2011 Nan Po Zhai
It’s nice to have a day off after a good week of work. Sometimes I am very productive on my days off. On other days I let myself stretch out and do things slowly. Today is one of these other kinds of days, and I just wound up finishing my morning tea at around 4 PM.
Today was sunny with clear skies, and windy as well. After a meal I went for a walk around the neighborhood, and the chill in the air caused by the wind made the day seem more brisk. Returning home I wanted to drink a tea that matched the day. Something green, clear, with a brisk energy. For this reason I chose to drink the 2011 Nan Po Zhai raw Pu’er. Zhai (寨) means village when translated from Chinese to English. Here is what the vendor says about this tea:
“Nan Po Zhai is the closest village to Bing Dao village in the county of Mengku. It lies 2 kilometers from Bing Dao village in a road-less area filled with centuries old tea trees. Nan Po tea is typically sold as Bing Dao as it’s quite similar, but not the same. We are happy to offer this incredibly powerful and textured tea from the first flush of Spring 2011. Stone-Pressed by hand.”
I like the sound of old tea trees in a road-less area. From what I’ve read, it seems like most old tea comes from places like this, because people back in earlier times were not planting and harvesting tea using the modern large scale plantation method. For this reason many traders must go from village to village to collect raw material, as this trader must do in the well done video by Jinghong Zhang.
Another interesting thing about the description of the Nan Po Zhai is that it almost feels like this cake could be called the 2011 “Right Next to Bingdao”. Despite my slightly sarcastic comment just now, I think it is good of the vendor to include the name of this smaller village rather than selling the tea as Bingdao. Bingdao is an example of a famous region that can command much higher prices than other areas due to its revered status in the tea market. Tea can be compared to wine, because it is a terroir based beverage. Chinese tea is unlike wine in that there are much less regulations on how products are labelled and sold. It may be illegal for someone to sell a wine from a different region as “Champagne”, but a tea producer in China may not face much trouble if they sold a tea from an entirely different mountain as “Bingdao Tea”. The topic of fake teas is quite interesting, and the owner of Farmer Leaf Tea produced an in depth video on the subject.
The dry leaves of this tea had a very strong fruity and floral aroma. They seemed to be fairly large, and the cake had a loose compression. The Nan Po Zhai brewed up a nice golden yellow color. “Powerful” and “textured” were appropriate terms to use in the description, as the tea was smooth and oily with a texture that built up over the session.
Based on the strength of this tea, I’d like to imagine that it would age well. However, I’m not sure what it will be like in 10 – 20 years because I’ve never aged a Nan Po Zhai tea that long. I found it enjoyable to drink now, but it is out of my price range for stockpiling and aging.
After drinking the tea there is one more thing I wanted to mention. The leaves were beautiful, and I’m including them in my new project of drying and pressing the leaves of Pu’er tea that I drink. Here’s a photo of the leaves after being dried for a few hours.