12 May, 2008

2005 Mengyang Guoyan "Banzhangwang"

Thanks to the considerable generosity of TA for sending me this sample of a tea that is no longer available; I understand that it was originally sold for $48 at Dragon Teahouse. TA kindly provided an image of the wrapper, which shows that it is a different tea to the 2005 Laobanzhang from the same factory (and which was a seriously delicious gift from Nada).

Mengyang Guoyan leaves are so pretty - they are a very modern factory, and their productions sit firmly within the modern genre of "pretty teas". Those that form this cake are of good condition, the individual hairs may be seen on each leaf.

The leaves are darkening, but it is the green/black darkness of a younger tea, rather than the orange/brown darkness of real age.

The aroma is sweet, but quiet. Usually, I find that this is a good indication of a corresponding lack of potency in the flavour.

Seated at the tea-table, atop of mound of cushions, I feel very thankful for my life, my wife, my boiling kettle, my leaf-filled chahe. A morning tea can really lift the spirits.

Light orange soup (below) has a long, but quiet, toffee aroma in the wenxiangbei [aroma cup]. It is a satisfying tea, but, while good, it is missing a real heart. It is dominated by Banzhang acidity (even after removal of some leaves) without having much flavour to support it. The whole seems to be a lesser tea than its Laobanzhang sibling.

Chaqi aplenty, this is enervating Banzhang tea, but not one to cause me to mourn that it is no longer available.

Also, I noticed a suspicious soapiness in the opening of the aroma in the wenxiangbei: this occurs in every infusion, despite the wenxiangbei being clean (and never touched by soap). I see no trace of this odd characteristic in the rest of the tea, but its consistent appearance just in the opening of the wenxiangbei cannot be denied. Dodgy inded.


Wes Crosswhite said...

I've noticed the soapiness you seem to be finding in a sample as well. The one I had was sent in a plastic baggy that carried the same odd odor of soap. I could readily smell the soapiness on the dry leaf, which followed into the brewed tea. Can you smell it on the dry leaf, or only after infusing?


P.S. You would think that the soapiness in the sample I had would diminish quickly in following infusions if it was solely caused by the bag it was shipped in. The fact is that it last through the infusions.

Hobbes said...

Dear Wes,

That's rather crazy! I wonder if it's just a single contaminated cake. My sample looks to be from one of TA's bing, and came in one of his own bags - only the infused tea has that soapiness (not the dry leaves, for me), and then only in the opening of the wenxiangbei.

It was so low that I didn't notice it for the first infusions, but then it really wakes up. Given that it doesn't start from the outset, it must have been long-soaked into the leaves - which suggests that it might have occurred prior to the vendor getting it. Who knows...

Toodlepip and 再見,


Bill said...

Wow, very uncharacteristic of BanZhang shan. I generally give Guoyan lots of praise for their but it just seems odd that they would produce a Banzhang that clearly is not indicative of the region.

Hobbes said...

Dear Bill,

It does feel like Banzhang leaves - the acidity is unmistakeably - it's just not backed up by any real flavours.

I like Mengyang Guoyan products, but they can be a touch hit-and-miss, in my book. I loved the 2005 "Laobanzhang", but found the 2006 "98 Special" and the 2007 "Phoenix of Yiwu" to be a bit ordinary.

When I visited the Mengyang Guoyan shop in Maliandao, I was very disappointed: there were none of the bing that we usually associate with the factory, just lots of very, very average teas that I have not seen for sale via the Internet. (Maybe this is a good thing!)

That said, I do have a test bing of the 2007 "Dragon of Bulang" on its way, due to your (and others') recommendation!



Bill said...

Hello Hobbes,

What an interesting comment about the Guoyan Store in Maliando. This post really has given me a different perspective of the Guoyan Factory. Nonetheless, they are definitely one of my favorites. They always seem to find a way to balance quality and price, especially in the time of pu-erh madness! I hope you enjoy the Dragon of Bulang as much as I did. Although let the truth be told, I am somewhat bias as this region is possibly my second favorite next to YiWu. I can't wait to read your post! :)


Hobbes said...

Dear Bill,

You're right about the value - I do appreciate the lower prices of the Mengyang Guoyan stuff. The shop in Maliandao really did just sell teas that I have never seen anywhere, exclusively - in the entire shop, there wasn't a single cake that we would recognise from the various Internet vendors. It was almost like it was a different factory - but not one you'd ever want to try to much from. :)

I wonder if the Internet-available cakes are "export only" types - their quality is much, much better.

That said, as Nada recently noted, I was quite disappointed with the availability of good tea in Maliandao - I came home thinking, "I could have done just as well using the Internet!" Maybe that says more about my bargaining skill... but the lack of decent tea was a real surprise. Everyone's selling Menghai and Haiwan, with very little of i) age; ii) interest.