Even though many a word has been written about this little tuocha, I have been introduced to it a recently, a year ago, not knowing anything about its fame. A friend who likes Xiaguan (I do not in general) has given me mostly samples of XY brand (most of them were fine, but not much to my taste) and then there was the FT Happy tuo. It stood out between the dark-tobacco smoky stuff as different and pleasant. I was struck by its similarity to Xiaguan 2003 Jia Ji - I felt the Happy tuo to be closer to the 2003 Jia Ji than pre/post 2003 Jia Ji. Strange, I agree. It is also bears a degree of similarity to the mysterious (and extremely concentrated) 2008 Mengku of Chanteas.
Trying the Happy tuo recently, I felt it is going in the right direction and bought a bunch of them. Although I respect the 2003 Jia Ji and therefore this tuo too, it is not really the kind of tea I'd have to drink on weekly basis.
As I have tasted the 2009 Gold Ribbon few days ago, I thought I'd try another Xiaguan for a comparison. Photos first (colors are not perfect, it is actually more pinkish):
The medium amount of compression suggests that this is indeed not a common Xiaguan production.The leaves are still slightly smoky, but less than the year ago - that is why I decided to buy more of these tuos actually. The aroma is nice, gently smoky and longan-like (similar to what is commonly described as "candy", I think).
The aroma of wet leaves says "gee, I am really similar to the 2003 Jia Ji".
The taste is somewhat less similar, but the longan is still there. The taste is quite fine, rich, mellow, woody, balanced, with just a bit of smokiness (not the hard Xiaguan tobacco, rather like a gently smoked wood or a smoked cheese) and sweet tobacco. This is one of few smoky tastes that I do enjoy. Hints of overripe fruit appear, I hope (and believe) that they will become more pronounced in time. Sweetness is good, the aftertaste is nothing to write home about, but it is not disturbing at least. Overall, the features of taste point somewhere to Lincang, Mengku?
The mouthfeel of the first brew was rather weak and I was afraid that this would be another "tastes good, feels bland" factory tea, but further brews have proven me wrong - the mouthfeel actually develops very nicely and is surprisingly strong. The tea had a good degree of energy to it.
Many teas last longer - longevity is not a shining merit of this tea. It is not bad, to be sure, it is just lasts a bit shorter than the "premimum" production I've been drinking lately.
Overall, I think that as long as your expectations stay on the ground, this tuo will indeed make you happy. It currently costs $5.50 at YS (the same as Gold Ribbon when it was in stock - the Happy tuo is much more to my taste though). A good, pleasant drink with a hopefully good future.