Heading out into the outer darkness, beyond the cakes that I most enjoyed this year from Essence of Tea, comes the "Banpen".
As shown above, this is a pretty long-leafed maocha, and, like its siblings, it has a sweet, buttery aroma and produces a solid yellow soup, as illustrated below.
It is big and heavy, but quite reticent. In many sessions with this tea, I just can't get much out of it. It swells to give a large kuwei [bitterness] and huigan [returning sweet flavour after the swallow].
Perhaps most disconcertingly, I find it to be rather citric, and consequently tart in the mouth. This isn't something that I enjoy in pu'er, and seldom buy cakes with such characteristics.
As the infusions pass, the citric tartness dominates. This is a "xiaobing", and so its price-tag of £20 doesn't seem too appealing to me, given the nature of the tea. For just £5 more, one could have a full cake of the Mansai, Bangwai / Jingmai, or Manmai / Bada - and that's where my money was spent this year.