Bianjingcha - pu'erh produced in Northern Vietnam on the Yunnan-Vietnam border.
Bianjingcha is also known as Border Tea.
Bianjingcha can be quite good.
One of my friends in Taiwan purchased a few cakes of (what we later discovered to be) Bianjingcha and he mailed me a few samples to try. Going to review two of them.
Tea 1: VERY tightly compressed, iron cake level. Leavese look quite dark, wasn't sure if it's sheng or shou at first (it's sheng). Long leaves, very stemmy, quite characteristic of a border tea (I use this MarshalN post as an identification guide). I actually found a piece of what seems to be cardboard in this tea (i.e a prize inside). This was quite humid stored, but not overly so. After 2 rinses it becomes a soft, sweet, but potent tea. Not as interesting/complex as pure Yunnan tea, but that's okay. Definitely does not excel in the field of flavor clarity, in fact the flavors of this tea are quite muddled (i.e hard to pick out). Has some decent longevity going on, probably got around 10 steeps. Overall I think that this is a pretty good tea, a viable daily drinker for the average person seeking aged sheng pu'erh. Definitely not a connoisseur's tea, as it doesn't have the flavor clarity/quality of a good quality Yunnan pu'erh. Not sure how much my friend paid for this, but I'm guessing around $70-80 based on the quality of it.
Tea 2: Same level of compression, quite dark with some orange tint (humid). Again, sheng. Very similar leaves to the first tea. Mellower than the first tea, with a slight sweetness. I think it's about equal in quality to the first tea. Although the quality isn't as good IMO, it's mellower and ready to drink. One advantage that this tea has over the first one is that it has decent flavor clarity. Another daily drinker for sure, nothing extraordinary here. One thing that I have to mention is that this tea was VERY bubbly, which could be a sign of pesticide usage. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case, I don't think Vietnam is known for their top quality farming practices.
Verdict: Vietnam border pu'erh is a good alternative to "true" Yunnan pu'erh. A well-documented border tea is TeaClassico's Tongqinghao Chi Cheng, which has gotten higher marks than quite a few Yunnan pu'erhs from several bloggers. These types of tea are definitely worth a shot if you're seeking cheap aged tea. These seem to be quite common in Taiwan, possibly because the modern Tongqinghao brand (a company that produces these teas) is located in Taiwan. Another source that is more accessible in the west is Taobao, although you must exercise caution!
|#2 wet leaf, sorry for the blurry pic.|
Music: No brainer. Acemo - Boarders