It is understandable that Laobanzhang is being seen a little less frequently than it once was in the productions of both major factories and smaller, hand-selected runs. The price of the maocha reaches record-breaking levels each year, and the output of the village has been largely accounted for by one particular buyer.
So, then, a single-tree maocha from that area, picked by Mr. and Mrs. Essence of Tea themselves, is a definite and rare treat. Some of the most arresting unaged shengpu I have ever encountered has been from Laobanzhang, and so I set aside a full week-end tea session to enjoy this sample.
As shown above, the leaves are entirely enormous. There is absolutely no way that these are going to fit into the mouth of Zidu [purple-belly, my teapot], and so I decide to soften them in the chahe by pouring some hot water on them. The results are pictured below.
Even softened by water, they refuse to give up, and have an amazing structural integrity, trying their hardest to resume their original shape after the deforming force of my fingers has been removed. It feels rather like flexible bamboo, trying to return to its full length.
After a little coercion, they end up being coaxed into Zidu without breakage, as shown below.
The three ladies of our house (Lei, and Xiaohu's two grandmothers) have taken our little son out for a walk in the push-chair, and all is quiet in anticipation.
It is an entirely hyperactive tea, feeling excessively alive and vibrant on the tongue, while also being exceptionally cooling. It is very smooth, and wonderfully, delicately sweet - a porcelain delicacy.
The sensation causes the roof of my mouth to pulsate, and I feel instantly "high", despite only imbibing a few tiny cups. The dizzying narcotic effect is quite obvious. I am obliged to pause between infusions to regain myself.
The session endures for several hours, by which time I am feeling as light as a feather. The character of the tea remains perfectly balanced, with the exceptionally fine sweetness continuing throughout.
Ever so gently, it begins to fade, without any hint of cracking into roughness.
Quite something - a session to remember.