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2023 Bakanan


Notes of mill grist, casein, peach, and thistle bloom and fade in a nutritive, complex soup.  The iron oxide in Bakanan’s old arbor brick-red clays imparts surface tension to the brewing water as tea is made, translating to an aliveness in the jowls and throat. A humid, grisly ambrosia emanates from the gullet and breezes through the sinus and mouth. Play nicely, as there are claws hidden in those paws; a brew too cavalier with its timing will surely repent with behind the knee sweats.

坝卡囡 Bàkǎnān is a small Lahu ethnicity village of just 37 families in the Bulang mountain region in southern Menghai county of Xishuangbanna prefecture, resting at about 1650 meters above sea level. Only 10 kilometers west of Lao Banzhang and 8 kilometers north of Lao Mane, Bakanan is one of the 班章五寨 Bānzhāng wǔzhài or five villages of the Banzhang area and has in recent years gained a cult following as not just a more affordable LBZ imitation, but as a terroir drawing from the Banzhang archetypal flavor, yet distinct unto itself and worthy of exploration/attention.

For this reason, our partner Mr. Yang, of Akha (Hani) ethnicity from Lao Banzhang, has just recently finished building his own tea factory operations in Bakanan and has made proper in-roads to some of the best material from the village’s ancient garden growing area, sloping, shaded gardens occupying just less than 200 acres north of the village.

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While second in line to Lao Man'e as the the furthest Banzhang village from Lao Banzhang, Bakanan is 450 meters higher up the landscape than Lao Man'e. You may know of Lao Man'e village’s famous bitter variety ancient trees, a classic addition in old menghai tea factory regional blends. Extraordinarily bitter for most of its life (yet thought to sweeten with age), a land-race sweet variety of tea trees like those of Lao Banzhang’s have recently been planted in Lao Man'e, and are not yet of gushu age, despite many a claim offering ancient tree Lao Man'e sweet variety tea.

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For those seeking Banzhang village ancient tree sweet variety tree tea outside of the hyped and exorbitantly priced Lao Banzhang, Bakanan is the premier option, as the area hosts many specimens of this sweeter subspecies between 100-200 years of age, planted by the Lahu ancestors of the current villagers. Think of Bakanan as a terroir between Lao Banzhang and Lao Man'e, with sweet variety of tea trees lending to an experience closer to Lao Banzhang’s. Within Bakanan tea the classic, strapping flavor of this legendary region is undeniable and is framed perfectly by a mouthfeel experience that is delicate, smooth, thick, and lubricating. Do yourself a favor and stake out this powerhouse for your collection and witness its dynamic trajectory (Last year's Bakanan is shaping up extraordinarily).  We are proud to offer tea of this caliber and acclaim at less than $1/gram.

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original wrapper artwork by Arulu Gallagher

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