao. I'll give it a kick and report back.


Hobbes said...

Looking forward to it!