Although I have tried some Xizihao samples in the past, there was no system, they were far away from one another. Therefore I decided to try more of them - and that is why I bought samples from Hou De.
Upon opening the package with this tea, I thought "wow, this smells quite interesting". Then I opened another package and thought "gee, this smells almost the same, how come?" When the third tea smelled the same (and the rest too), I realized it's not the tea but the packaging. I remember people saying that it is difficult to find bags which don't have any smell of their own.
The good thing is that the tea itself is probably not damaged by the smell of the package (this Lao Wu Shan is not, at least).
I think the leaves are quite nice, being large, unbroken and furry.
The wet leaves give a good aroma, although hardly spectacular. I'd say it is a sort of very good universal sheng (US) - there is a base of US and promising aroma lingers above it. Nice meadow honey is present in the "aftersmell".
Will this Lao Wu Shan challenge and beat my current US-champion, the 2004 Shi Kun Mu? Challenge, probably. Beat? Let's see.
The liquor is nice, with a rather light aroma of mushrooms and flowers.
The taste starts quite light, becoming a bit denser in forthcoming brews. The taste is largely a universal sheng/Jinggu (the intersection of these two is highly nontrivial I think) too, but as in the aroma, some bad things about US are not present and some good things which usually are not in US are present here. The taste starts with a bias towards fruitiness, nice, light one (blueberries?). Then a rather powerful bitterness comes...and when it fades away, there is not hing for a while. Then the feeling of old trees comes, nice and proper...and then not much more again. I found the lack of longer taste and more notable aftertaste a bit disappointing.
The tea is fairly consistent across brews, the bitterness becomes stronger and stronger, sadly. I hoped that it would become more interesting, that there would be something which would captivate me. My hopes were in vain. Actually, the tea does not last that long either, it runs out of steam around 7th brew - producing nicely yellow, yet tasteless water up to some 11th brew.
Thickness of the liquor is substandard among gushu teas I've tasted so far.
The wet leaves are nice, in good shape, without much processing faults (burned edges and all that).
Were this my first gushu, I'd be probably blown away by the mouthfeel. As it is not, I am not really impressed. For example, the 2004 Shi Kun Mu Menghai (who retains the title of US-champion) is cheaper and better (and six years older, meaning one knows better where it is heading). Staying in Jinggu, the 2003 Jinggu Bai Long Te Ji, though possibly not from as fancy material, has the advantage of 7 more years of age which gives it an edge over this XZH tea. The less-than-half price sharpens the edge considerably.
I am not really sure that Jinggu is capable of producing tea worth the asked $95 per cake (unless it is at least 1kg cake). When one connects the current quality of this tea with the statement of MarshalN that Jinggu teas don't age too well (and I have no reason not to believe him, given his knowledge), I see no reason in asking so much money for this cake.
This tea is most certainly not bad - it is rather good on the absolute scale. But I am afraid I am not willing to pay more than $40 for a "rather good" tea. Especially for a tea which balances between "gentle" and "weak".
By the way, I'd be interested in a comparative tasting to the 2011 version which hangs around in the Czech Republic - if you're from Prague (or willing to pay the post), I'll gladly give/send you a bit of this so you can compare it (and write about it). Of course, if you give me a sample of the 2011 version in exchange, I will be delighted, but it is certainly not necessary.
Further reading: Half Dipper