Saturday, June 30, 2012


I casually mentioned to my husband that I was planning to trade off my LBZs for some older pu-erh and he uncharacteristically got possessive and staked a claim, "Don't give that away.  I'm going to drink that."   My husband is in the league of coffee drinkers but will dutifully drink the sheng I line up for him for his afternoon stimulation.  There is a steady growing queue of poorly aging tea he is slated to enjoy for at least the next few years.

That box of LBZ cakes have been untouched for seven years so I tried to call his bluff and threatened to brew it up for him Friday afternoon. But he was all game.  So we'll see if anyone in this household has a taste for LBZ.  Our friend Stickman also stopped by as he was in the neighborhood and without too much arm twisting, he braved his very first cup of shengpu- a "legendary" LBZ no less. LBZ was tea of choice to make tribute tea for Chairman Mao- a "tea maniac" according to this useful post by Hojotea which also explains how Chen Sheng Tea Factory moved in to control LBZ mao cha prices.  Is all the fuss about this LBZ warranted?  We were all about to answer for ourselves.

The last time I brewed this cake seven years ago, I got so jacked on a few tablespoons, I had to flush out my body with a gallon of water. The yang in this tea is undeniably strong and deserving of the reputation of possessing the greatest force of cha qi in the world.  Is it record breaching levels of theanine(as Nick helpfully informs me) and caffeine or even some other compound the Western world needs to get on. The Banzhang complexity I cannot attest to as I am not able to down enough of it to say. I guess if you want to get jacked legally, this is a good way to go.  

The cake is pleasingly furry and it's tea fragrance makes you wish the whole world could smell like this. The brew is still straw colored.  Two tiny thimblefuls burn a hole in my stomach immediately and so I know this cake is still going strong.  I barely get a chance to register that the brew still has a taste of that Banzhang bitterness- very different from the polite Douji LBZ of the same year. (I may have to compare my autumn Mengku LBZ with the Douji if it was a matter of seasons. ) I could have brewed up in a Yixing pot to soften it up but lately I just like to peep in on the leaves with a glass teapot.  Plus used Yixing pots smell so fragrant already, I like to sniff the unadulterated version.

I just keep on watching longingly as my tea partners imbibe cup after cup.  They are not men that talk about tea floridly. (Not yet at any rate.)  Both were getting suitably buzzed. "Oh yeah. Oh yeah. It's rocket fuel!" They tell me the buzz is different from caffeine, less jittery more productive.

I definitely find advertised burnt leaves to indicate "human handling" in the kill-green process.  I'll include the Hai Lang description taken off of YS:
" In the strainer you might notice some slightly burnt leaf edges that separate during brewing (This attests to its hand-process kill-green process). "

The head cook(*) in our house dry-fries greens in the wok all the time, and I have watched plenty of videos of the kill-green process.  Personally I think you are frying way too much at one time and not flipping enough if you get burnt leaves. IMMHO.   (* This morning, I took a brief break to whisk my hot chocolate bars in almond milk when I noticed someone had changed the "I" on my edit screen to "my husband". While I used to dry fry a lot for many many years, this task has been taken up by my more mindful husband who does not get too many burnt edges except when he controls it for intentionally for extra flavor.  He has been teasing me mercilessly all morning on this account so I flipped "my husband" to "head cook".  This morning I also had to resort to cheering myself up with a mug of hot chocolate to accompany my bacon and pancake breakfast after a disappointing bout with a pressed pure golden bud dianhong. The beeng smelled amazing but tasted rather plain.)

I also notice various levels of oxidation in the larger leaves. I'm stretching my walnut wondering if this cake is aging or it this is original oxidation from the extra loving fry during the kill-green. It looks too uneven to be aging and with the burnt edges I would do best to assume a less favorable cause.

This here cake was $37 in late 2006- a ridiculously piddly sum by today's levels. But back then - it was considered to be on the high end for Yunnan Sourcing offerings whose been prices were more commonly in the $10-$25 range.  I don't regret buying this cake.  Apparently my husband likes it and it is the only few tradable things in my collection. But I cannot imagine paying real money for an LBZ now.

Later I suffer my first tea induced headache along with the uncomfortable jittery LBZ feeling so no more LBZ for me. I still have the autumn Mengku LBZ to try out, an LBZ spring brick, and a blend but I will wait another few years.  I had hoped to acquaint myself with the Lao Man 'Es but now I realize that corner of Bulang is a dangerous road for me. More masculine than a Lao Banzhang,  I have heard cakes from Lao Man 'E can sprout chest hair spontaneously.  


  1. Well, it's certainly not just caffeine, as tea also contains L-Theanine, a psychoactive stimulant only also present in some fungi. This substance, as well as others, produce that focused yet stimulating effect you can really feel in powerful teas, and it also modulates the dispersal of caffeine in a way coffee does not. I am sure there are also many other compounds both major and minor in the tea plant which are magnified in old tea trees that have had a lot of time to accumulate nutrients, i.e. old yunnan trees--I know iron and other metal content are some of these.

    Interesting, I've rarely come across other people in person that are serious or knowledgable enough about tea that can talk about the focused high you can get from some of them..but I can definitely attest to it myself. I mean, I like talking about floral elements and flavor profiles as well..but that's what's immediately noticeable and what they will tell you about in most tea stores in the West. There's a reason even a physical store of high repute such as Red Blossom concentrates on Oolongs and Greens and rarely mentions puers.

  2. Thank you Nick. L-Theanine gives me something to research this weekend. I'm wondering if it's just the extreme levels of it present in LBZ leaves or there is something more. I think there used to be a blog called chemistea which appears to now have been moved.

    1. I don't know, but I am a psychonaut--feel free to share some, if you want :)

      That '96 xiaguan sample I told you about sent deep, deep energy coursing into my veins which I still felt the next day. Incredible.

      Personally, since returning from Taiwan, I've noticed that Western tea aficionados tend to learn towards the quiet-introverted types, not necessarily very physical--which I find particularly strange since I don't see how one is qualified to discuss things like the "energy" and "qi" of tea if cultivating these feelings within yourself is alien to you. I enjoy my quiet, inwards, deep tasting time as much as anyone, but I also harness this energy for action, dynamic motion--martial arts, bicycling, music playing, etc. The practice of martial arts and consumption of tea goes together like ketchup on a burger in Asia. Here they seem to have no relation to each other, which is very weird to me. Unfortunately, I don't often meet other martial arts practitioners here who care at all about tea--they tend to be more of the liquor crowd--and I notice the tea/zen people tend to be off in another corner, sadly. C'mon people, they're part of the same cloth! Yin and Yang!

    2. Dear Nick,

      I think you must still be a youngster with plenty of energy to spare. Western pu-erh drinkers who blog are still a varied bunch and readers may easily have a skewed idea of a genteel tea drinker behind the internet curtain. I'd rather be careful as I think a furry man eating monster could be just as likely typing such sensitive missives than fussy vested gentlemen. (Although I just cracked myself up thinking of the sweet Asian themed silk bathrobes various bloggers might own. You know who you are.)


      p.s. Emmett lists kungfu in his interests. GN? writes but whether or not he practices with his nunchucks is something you might have to ask him personally. I think Matt ran a marathon. Israel seems an outdoors working-with-his-hands kind of guy. I am sure there are more surprisingly active tea drinkers out there.

    3. Nick I have been training in various chinese martial arts for the past 15 years and I do agree with your comment on most of the young western practitioners to not be into tea. But the ones who are really into the true art of self preservation are into tea. My first Master is the one who gave me my first taste of oolong from taiwan. Now that I discovered puerh I share and gift my tea with my kung fu brothers and sisters and my current Master loves young sheng for the chi poducing qualities before training.

      Hstr.. Thats so funny, I was thinking about that too. Who is behind the words on these blogs. And no I dont have one of those robes... wait maybe I do.... at least I dont use it! LOL!

    4. hster,
      And I hope to forever remain one! I'm just shy of 30, but I feel younger all the time; and it doesn't seem to matter how old I get, I always seem to surround myself with people older than me. A 60-something friend of mine recently told me that I'd probably live to see the next century. :P

      Don't have one of those silk bathrobes, but my gf has a couple. A hakama (soon enough) will have to do.

      Cool. From your icon I take it you're a taijier. I've done some myself, as well as wing chun, although my main art is aikido. It's a funny thing to spend time in Chinese speaking tea shops and tell them you're a disciple of a Japanese art, and convince your Japanese-practicing art friends that Chinese, not Japanese tea, is where it's at. Eh, fusion is difficult :P

      Definitely very interested in the qi producing qualities of tea. For that, nothing can match sheng pu-er and some (genuine) dancong trees. Why, I think, is a no brainer--old tea trees with several hundred years of time to accumulate a dense combination of the right balance of nutrients. Very interested in the states of mind/body tea can provoke, as translated to both mental and physical contexts--I write about this a bit, sometimes, in my blog, but haven't really seen others do it..then again, it's a bit like writing about music, or dancing; it's a feeling.

    5. Hold on... historically wasn't it Chinese scholars who were most into tea? They were the ones who wrote about it, met up to drink and talk about it, bought all the nice teapots. Plus, and I'm no expert on this, but I get the impression that the enery/qi/whatever that you're associating with "physical" martial arts is going to come just as strongly from other pursuits: have you never seen a serious calligrapher at work, for example?

    6. Yes the chi is focused thru any discipline. The arts which use deep concentration of the breath with the physical movements can be enhanced by other sources like tea.
      Its also a great excuse to drink good sheng.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.