Dec 15, 2013

2004 Chang Tai Shi Kun Mu Xin Yun Cheng Ban Zhang (2004鑫昀晟班章)

This tea isn't labeled "Ban Zhang" anywhere. But it seems everybody calls it Ban Zhang - probably as unofficially released by the producer.

The photo on the left shows the two Xin Yun Cheng from that year, Yi Wu on the left and Ban Zhang on the right - it was about the time when people enthusiastically talked about "Ban Zhang is king and Yi Wu is queen." So these two make a happy couple.

Both cakes are 300g only, although both wrappers say 400g. The producer explained that it was a production mistake. I don't see how it could be even possible... As cynical as I am, I suspect it was because the tea material wasn't enough while they still wanted to produce so many cakes. With what I know about Chang Tai, I think my cynical theory is totally possible :-p

I haven't tried the Yi Wu yet. My puerh icon Ulumochi of Taiwan seems to have great faith of Xin Yun Cheng Ban Zhang, while in his critiquing with Tea Art magazine (some issue of earlier this year) he didn't give very good comments on 2004 Xin Yun Cheng Yi Wu - not very harsh critique either, though. What's interesting is, in the publication, Tea Art magazine mentioned the name of Xin Yun Cheng Yi Wu, yet printed on the same page a photo of Xin Yun Cheng Ban Zhang. Afterwards, Ulumochi mentioned that he was sure the tea sample for that tasting session was Yi Wu, not Ban Zhang, and the photo on the magazine must be wrong - I do believe him, knowing that his comments on Xin Yun Cheng Ban Zhang is very very positive.

The next a few photos aren't meant to be a blame on this tea at all, although they may look a bit astonishing... I'm sure this is a very, very rare case, because I know Shi Kun Mu tea is overall very carefully made and very clean for puerh. But when I first opened this tea, I was scared to see a bunch of... seemingly... black hairs!

Turned out, it was just a piece of nylon string, a quite long one!

Definitely much better than any black hairs :-p Actually this didn't give me any negative impression about this tea. For puerh tea, producers and sellers should hold high standards for themselves about hygiene. On the other hand, we know that at least up till this day, "gift with purchase" in puerh is almost inevitable, unless puerh is converted from an agricultural product to an industrial product.

The tea tastes quite young and obviously hasn't reached a peak yet. However, it does taste quite interesting, and not harsh.

I've had this tea for several times, sometimes it was less interesting, sometimes more interesting, but overall a tea of rich flavor and mouth feel. A few months ago, I got a small sample of this tea from a tea friend in Zhanjiang (a coastal city in Guangdong Province). The tea was stored at his home and he tried all he could to keep it as dry as possible. So the tea doesn't have the worrisome smell that we sometimes could find from a Guangdong stored tea. However, the storage was still more humid than my tea, which was stored in Shandong (a northern province) before I got it. I think my Zhanjiang friend's sample tastes so much better than mine. His tea seems to have already reached a small peak for enjoyment. 

The more I tried this tea, the more I like it. Tasting my Zhanjiang friend's sample made me feel I could see more of this tea's future. But by the time, it was already nearly impossible to get more of this tea at reasonable prices. This kind of things always happen in puerh. When a tea is still at its earlier stage, most people don't know how good or how bad it could be in the future. Sometimes we could choose to follow the guru's words, but then we don't know if we have the same tasting preferences as the guru. By the time we are sure we really like a tea, it may no longer be affordable. But what could we do? That is life. Fortunately most people having this problem actually also have more than enough tea to drink, haha! So if you take turns to drink different teas, for each tea, one or two cakes are enough to last for years, and during the time, there will be discoveries of new loves.


Unknown said...

Well the case of this tea is rather very interesting story about how the tea production works in china last two decades ... Basically Shi Kun Mu has his own label since 1999 till then he has produced as the master blender and process oversight for couple factories and labels even the private productions. He continued to do this kind of service more less occasionally and even for the big names like Boyou or Changtai whom he worked with before 2000. However this production was essential in his regard to do only tea productions under his own lable or for private production or co-production where he would have 100% control over the product. The story goes like this: Changtai asked Shi Kun Mu to do for them this Xin Yun product Line teas. There was the finite amount of material chosen by Shi Kun Mu and the blend was carefully prepared as always. After the pressing and distribution the tea has gone quite popular as Shi Kun Mu had good reputation and the production was limited - it got sold out and the price has gone up. Then suddenly the tea cakes started popping up in even better prices. On the outside the same cakes. The Changtai as they had produced the official amount under the Shi Kun Mu supervision they also had copied and produced in secret the same amount of tea with the same wrappers and names but different material and different process as the know how was that of Shi Kun Mu. As later has come out this was not the only case of "tea fraud" - it happened with the different productions as well. So your feeling that something is off and as you knew Shi Kun Mun's productions this could and probably was the case of tea which was only wrapped in the same package and bore the mark but haven't had the quality nor the touch of the master Shi Kun Mu.

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