After the barely satisfactory Lao Wu Shan, let us have a look at another recent Xi Zi Hao: The Banzhang/Yiwu brick. I myself often wondered how would the combination of Banzhang and Yiwu taste. I made some experiments, mixing Yiwu with Banzhang and got acceptable, but not really shining tea.
This brick consists of large, long leaves, it is indeed rather gold:
The aroma of wet leaves heads towards Banzhang woodiness. It is more interesting than that, having something of Krishna-styled shop incense aroma. Deep sweetness is also present. The tea looks promising so far.
The second brew is still light, flowery, a bit of the incense aroma manifests itself in the taste too. Thickness is good. The activity is more notable than in the first brew, but the tea is still not too impressive overall.
To get something of the tea, I push it hard, keeping it in the pot for half a minute to get the third brew (where I usually steep the tea for 15 seconds). Expecting strong taste, I am surprised by nice, but ultimately light and distant fruitiness. The activity gets better, but not what I would not see earlier. Pleasant tannins finish the taste, quite enjoyable. When I give up waiting for hui gan, it comes at last. Long-term aftertaste is good, Banzhang-powered sweetness.
The fourth brew (40s!) brings a more interesting taste of peaches, but after a short while, it withdraws back to Banzhang woodiness and then to nothing. The activity becomes weaker and it is even weaker in oncoming brews. The tea needs longer and longer steepings which could be expected in autumnal plantation tea, but most certainly not in a tea of this caliber.
I do not feel any significant energy in this tea.
I am afraid, as in the case of Lao Wu Shan by the same producer, that if this tea was priced around $40; $50 at most, it might be considered worthwile. For the asked $145, it feels like a not that good joke I'm afraid. Taste-wise, there are more interesting teas for $25. Feeling-wise, there are similarly interesting teas below $50 (with energy that fits me better), which, on top, taste more interesting and last longer.
It supports my previous thought that recent XZH tea is 2-3 times more expensive than it should. "For puerh lovers, it is not necessary to add anything more" - haha. It really is like with luxurious boutique leather handbags which women use to demonstrate how rich they (or their husbands) are, more than making good use of the actual quality (which is, as with these XZH teas, undeniably above-average, but hardly worth the price). I can imagine that if one is used to weaker plantation tea and then gets this, he may be convinced into thinking that this is a super uber powerhouse. If one tried some other old tree material, this tea seems rather clearly inferior (except the price, of course :)). I hope that the 2007 XZH samples will perform better.
I wonder where is the problem with these teas. Are the big leaves a problem? Is there an issue with Houston storage? I don't know...