Before I write about actual Danzhen cakes, made by the Fonz-like coolness of Xiao Yunqing, of Beijing Taochaju in Maliandao, I thought that pride of place should go to his hand-selected Laobanzhang. He only has half a cake of this - he made a single cake of actual laoshu "LBZ" when he visited the town. "Drink this when you get home", he said with a grin.
Let's do it.
Laobanzhang is darned expensive, and, yes, the market has driven its price far above that which it probably should be priced. Having said that, laoshu LBZ is bloody lovely.
Check out the mighty maocha, reclining for your pleasure in the photograph above. You could almost reach out and eat those delicious leaves whole. Big, hairy, with a full, sweet scent - there ain't nowt like it.
This tea is saddening. Like some of Nada's amazing laoshu LBZ maocha, this makes you realise that it's going to be some time before you get a whole cake, let alone a whole tong, of raw, unaged shengpu of this quality.
You know the drill by now. It has a penetrating and sweet scent that feels heavy on the membrane at the back of the nose. It thrills the nostrils, in an indecent manner. Penetrating in the mouth, with a clean, punchy finish entirely devoid of all roughness or agony, this is pure, potent Laobanzhang. Clean, complex, impressive.
In fact, the tea is so good that it even looks decent when I insult it by taking a horrible flash photograph, as shown below.
This tea demonstrates the Yunqing knows his leaves. He keeps his single cake broken up into fragments in a large, pretty jar, sat between two Guanyin statues.
Hints of grapes, hints of mushrooms, hints of sharp cereal, hints of my tears as I weep longingly into my cup.
"This is hardcore!" notes my dear wife. "Excellent tea, but I cannot handle it!"
My mother then takes a cup. "This tastes like tea - not the usual pigsty-straw." She's a difficult lady to impress.
The tea opens up into glorious old honey in later infusions. It is dense, thick in the mouth, and long-lasting in the nose. Mighty stuff.