Is another cold war upon us? It seems so - except the show-off factor is not travelling to space, nor the creation of the most powerful bomb... it is the creation of the most expensive young puerh! The eastern monoliths of power, Hailanghao and Xizihao clearly dominated the western civilization. Now, a challenger appears - Essence of Tea! Some $145 for a 400g cake from a Jingmai-style tea seems like a fiendish lot of money. As Tea Urchin has kindly pointed out to me, Bangwei is not really that near to Jingmai. However, I feel there is a nontrivial amount of common aspects this tea and Jingmai teas have. It may be due to similar or the same varietal used in these teas I think.
The dry leaves do not smell really special to me (I am notoriously miserable at that though), the wet leaves are better - something like a "dark light fruitiness".
The liquor is slighly more orange that I would expect, but a) there is nothing obviously bad about the leaves, nor the red nastiness in taste - if the tea wishes to be violet, I am not against it, b) the tea was, if I understand the description, harvested in 2011 so it is not really a 2012 tea.
The taste is quite interesting actually. When I used less leaves and longer steepings, I got a very surprising raspberry lemonade taste - I have never met that in a tea. If I brew the tea in the usual way, the raspberries are sort of hidden behind a slightly mutated Jingmai fruitiness (along with the special Jingmai fragrance) and a bit of young grassiness. However, the taste obviously needs to sit down a bit - I think that Jingmai tea often needs to take a rest for a while. For example, the Guan Zi Zai Jingmai from 2011 was not really good and not Jingmai-ish enough when I tasted it young. Yet now, it developed into a more typical Jingmai tea. Yes, the leaves are often too oxidized (and it is actually slightly unpleasant there) and there is a proportion of universal not-much-good leaves - but the tea is quite enjoyable now, definitely better than the boring and not too pleasant thing from half a year ago.
When I returned to young puerh now (I operationally define young as less than a year old), I realized how far I got from drinking this fresh things - many features there annoy and confuse me. For example, this Bangwei - I think it will be very different in a year and I think it will be better (also sprach Jingmai Empirie), but I do not feel I know well enough where it is going to go. That is why I do not buy this fresh tea in quantity anymore - too much of a wild bet to me.
Returning back to how this tea feels/tastes - it is nicely thick; bitter, but not overpoweringly so, furthermore, the bitterness is a rather normal Jingmai bitterness which I find pleasant. And it should fuel the transformation of the tea as it ages - I do not think it will persist and annoy our children.
I think that where this tea really shines is the feeling it gives in the mouth. It is strong, old-tree cooling sensation, a persistent one too! Furthermore, it does not diminish with oncoming brews, therefore it seems that EoT has succeeded in preventing the farmers from adding inferior leaves to the mix. That is, I have been given to understand, a nontrivial feat.
The aftertaste is a gentle, yet distinct and good one, very nicely intermingled with the long-lasting cooling feeling.
I can not really comment on the energy - maybe when the tea sits down. It is strong, but I did not find it to be in a harmony, as I understand it, yet.
The leaves are quite nice and not nearly as damaged as in the Bulang. There are some slightly burnt/overoxidized leaves, but not significantly more than in any handmade tea:
I think that this tea is really promising - not yet excellent in taste, but already excellent in the feeling it gives. The time will determine how this tea actually turns out. There are three hypotheses I have:
a) the tea is overpriced and definitely not worth the money
b) the tea is more expensive than it could (e.g., one could buy cheaper tea, maybe from 2009-11 of similar quality), but it is pretty good.
c) the tea is a great value for the money
I rather reject a) and I am inclined to prefer b) over c). Nevertheless, I'll be waiting for Time itself to prove me wrong - it may happen for sure.