It may not be totally obvious, but I really do enjoy programming, especially for my master thesis. However, it tends to get rather tiresome if one does too much of it. Thus, when I reached a mini-milestone (succesfully interconnecting Matlab and C), I thought I needed a bit of fresh air and my mind cleaned. What's a better mind cleaner than a Laobanzhang?
I took all the necessary stuff and went to a park near where I live. While walking around, waiting for the tea stove to heat up, I saw this:
I must admit that these firebugs made the bark look like burning charcol indeed!
Anyway, I slowly prepared the teapot (on a natural tea tray) and the leaves:
And after an hour of waiting (it was exceptionally windy day; the wind cooled the kettle more than usual), there was the second steeping:
It's difficult to write about the taste of this tea as it seems so dependent on used water. Both tea stove water and tap water lead to a very nice results, but the difference is quite large. So I'll try to mention what I tasted in the tea and then tell which water brings out what.
The taste is a healthy mixture of sweet granary, garden fruit, both ripe and overripe, light woodiness (birch is the closest I guess), some camphor and a bit of honey. The overal feeling is quite thick, with darker sweetness. When I used the water from the tea stove, I furthermore obtained a good deal of light ground after spring rain (or dwarven bamboo sprinkled with water). When looking for it, I rather see it even in the tap-water steeped version, but it is hidden among other tastes.
With the stove water, the tea felt a lot lighter and younger (yet still thick and complex) - the garden fruit was rather light and young, there was not so much of darker sweetness, it was rather young and not-so-developed-yet. The camphor was much less pronouncced too. I guess I prefer the stove water because of the dwarven bamboo taste which I like so much. The tea was rather like a younger brother of 2005 Gan En Banzhang, a lot of tastes was shared between it and this one. On the other hand, the tap water gave a more aged, darker feeling tea which is also enjoyable. I think that that facet of the tea heads towards the Bulang style I like the most; choosing from well known teas, it is probably best represented by the 2003 Bulang Jing Pin from Houde.
What the tea has independently on the used water was reasonable bitterness (it can get heavy if the tea is oversteeped) and light, not too disturbing astringency. Also, the long term aftertaste is frankly excellent, being fresh-fruity and slightly nutty (more fruity with stove water, more nutty with tap water). After swallowing, the mouth is covered in tingling blanket which lasts very long and is very pleasant. Along it, the long-term aftertaste develops and mind is numbed by qi.
On all tastings however, I felt that this tea could use a few more years of aging. Do not get me wrong - it is very good already (I guess it's the second best Banzhang I have met), but I think one can see the trend where it will develop and improve.
When it is going to appear in the store, It will cost $7 per 10g which is not a meager sum. Given how much Laobanzhang costs now, it is not that bad though (I will not buy a significant amount, but in the LBZ realm, the price is fairly fair). This is, if you are a Laobanzhang [wo]man - I guess that most people I know are highly resistant to LBZ charms and would not pay nearly as much. I, however, do enjoy a good LBZ a lot (though not the most of all teas) and so I'm really glad I could try this one.