January 17, 2011
Tao of Tea has a great selection of Old Growth Teas. They can be purchased in brick, bing or loose form. In this instance, a loose leaf Banzhang was chosen to sample gong fu style.
According to Tao of Tea, Old Growth Tea Forests are self-sustaining, biodiverse ecosystem untouched by clear-cutting or mono-agriculture. Centuries old tea trees grow side by side with other indigenous trees and plants in a dense, subtropical mountain forest environment. There are few such tea forests remaining in the world and most are found in southern Yunnan, primarily in Xishuangbanna and parts of Simao and Lincang prefectures.
This loose leaf tea comes from Banzhang Mountain which is located in southwestern Xishuangbanna, China. There, Banzhang tea is cultivated in natural forests, which according to Tao of Tea, has wild medicinal herbs and plants that grow around the base of the tea trees contributing to it's rich, distinctive flavor.
Starting with a water temperature of 180 degrees, 2 teaspoons of Banzhang Loose Leaf are placed in a small yixing red clay teapot to steep. After about 2-3 minutes of steeping, the liquor color should be a bright yellowish-green. The initial aroma coming from the teapot is a nice floral tone with hints of camphor.
After completion of the steeping process, the liquid was poured from the teapot through a filtered funnel into a gong fu pitcher. Upon first glance, the color of the liquor was a a vibrant yellowish-green. A pleasant floral, camphor aroma could be detected during the pouring process.
Because Banzhang is a pu-er, it will stand up to several infusions. Six were done of this particular sample, with the subsequent infusions diminishing considerable after the third. The fourth was very light in flavor and color with almost no hint of smoke left over. The liquor still yielded a subtle sweetness. Others may find the diminished flavor a bit better to their tastes.
As a younger, green tea, Banzhang is somewhat different than other more aged pu-ers. One notable feature is it’s caffeine level. This tea is much lower in caffeine than cooked pu-ers—one thing a plus for those intolerant of higher caffeine teas. Tea fanciers should definitely try this selection for not only it’s unique flavor, but its low caffeine level and with the ability to buy small quantities, the cost is low.
Banzhang Loose Leaf can be purchased by the ounce or the tin online at Tao of Tea’s website or their Leaf Room located in downtown Portland on SE Belmont. Check their website for more details