We posted here recently about the Hai Lang Hao label pu-erhs. This time we’re taking a closer look at one of their most prized productions: Lao Ban Zhang pu-erh (blended with Man’E leaves).
Lao Ban Zhang is a small village in the Bu Lang mountains in Menghai County of Yunnan Province. The residents are the ethnic Hani minority. Hundreds of years ago, they were pushed up into the mountains by the Dai minority. Now, they hire Dai women, bringing them up by bus from the valley, to pick tea leaves. The leaves they pick are being processed in more modern ways but still basically by hand.
Since their pu-erhs have begun in the past decade to gain a reputation among tea connoisseurs, the villagers have experienced an economic boom, with the result that there is now quite a bit of building going on there. What is all the fuss about? The exceptional flavor and cha qi (feeling of energy that comes from drinking the tea) of their pu-erhs. This has prompted fakery, where tea vendors slap on a counterfeit label. The village and tea farmers there, however, are not taking this lying down. No Máochá other than that grown on their tea trees is even allowed in the village, and the farmers have banded together to set guidelines for the care of those tea trees and the production of the leaves.
Ji Hai of Hai Lang Hao is a bit of an exception to this non-blending rule. For one thing, his reputation lends its own aura to the pu-erh. For another, if he is going to blend the Lao Ban Zhang leaves with any others, he is going to be up front about it, labeling the cake with the names/locations of any leaves used. The version we carry combines premium wild arbor first flush 2008 tea leaves from the Lao Ban Zhang village area with those from their neighbors at Lao Man’E village (about 15 km away), both in the Bu Lang mountains in Menghai County of Yunnan Province. A mere 235 kilos were produced, which was one reason for combining leaves from both locations (it kept the price per cake within reason).
If you get a chance to purchase a 100% Lao Ban Zhang beeng, be sure you buy it from a reputable dealer so you know it’s not a fake. And by all means take your time and savor every drop of that infusion.