Continuing the yancha rambling, today I'd like to have a look at Shui Xian from EoT. To see the postulated development, I ordered samples of three vintages.
Shui Xian shares the unfortunate fate of other famous teas: Da hong pao, Lung Ching, Banzhang pu, etc. I.e., it gets faked very often. That alone may not be a tragedy (I think I could remember a couple of cases when a fake was better than the original), but these fakes tend to be "cost efficient". Therefore, tragic. I think that I had about five boring, hollow Shui Xians, before I got to a relatively good one from Longfeng, some two or so years ago. I thought it could be wise to try some from EoT as it seems to be one of the most reputed vendors of yancha. If I do not like it, Shui Xian is lost for me, I thought. Well, I do like them. And since I smelled the aroma of the 2004 one, the last couple of days were nothing but waiting to try that one.
Now, to the very teas... my appreciation increased with its age (and price :( ), that is for sure.
For me, this was the least interesting of the three Shui Xians. It is very "controlled" and there is not really anything wrong, some very nice features are present, but I'm afraid I did not find the tea as exciting as I'd maybe like.
It offers good fire (though it's nowhere near, e.g., Tie Luo Han), it is nicely thick, with reasonable sweetness, nuttiness, some floralness and "rock" flavor (that pronounced rock flavor is what sets up master Huang's teas apart from the others I had). It is complex and good. The aftertaste lasts long and is complemented by "fiery cooling". There is some qi I like.
Despite its many undeniable qualities, I was only "very pleased", not excited. At this price level, a bit of excitation would be a welcome addition. In this, the tea sort of reminds me of 2009 Mayard Chateauneuf du Pape Crau de ma mére which I had yesterday - very good, many qualities, but no excitement (on the other hand, the fellow tasters were excited by that one so it may be just me).
This has made a step in the right direction from the 2011. Both aroma of dry and wet leaves, as well as the taste are deeper and more characteristic. There are some really good baked chestnuts, some powidl, with a bit of herbs in the background (and magnolia maybe? A bit strange, I know...). I can imagine this tea sweeter, but the sweetness is sufficient as it is and due to a very good thickness, the tea does not feel empty at all. It's a lovely piece. It keeps the very good mouthfeel of the 2011 version, as well as long and pleasant aftertaste.
Surprisingly, it seemed to me that this one had notably higher astringency than the 2011 version.
Right from opening the pouch, it was absolutely obvious that this tea is not anymore anywhere near its younger counterparts. First, there is only a trace amount of fire in the aroma. Second, it is the first yancha with this high aroma of dried fruit and meadow flowers. Pleased to meet you, mr. 2004 Shui Xian!
The wet leaves emit a rather brutal aroma of dense, extreme sweetness, dried, as well as overripe fruit (apples, pears, lychee), some raspberries with chocolate. There is also an aroma I almost forgot - pearwood. That wood has a most peculiar, strangely sweet aroma and it is here, in this tea. "Beautifully decadent", I think of the aroma. The heaviness and overripeness is formidable indeed.
I am fed up with inexperienced vendors who market every run of the mill tea as "unbelievable", "incredible", "royal" and all that. However, I guess that this Shui Xian proves me inexperienced too - I find this tea to be a very new and indeed difficult-to-believe experience!
The taste is, similarly to the aroma of the wet leaves, complex, heavy, supersmooth and very good. It is a brutal, explosive mixture of overripe and dried fruits, with some dried meadow flowers. As steepings come and go, a coconut aspect makes an appearance and with lychee being more dominant in some steepings, I realize that this tea rather reminds me of Lapsang Souchong in some steepings. On the other hand, the similarity is not too strong, it's that just these teas share some features.
Expecting the fire gone away in the mouthfeel, I did not expect too much in means of cooling/tingling. Proved wrong again. Indeed, there is none of that youthful fiery cooling, but there is a very good and very long activity, not unlike that in old-tree puerh. Maybe the age of the trees plays its role here?
Qi was in line of the previous versions - good, calm, not dominating the session. Maybe it made me hear my heartbeat a bit louder and more excited than the 2010 and 2011 SX, but it may have been just a local state of mind...
I'm terribly glad I tried this one, despite its nontrivial cost. I think that it's sometimes good to invest such money into "XP points". I feel levelled up after drinking this tea (yay, one more magic missile!)
It has certainly been an educational journey, observing these Shui Xians as they age. I must try the other vintages eventually. For drinking young, I'd rather take the Bu Zhi Chun or Tie Luo Han over the 2010 and 11 Shui Xian, but the 2004 version shows that some very serious aging happens, definitely far beyond my expectation and imagination.