November 13, 2009

2009 Guan Zi Zai "Ban Zhang" Wild Arbor

A big "Thanks" goes to Maitre for providing me with this sample. My curiosity was sparked when I saw this cake posted on Yunnan Sourcing,s site. Given my newly acquired obsession with Ban Zhang teas I was tempted to buy some but wanted to hold off on ordering to see if anyone else had tried this one yet. At $43.20 for a 500 gm. cake it,s a good value if the tea is decent. The wrapper is real perty as you can see. And if the wrappers pretty the tea must be good, right? Nope! not always. Sometimes them perty wrappers are the teas strongest selling point, there to draw you in. With this tea the wrapper is fitting, no deception going on here.

Not the crystal clear yellow soup we would hope for. Claity is good but the teas been "wulong'd" Theres something about the teas aroma that reminds me of Xiaguan,s teas. Maybe it,s just the smokiness of it. It looks more like a manufactured tea than handmade. Compression is medium tight. It appears to be made from less than first grade leaf. A hodge podge blend of small, medium and large leaf thats been bruised, tattered and torn with a few sticks thrown into the mix.

Dark shades of green with a few brown and red leaves to be found. The teas aroma has a lot of depth, woodsy, that much loved beany smell is there along with the slightest wisp of smokiness and a faint hint of a perfume like aroma. The flavor is fairly intense right off the bat. All the expected flavors, woodsy, beany, a little yam, tobacco and leather. A decent amount of bitterness as well as sweetness. The bitterness could get out of control without careful brewing parameters. The teas body is just a tad light, but it,s o.k. The teas richness fades a little sooner than what I would like leaving behind a wash of generic washed out sheng flavors. Grain, bitter and astringent.

All in all, not bad. It,s a good quality, well made tea. For me, I would rather spend a little extra and buy Yunnan Sourcing,s Lao Ban Zhang "Chun Qing" The flavors of the Chun Qing are more balanced and it has tons of depth and richness that continues to show up well into the 6th to 8th infusion. Thanks again for all the samples Maitre. Ive got yours on the way, you should get it soon.


  1. Good review, and it's a little a weird to me that the sample in that photo was mine! Since I tend to brew with a heavier hand in general, maybe that's why the bitterness was more prominent (I used 7 grams for 120 ml pot).

    I kind of had mixed feelings about this cake, on one hand I thought its potent bitterness would age well, but would make it hard to drink now. The Yunnan Sourcing LBZ seemed a little more drinkable now, and all-in-all it was a more pleasant experience with with the Guan Zi Zai. But at the same, neither of these were as good as the private-pressed cake I sampled, so my expectations are now spoiled! *sigh*

    PS: The Seven Cups sample is beyond weird, and it was a pain trying to pry off whole leaves, since they aren't rolled up like in regular cakes.

  2. We have the same recipe, I also use 7 gms for a 125 ml. yixing. You think this ones bitterness is potent? If Ive got enough of the LBZ maocha left I,ll send some along. That one will knock your head off if not carefull. The Guan Zi Zai is a good tea but it,s a little too rustic for me. I think out of all of the LBZ teas Ive had none of them are a superlative example of LBZ teas.