Mad King Ban Zhang Spring 2006

Tea type
Pu'erh Tea
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Astringent, Bitter, Cream, Mineral, Sweet, Vanilla, Cherry, Fig, Plum, Tangy, Tobacco
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Edit tea info Last updated by Ben
Average preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 9 g 4 oz / 125 ml

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6 Tasting Notes View all

  • “Got a 12g sample of this and figured that 11 years old it’d be safe to drink the whole sample on an empty stomach…WRONG! I got a small amount of stoner qi but a ton of caffeine which makes me...” Read full tasting note
  • “Time for another semi-aged tea. This is only the third aged sheng I’ve tried, so I’m still very new to aged teas. The sample I received consisted of one larger chunk and some loose bits to round...” Read full tasting note
  • “I got this merely out of curiosity, and there was a sale going on, ha. The leaf is moderately compressed with notes of sweet plum and a tobacco tang. I took up a chunk and placed it inside the hot...” Read full tasting note
  • ““They’ll think you quite mad,” she told me. She was right, of course. She generally was. But I wasn’t doing this to be popular. I cared not for the adulation of the people. Well, to be fair, when...” Read full tasting note

From Bitterleaf Teas

Known as the “king of puer”, Ban Zhang teas have earned a reputation for their intensity, strong cha qi/energy and swift huigan (sweet aftertaste). This tea exemplifies those very things, with some early bitterness that very quickly dissolves in your mouth, transforming into a pleasant and persistent huigan.

This semi-aged raw puer is a great example of what proper dry storage can do to good tea. While it exhibits a subdued bitterness, this tea still has quite a bit of astringency, and its dynamic range has been preserved quite well. Complex and full, this tea moves effortlessly from bitter to sweet, passing by a range of savory aromas on the way.

These teas were originally produced by the “Ji Qing Nian Gua” tea company. We were unable to glean much more information about the producer outside of what is on the wrapper and certificate that came with this batch. Based on the available information, this tea is labelled as “Ban Zhang” (prior to “Lao/old” and “Xin/new” distinction) and “qiao mu”, or arbor. This tea was pressed as a special limited production of 1600 cakes, from which we offer cakes 505-546 (minus the ti containing #512-518). As with all our teas, we assess and offer this tea solely based on its characteristics and quality.

These cakes have been dry stored in Kunming by a single owner since 2006.

Our feelings are that this is a great tea for drinking now, with a strong presence and cha qi, but also a potential gem for those with long term storage intentions.

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6 Tasting Notes

111 tasting notes

Got a 12g sample of this and figured that 11 years old it’d be safe to drink the whole sample on an empty stomach…WRONG! I got a small amount of stoner qi but a ton of caffeine which makes me nauseous. I feel like I drank a quart of gas station coffee… There is a nice bitterness and menthol/tobacco character. I’m reminded of a menghai factory tea. Ok but for the $ there are far better teas of a similar age…

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123 tasting notes

Time for another semi-aged tea. This is only the third aged sheng I’ve tried, so I’m still very new to aged teas. The sample I received consisted of one larger chunk and some loose bits to round out the weight. The large piece was very close to the 12 grams I intended to use for this session, so only a few additional bits were required. I brewed the tea in my 180ml wood fired teapot made from clay from Dehua. The teapot has a very small opening, so I had to break the large chunk into three or four smaller pieces to fit them inside the pot. I rinsed the leaves just short of ten seconds and let them rest for just over five minutes due to time constraints before proceeding to do a total of nine infusions. The steeps were around 10s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 35s, 60s, 85s and 2 min. 10s respectively.

The first steep brewed a cloudy pale yellow. I should note however that I had this session in an apartment with minimal lighting available, so any visual remarks I make in these notes are not necessarily the most reliable. The tea was still light, but it had flavor already. There was some fruitiness on the front while the finish tasted of creamy vanilla. The overall impression it left was soft. There was a certain semi-aged quality to the tea, although it’s hard to pin down exactly what it was. Those who have drunk more aged sheng than me probably have some idea what I’m talking about. Maybe it’s a whisper of smoke in the finish or a tiniest bit of sourness. I’m not sure if it’s necessarily even a taste, but more of a feeling. The body was light, maybe light+. The tea never really got thicker than that or water thin.

The second steep brewed a pale, slightly more orange yellow. The taste was greener, more mineraly. The semi-aged quality was still there as well. I could still detect hints of the cream from time to time. I can’t be sure if I could feel the tea already starting to affect me a little, but I made sure to not drink it too fast. You need to respect the tea. This infusion seemed to have a cumulative effect where the tea gradually coats your tongue and it starts to taste sweeter as you keep drinking it. I noticed this in some of the later infusions as well. The sweetness seemed to bring out the creaminess, giving an impression of a creamy sweetness.

The third steep was slightly darker and could maybe barely be called an orange. I sort of got the vanilla as a really bright note. There was also another bright “side flavor” running concurrent to the tea that I can’t identify. While the overall impression was very bright, there were also deeper semi-aged flavors running underneath. The tea was slightly drying and it was possible to get some lightning-fast bitterness when you swallowed. The bitterness became very noticeable once the tea cooled down.

I started extending my steeping times perhaps a bit too early and a bit too much as the fourth infusion ended up being very bitter. Once the tea cooled down a little it did reveal some subtleties beneath the bitterness, but I wasn’t necessarily the best person for discerning them. My best attempt would be some sort of vegetal vanilla. At this point I could feel the tea rummaging my belly quite a bit.

The fifth steep had a bright mineral taste to it. It left your tongue a bit sandpapery. There’s more to it, but it’s hard to discern. Perhaps it’s a touch of sourness. The next steep was more clearly astringent while the mineral was less bright now. This was one of the steeps that got sweeter as you kept drinking the tea. The seventh infusion I steeped maybe a tad too strong, but the tea remained similar to the last two steeps: mineraly and astringent.

The tea started tasting a lot simpler in the eighth steep. Clean, mineral, astringent. The last steep I did was even simpler. Non-sweet sweetness, with that semi-aged tinge still there. Strength-wise the tea was still okay, so on that front I’d say it was still good to go for a round or two, but I’d seen what I wanted to see and decided to call it here.

Mad King is representative of its age and still retains quite a bit of its youth while displaying semi-aged characteristics as well. The storage has been clean and dry. Compared to Whatever 98, Mad King is more dynamic in terms of flavor and the flavor profile appealed to me more. There’s still some bitterness and astringency in the tea and while it does not kick quite like a young gushu, the tea did affect me in a similar fashion to a young raw. It left me feeling restless and a bit agitated for the rest of the evening, so if you are looking for a gentle tea, this might not be the tea you are looking for. I guess the tea could be considered drinkable now, but personally I’d give it at least a few more years. The tea is still far from full maturity and drinking it now would be a waste of its potential. Taking age into account, I think Mad King offers fair quality for the price, if you are looking for a semi-aged tea to age yourself.

Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Cream, Mineral, Sweet, Vanilla

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 12 g 6 OZ / 180 ML

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526 tasting notes

I got this merely out of curiosity, and there was a sale going on, ha. The leaf is moderately compressed with notes of sweet plum and a tobacco tang. I took up a chunk and placed it inside the hot pot. The scent opens into some sweet cherry candy (jolly rancher), and a mix of sweet/sour tobacco. I washed the leaves once and began sippin away. The taste begins good with a fig ending. The fig moves about the tongue; however, it ends with a bite on the palate. The tea turns up the sweetness in the next steeping with a comforatable base. However, I noticed this tea dropped rather quickly. the sweetness is the first to fade as its space in consumed by bitters, tobaccos, and smoke (light on the smoke). The mouth-feel was still semi thick, but the great flavors were gone. I peeked in the pot and noticed that leaves are still pretty green, which explains the lively feeling in my mouth. I continue drinking a bit more, and it soon diminishes to a basic sweet/bitter mix. The qi is not too noticeable with some heat in the face that stays put. The tea is a big “eh”, so its not terrible, but it’s not great. I don’t think it fits the price. Afterwards, the qi did come back at me with a very relaxed stoned feeling, but that was the extent.

Flavors: Cherry, Fig, Plum, Sweet, Tangy, Tobacco

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 2 OZ / 70 ML

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64 tasting notes

“They’ll think you quite mad,” she told me.

She was right, of course. She generally was. But I wasn’t doing this to be popular. I cared not for the adulation of the people. Well, to be fair, when some of the younger ladies in attendance fawned over me, that was nice. But it wasn’t the point of the thing.

You can’t claim to hail from Ban Zhang, she told me. You might as well claim to be from Atlantis, been birthed via Immaculate Conception and play poker with Jimmy Hoffa and Elvis on the weekend. To that I say, they already accepted that my powers are given via divine decree. Nobody here has seen divinity decree anything in my lifetime, but Ban Zhang is real. It’s on the map. This isn’t like saying 1800 year old tree, or ultra weight loss potential, or first to be formed into a perfect compressed tea reproduction of the Brandenburg Gate!

Those claims might do you better, she said.

But what about my gradual buildup, the crescendo of flavors? What about the feeling of energy, not a manic sort, but just a buoyancy to the body one usually hasn’t got? What about the bitterness that yields to a soft, rich aftertaste?

Those are fine to mention, she told me, but you may not be believed, if you’re the sort of person that claims to be from Ban Zhang.

Can I at least note that I’m of Qiao Mu material? I’m not going to claim gushu. I will eschew “Zhengshan”. I will unapologetically admit that my leaf is not so striking to gaze upon as some newer productions. It’s in the cup, where it counts, that I claim my right to rule!

Humility is well and good, she noted, unless they don’t believe it’s sincere. And who would believe humility from a denizen of the great Ban Zhang?

You can’t please all of the people all of the time, to be sure. I’ll concede some may find me acerbic. I’m not as patient as some. Those who care only for everything to be candy and sweetness won’t love me. This is all fine. But all I want, I repeated again, as I was increasingly wont to do, is to provide a very good tea at a very good price. What’s so wrong with that?

Nothing at all, she replied. But they’ll think you’re mad.

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199 tasting notes

Just released today on Bitterleaf Teas’ site. This is an apparent ‘banzhang’ tea. Banzhang (班章) is a growing area in Bulangshan (布朗山) that is known for high quality teas. Great notes of sweetness, bitterness, astringency, stone fruit, wood, and smoke in this tea.

Full review:

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987 tasting notes

BitterLeaf sent me a free 7.7 gram sample along with my order. This amount was too small to break down into two sets of leaf, but a bit bigger than what I normally brew at once; to compensate, I decided to take the whole thing and do really, really quick steeps to ensure it didn’t taste too strong and overwhelming.

The dry leaf was a compact chunk of dark brown and green, with no white leaf tips. However, the smell was very fruity. Because the chunk was so large, I did two quick rinses of 5 seconds each to try and soften it a bit and make it easier to steep.

The rinsed leaf smelled smoky, fruity, and sour. I could tell from the first steep onwards, though, that this thing had staying power, as I could sense a lot of flavour just beginning to wake up.

The subsequent steeps gave off a liquor that was amber with greenish overtones, so the whole cup looked like rich olive oil. From the third steep onwards, I got a note of fresh green wood, plus fruit. Slightly drying, but not harsh. As I continued through the first pot, I tasted notes of damp forest floor, honey, plums, and grapeskin; the texture was very smooth, but I noticed my mouth pucker over time.

After about 8 steeps, I started to feel some gauziness and astringency on my tongue, but the tea was still very smooth and clean. Then I started to feel a crinkly, drying sensation at the top of my throat leading down to my esophagus. Soon afterward the pot of water was empty; I stopped for the morning, went on some errands, and resolved to try a second pot of tea in the afternoon to see if it had staying power.

The second pot of water produced some really different results! At first, I was surprised by how bitter the steeps tasted, until my tongue acclimated to the tea again around the fifth steep from the second pot. This time around, after I got used to things, I noticed that the tea was really fruity, with stonefruit notes of apricot and nectarine making a big appearance. The liquid itself was still a rich amber.

However, over time, I could finally sense that the leaf was fading; a real, genuine note of olive bitterness joined the cup, and then the whole thing turned pale and mineral. I lost count of the steeps at this point, but I’d say that with 2 pots of water, I easily got 15-20 steeps out of this leaf!

Full review at:

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