Resolved: Western Banna Leaves ages better than the East


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Resolved: Western Banna Leaves ages better than the East

Postby shah82 » Oct 13th, '12, 00:37

Just about everything I've tasted with any age that's from Mengsong, Banzhang, Bulang, Nannuo seems to be more dramatically woody than most things east of the Lancang. Essentially, the *only* leaves east of the river that really ages past mushrooms/grains/other intermediate soft flavors are from Youle and Guafengzhai. At least with any speed. Everything west of the river also ages with more aged sweet sensation and stronger aromas than anything east of the river. All of the aged Banzhang I've had were much nicer aged flavors than aged Yiwu, and some of them had killer aromas. At the end of the day, virtually the *only* aged Yiwu that has blown me away in any real sense is the YangQingHao '04. I wasn't impressed with the Dadugang, and the Yichanghao Song '99 was mostly just about the qi--the flavor was distinctly not particularly dynamic.

Incidentally, Dan Kunmu (of shikunmu fame) suggests that the '99 Big Green Tree is actually a Nannuo of some kind.

What say you all?
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Re: Resolved: Western Banna Leaves ages better than the East

Postby JakubT » Oct 13th, '12, 04:51

I think that to the west, Jingmai is another nice area. On the other hand, to the east, I think Yibang can get pretty awesome (e.g., Shi Kun Mu).

I still think that Yongpinghao Yiwus of 2001 and 2003 are rather excellent, I'll try the 2002-4 soon.

Also, there is Ai Lao on the eastern side. Not really a huge favourite of mine, but I would not neglect it.

I agree that the eastern things are often very good, but ultimately very different (and I'd argue that the woodiness you mention is a large positive, I, for example, am slightly bored by all the woody Bulangs). The best Laobanzhangs I have tried (Gan En and the one from Finepuer) have many good qualities, but they do not have that awesome fullness and taste explosivity of Shi Kun Mu Yibang or YPH early Yiwus - only two 2003 Bulangs have sort of matched these, but not entirely.

Besides, if you wanted to do such a comparison, you'd have to make sure you have balanced data which I am not sure you have. To give an example - in our school, are men much better computer scientists, because there are like 20 really smart boys (at least) and only 1-3 really smart girls? Not at all, because there is about 20 times more boys than girls.
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Re: Resolved: Western Banna Leaves ages better than the East

Postby MarshalN » Oct 13th, '12, 05:36

Shah - have you had Zhenchunya hao, the real one (not the 98 version sold at Banna)? Have you drank any of the private label stuff outside of XZH? I think you're drawing a pretty blanket statement that a lot of people won't agree with. Dadugang Yiwu is total crap, and for that matter, GreenBigTree or the Yichanghao are not terribly great either. The Chenyuanhao I had that was sent to me, however, really is pretty excellent.
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Re: Resolved: Western Banna Leaves ages better than the East

Postby gasninja » Oct 13th, '12, 09:47

Have you tried the 96 truly simply elegant cake. This is supposedly one of the first old tree yi wu cakes produced in any sort of quantity since antique era. This was purported to be made by one of the last tea masters from Song Pin Hao. I also think that calling 8 year old teas aged is kind of misguiding. the only idea we can have on what aged single mountain cakes taste like would be would be from antique grade cakes.
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Re: Resolved: Western Banna Leaves ages better than the East

Postby shah82 » Oct 13th, '12, 13:09

Zhenchunyahao (I had not even heard that there was a seperate '98 version)is only about twice the age of most of the tea we *can* talk about. It's not as if the track record of Yiwu "greatness" is so long, guys.

Private label Yiwus that's left the first stage I have drunk other than the aforementioned: Mingyuanhao '01 and '05. Dingxing '01. Jinchanghao '01. Wistaria tuo version '03. Chen Guanghe Tang '03 '06 Fall; '07 YangQingHao '05 '06 Yibang '05 private label Dayou '06.

Now, I can only drink the teas I have access to. I've never had a ChenYunHao or any of the other fancy Yiwu seen in Puerh Teapot. The only Yiwus that were worth what was asked when I sampled them was '05 MingYuanHao, '03 Wistaria, '06 Fall CGHT, maybe '06 YQH GuShu. The Yiwus that has had worthwhile and dramatic aged taste were '03 Wistaria (a little), '07 CGHT Chawang the MYH '01 has aged, if kinda dirty taste.

On the other hand, when compared--Say 2005 Yibang with a 7542 208 that's still a bit young tasting (with pasha?banzhang), the 7542 is easily going to win in my book. Let's reverse that--The '05 Dayi Mengsong Peacock and the '03 Wistaria Tuo has relatively similar flavors, but the Mengsong tastes more temple-woodsy, more aged plums and can generally be the better tea, overall, with less sophistication and more bitterness-astringency. Storage has a lot to do with everything, but I strongly suspect the main reason Yiwu has such favor is because it's usually less bitter. The better aged Mengla tea/grade I've had comes from areas with stronger bitterness/astringency--from Youle and Guafengzhai. The better non bitter tea has plenty of sweet flavors like caramel/vanilla and aged preserved fruits. However, what percentage of that sort of aged tea (the ones processed properly) rises above mushrooms/dirt with a few fruit/floral flourishes? The XZH JingGu Nu'er is actually aging more dramatically than its counterpart Yiwu! Not into some super-duper tea, but quite nice enough. I've never had high grade West Banna tea that has disappointed me, other than some '06 GuangBienLaoZhai XZH maocha. There are plenty more disappointing Yiwu aged teas out there.

I think it's a great time to have this sort of conversation, given the predominant aging qualities of Banna tea compared to the rest of Yunnan. It's been 17 or so years of single area teas--with most real production starting in '99 and getting going in '03-'04. Many teas are hitting the first stage of age, depending on the storage. I think it's a good time to reevaluate the aging properties of various locations. So far, north Bulang, including Banzhang, has had the best aging process of any area in my book.
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Re: Resolved: Western Banna Leaves ages better than the East

Postby MarshalN » Oct 13th, '12, 23:23

Shah - um, Yiwu track record goes back to the 30s and before. Unless you think those are all Western banna, somehow? That's patently untrue though. So yes, the track record is very long. They're just hard to come by.

I mean, I think it's clear that you like your teas more pungent, but I don't think everyone shares your tastes.
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Re: Resolved: Western Banna Leaves ages better than the East

Postby shah82 » Oct 13th, '12, 23:55

Come on, man, it's like 45 year gap! You gonna tell me some pre-War Song Pin Hao is going to be relevant to anyone's discussion, unless they in their teens and early twenties? Naw.

Moreover, remember all those "legends" about how the Cultural Revolution cut down trees as part of their modernization drives and Banzhang's place in those legends, real or not? There might not have been the same exploitation, but most of Banna were harvested for those old bings. Might not be *all* West Banna, but surely a good fraction! Doesn't seem like we can tell who, and for what label. What we surely *can* say that one major reason for the popularity of certain Dayi cakes from the late 80's and into the '90s was the opening of plantations near Banzhang and in Bada. It's not as if the Mr(s) Ho (if I recall corectly) just popped out of nowhere in 2000 and said, let's have a banzhang cake! That Banzhang magic had been pumping up the oomph on some of those cakes, and its worth had been recognized!

So what if I like my cakes to be pungent? I like my cakes to be *interesting*, and however mild and calm aged Banzhang can be, against expectations, they consistently do a better job of aging with character than most Mengla teas. Most of the elderly Bada teas, from 2005 and before, I have quite enjoyed as quite solid teas that equal any Yiwu of a comparative grade. Hell, most of my <i>JingGu</i> tea is doing a better job of aging! Yiwu is just totally overrated because the young tea can be so lacking in bitterness. Guafengzhai, for all of its acclaim, is still underrated, when you really think about it.

I do like a good-tasting bitterness, and I definitely like a bit more potent soup, but you know, I'm not nearly as crazy as gasninja, and what does *he* pack 15g in 150ml yixing? Banzhang, of course, with a dash of Bulang. Face it MarshalN, the puerh world has gotten bigger, with many more people and many more tastes to satisfy. People are more open-minded about what a quality new and aged cake should be like!
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Re: Resolved: Western Banna Leaves ages better than the East

Postby MarshalN » Oct 14th, '12, 00:51

How is that not relevant, exactly? I mean, you're talking about Eastern vs Western Banna. All the antique teas are from Eastern Banna. Is that not relevant at all? Clearly, they can age pretty well, some of them.

You can argue that production methods, climate, etc have changed, but evidence is evidence, you can't just completely discard it and say it's irrelevant.

No, I didn't say there's anything wrong with you liking the cakes pungent, I'm just saying that's your preference, and some people might prefer their cakes to have different flavour profiles. Or do you mean to say that Eastern Banna cakes are tasteless once they age a bit? If that's the case, all I can say is you've got bad tea/aging going on.

Please don't think of me as some close minded Eastern Banna only guy. I have plenty, plenty of Menghai area cakes that I love and store. Just because I don't write about them doesn't mean I don't own them. I'd always take a good Bulang over a bad Yibang. I just don't think your statement, that Eastern Banna leaves age worse, is true. They age differently, and you have to be open minded about that too, I think.
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Re: Resolved: Western Banna Leaves ages better than the East

Postby shah82 » Oct 14th, '12, 02:15

Well, I'm talking about this with the idea that this would be a fun topic to debate. I know full well that I don't have the kind of experience to be sure of much.

Why are you so sure that all of the antique grade tea are from East Banna? If I read my history right, pretty much all of Banna and Lancang were shipped though Yiwu and Yibang to points elsewheres. Surely they were not all loose. Beyond that, this hobby can't be about 40, 50, or more year puerh. Few people have the stability to think in such long terms. At best, we're talking thirty years. Many people will stop at 7-10 years and take that as ripe enough for them. A few more will go for 20 years. But really, tea will last that long because we forget about them, and thus, it wouldn't be an active uninterrupted hobby.

I definitely don't think they get tasteless or anything like that. I just think that 7+ year Yiwu tea tended to be less impressive in terms of behavior in the mouth, qi, and throatiness. I do think, for example, that I might prefer to age quality Big Snow Mountain tea to most Yiwu--especially if the '99 Yiwu I've had are an end point. I do not mind soft and subtle, after all, I do enjoy older lincangs that are quiet and subtle. However, I've had so few sessions with aged Yiwu with any sort of spark.

Now, in the spirit of honesty, I have had an excellent session with the '05 MYH today, but that's mostly because today's set of leaves had more of the good stuff that's backing the plantation. It was, however, notably eager to be bitter.

I don't think you're close-minded, since again, this is about debate--we're getting to the point where everyone has had a number of tea 5-8 years old. We should be evaluating regions more.
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Re: Resolved: Western Banna Leaves ages better than the East

Postby MarshalN » Oct 14th, '12, 02:28

Well, you did say I'm close minded, read what you wrote again :)

I've read enough documents from the period to know that the tea they got was almost certainly all from the six old mountains areas. The other areas were simply too far - keep in mind this is 50+ years ago. Roads there were very crappy. We do know they mixed teas - from high and low areas, for example.

If you come to HK and talk to teaheads here, and call a 15 year old tea "aged tea", they'll laugh at you. I think it's just a different mindset.

You did name the CGHT Chawang from 07, for example. I do think that's a good tea, and it's real decent Yiwu leaves. A lot of the other stuff... meh. There's plenty of bad Yiwu (or old six mountains) teas out there.

As for Daxueshan - the entire sum of our experience with those teas is, at its maximum, about 8-10 years. Maybe we should revisit this topic ten years hence?
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Re: Resolved: Western Banna Leaves ages better than the East

Postby shah82 » Oct 14th, '12, 02:58

I said that people as a whole are more open minded--perhaps that implies you were close-minded. Never thought you were, though. I think you're not very fair about JingGu teas, but otherwise, no.

My feeling is that the ancient groves in West Banna, and Jingmai as well, were too large to be anything other than an export industry. And sources I could find and have access to, depict places like Mengyang ManNuo to have explicitly settled with tea plantations in mind for export outside of Yunnan. Places like Kunlushan and Yangta both attained some popularity with the Imperial Palace. So yeah, the roads were pretty bad, but you know, you can read ZhiZheng blog posts about each farmer fixing their own maocha in Banzhang, creating a wide variety of Banzhang flavors. How complete do you think the records are? Is it really that likely, in a place as poor as Yunnan has been these last couple of hundred of years that people don't manage to get maocha to Yiwu and Yibang for any currency they can get?

I have to wonder about the vagaries of luck, though, with samples. I only got one good session with my sample of that '07 Yiwu, while the others were really off/nasty. I've always wondered whether my assessment was fair. Given the lack of accomplishment of most of CGHT's Yiwu, I didn't really think to be generous.

Peeps from HK are quite free to laugh at me...while I watch them look at their dwindling stock of well stored 30yo tea go down. This is a world where you have to troll asian forums to get your hands on decent '90s tea--just a cake, or if you're lucky and rich, a tong. Forget eighties, or seventies tea. Can you doubt that virtually all of it is in very firm hands and drunk among the *very* rich? Your average HK worker, even upper class worker, is going to have serious trouble getting more than a bit of good old tea. They'll have to think of 15 years as aged, just like the rest of us.

Yeah, there's the Yuanyexiang and the XZH Mengsa, but Baichatang, Tai Lian, and S. Mengku all have done DaXueShan teas in the late 90s and before. The XZH Mengsa does seen to have done very well so far, if slow to age.
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Re: Resolved: Western Banna Leaves ages better than the East

Postby MarshalN » Oct 14th, '12, 03:13

Well, "Face it MarshalN" followed by the open minded bit did it for me :)

I think most of CGHT's teas are only so so, but there are a few gems. The 07 Chawang is a good one, and so is that 05 Yesheng that I like, but he didn't press that - merely rewrapped it. I do like that Chenyuanhao I was sent, a lot. It's a great tea. Zhou Yu's cakes are also nicer than his tuos, so you might want to try those. His 2007/8 Hongyin is worth trying, if you can get your hands on one. At $100 USD a cake, it's not even expensive by today's standards.

"Before"? Late 90s, sure, but before? I think you're stretching that a little bit there. I believe XZH's Mengsa is referring to Yiwu's older name though, and so is actually Eastern Banna.
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Re: Resolved: Western Banna Leaves ages better than the East

Postby TwoDog2 » Oct 15th, '12, 04:04

General responses:

shah82 wrote:I do like a good-tasting bitterness, and I definitely like a bit more potent soup, but you know, I'm not nearly as crazy as gasninja, and what does *he* pack 15g in 150ml yixing?


Today I learned Gasninja is a hero.

MarshalN wrote:I'm just saying that's your preference, and some people might prefer their cakes to have different flavour profiles.


I agree with this. I am more towards Shah's general flavor profile, but I can see why people are firmly footed in the Yiwu camp, for example.

shah82 wrote:I definitely don't think they get tasteless or anything like that. I just think that 7+ year Yiwu tea tended to be less impressive in terms of behavior in the mouth, qi, and throatiness. I do think, for example, that I might prefer to age quality Big Snow Mountain tea to most Yiwu--especially if the '99 Yiwu I've had are an end point.



I agree with this, until you get to your last sentence. What 99 Yiwu did you feel was at an end point? Say more about what "end point" means? Death of flavor? Brink of blandness? I am in your camp on taking old Daxueshan over Yiwu, but its more of a personal preference reason.

MarshalN wrote:You did name the CGHT Chawang from 07, for example. I do think that's a good tea, and it's real decent Yiwu leaves. A lot of the other stuff... meh. There's plenty of bad Yiwu (or old six mountains) teas out there.


I have only had CGHT Chawang back to '08, but I have had '08-'11. I think it varies year by year, the '09 was pretty good, imo. I think there is a bigger glut of bad Yiwu because of its fame. A lot of people falsely claim Yiwu or just blend a bit of Yiwu with something else.

The other point, People in HK have an uncommon advantage that most of us don't, which is a glut of well stored tea. Try finding that in Beijing, or worse yet, America. In general, I am comfortable with 10-15 year range, instead of aiming for 30 years. 30 years will be great, but I need tea in the interim.
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Re: Resolved: Western Banna Leaves ages better than the East

Postby MarshalN » Oct 15th, '12, 04:54

By the way, please remember Daxueshan (and Mengku, and Lincang) is beyond Western Banna.
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Re: Resolved: Western Banna Leaves ages better than the East

Postby TwoDog2 » Oct 15th, '12, 05:13

MarshalN wrote:By the way, please remember Daxueshan (and Mengku, and Lincang) is beyond Western Banna.


If quality is equal across the board (whatever the hell that means), do you feel the above areas fair better with age than those to the East*? (or just Yiwu - since it seems the easiest target for this strength issue, when subtracting GFZ)

I think it becomes an issue of general strength, if you are looking for a bolder brew from an aged tea.
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