pátek 21. prosince 2012

1998 Xiaguan Loose Leaf

This tea has rather recently appeared at Jingteashop's site, and was brought to the Czech republic by Longfeng. It is highly commendable that if one wants to buy the tea in small quantity, then the Longfeng price is almost as good as at Jingteashop (but you do not have to pay the shipping; you probably would not have to pay VAT for such a small parcel) - obviously, the profit will be made on buying larger amount of the tea - that's how reselling should be done, in my opinion. I may not like the exclusive pact between Longfeng and Jingteashop, but it works well in this particular case.

So, where do we start? We start with a rather cheap 98 tea ($0.3-0.5 per gram, depending on how much you buy), purportedly from Xiaguan (it's their style indeed). Some people have told me how incredibly good this tea is. Some told me that it's nice. I'm with the second group. I think that if you accept that this is basically a young tea (which Jingteashop says too), then it is enjoyable - just don't expect an aged tea.

The leaves are brown and quite lovely (with occasional pretty rusty-looking pieces). Although this tea is aging slowly, it does age after all.

The aroma of dry leaves is pleasant, like lightly aged camhor with a touch of smoke.

The aroma of rinsed leaves, cups and pitcher is sweet, spicy and very lovely. It is also quite intense, filling the whole room (even more than the Mankouxiang I have).

The liquor is very light for a 98 tea. My rule of thumb for puerh from 90s is - if you stick a thumb in a deep cup and can easily see the fingertip, the liquor is light and it points to dry storage.

The taste is actually nice too, although it does not feel that interesting to me as the aroma does. The smoke is only very light in the taste and it is pleasant, rather than not. It is a good, natural smoke, at moments resembling Lapsang Souchong-style of smoke (when I did it gongfu-style; the smoke is more ordinary in a tester). Light candy fruitiness is also present, along with some camphor (these three tastes are both present in some Xiaguans, namely 8563 or Happy Tuo). When I pushed the tea a bit, there was some of that "red fruitiness" which I'm generally afraid of because dry storage makes it taste very sour. However, in this tea, it is ok, it lends a nice, although gentle taste. When the tea is pushed a bit, the sharp sourness (as if you chew sorrel) can appear, but it is not a tea-ruiner as in some drier stored teas. 

Overall, it seems to me that the tea is a lighter one - it has several light taste components which work allright together, but there is nothing dominant, no obvious direction where the tea goes, maybe except "Xiaguan-style" indeed. When the tea is pushed, it is more definable, but then it suffers from the sourness.

Also, the taste does not last as long as I'd expect in a 98 tea (or, better said, it lasts long, but the amount of taste drops quite low quite quickly and then stays there for a longer time), not quite as thick as I would desire, but enjoyable anyway. At least there is a hint of pleasant long-term aftertaste which could work very well when the tea becomes more aged.

The tea offers a pleasant tingling which tends to last long. This tea seems to be at the right side of the blade of "this is too dry storage", i.e., it is dry, but not as dry as to ruin the tea. It is light, it is undeveloped, but it is still active.

Qi is, I'm afraid, in a slumber. The tea is not energy-less, but the energy is not released in me when I drink it. 

I enjoyed this tea, although not nearly as much as some other people. It may have a good potential for further storage (if, and that is a critical if, you have a place with reasonable humidity); for immediate drinking, I'd take something else. It is funny to remember how, some years ago, I first read The leaf (the article mentioned in the previous post) where Mr. Fisher (Wu De) says he'd take mildly wet stored over a dry stored one. I thought "why, my god?" Now, after I became a tea drinker (instead of part-time drinker, part-time listener-to-vendors), I wholeheartedly agree (unless we're speaking of 30-40 years old teas).
However, when this tea is compared to dry stored teas from finepuer, e.g., 95 or 2001 7542s, it suits me better than these (and they are quite expensive at Finepuer too). This 98 Xiaguan seems quite comparable (a bit better, I'd say) to these 2003 Xiaguan "Marks" available at sampletea (they are slightly cheaper).

There is a small controversy, when it comes to the Longfeng announcing that the tea has arrived to their stock:
"...(list of teas that arrived)  1998 Xia Guan Pu-erh... So far, I have tasted only the puerh and despite all the delays and problems - this is an astonishing tea."

Positively attuned teachums thought "Hey, this will be really awesome, got to try that".
I, on the other hand, thought...wait...he's seriously admitting that he first bought the tea and then tasted it and says how great it is? Is that how you go through hundres of teas and source only the best for your customers?

Now, Longfeng generally does have good tea as it buys from Jingteashop and Teamasters which both carry good stuff - so, if Longfeng says that some of their teas is good, it is likely that it is. But to an unknowing person, the order of "first buy, then describe" sounds prone to the "have-to-praise-to-sell" approach. And the 10times more superlatives used than it is reasonable (imho) just supports the hypothesis.

I fail to see an astonishing tea in this Xiaguan 98 (and I'd be surprised to, given its rather low price). Sadly, the more tea I drink, the less astonishing teas I find. More and more often it's "like" or "dislike", but "Wow!" teas are becoming scarce. In that post which was deleted from Longfeng facebook (along with me), I replied to those (including the owner) who complained that Hobbes did not praise the Dragon of Bulang high enough. I pointed out that Hobbes has drank so much tea that if he says that a tea is good, it means it will be probably great for those who did not drink nearly as much, because he has so much more experience.

Btw., a small note to my Czech readers who have enjoyed this tea greatly - consider buying some aged (be prepared for a lot more aged) tea from Essence of tea - the shipping is rather low, the package comes quite fast and it may give you a lot. Except I'm afraid, that after drinking a couple of their teas (it may take a while to get used to), you may not find this 98 Xiaguan as exciting.

Btw2. Now I've read on Longfeng site (in the review of Vse o caji pro cajomily) that:

  • čaje Pu erh nemají mít „zvláštní zemitou chuť a vůni“, ta je znakem špatné kvality a chyby ve zpracování či velmi vlhkého zrání
  • popis chutí archivních Pu erhů na straně 123 jednoznačně odpovída padělku či přinejlepším tzv. wet storage („mech, spadané podzimní listí a les po dešti“ - ???)

  • which translates as:
    a) Puerh tea should not have "special earthy taste and smell", which is a sign of bad quality and processing mistake or very wet storage
    b) The description of taste of aged puerh on page 123 is clearly of a fake or, at best, wet storage ("moss, fallen autumn leaves and forest after rain"-???).

    Excuse me? Qing bing or that dry stored 8653 from EoT are dry stored, yet both sporting the features mentioned aboved. All the teas from 70s and 80s I had did too. Except that 84 Xiaguan tuo, which, however, is not particularly great, nor aged much, in my opinion. 

    I.e. - I did the mistake of believing too much to what some people said, instead of drinking a lot of tea and making my own opinions. If I may suggest a thing, at least think of doing the same.

    6 komentářů:

    1. Thinking that tea is astonishing is medical condition

    2. Hi,
      I do not think it's that bad :) Although I do agree that it's nothing to write home about either.

      It has a lot of tastes going together, I think that some people can get excited over that...

    3. Hmmm, I think there's a very slight distinction here.

      First, any soil tastes and smells should smell clean. Well stored puerh, wet or dry, will smell and taste like soil you'd want to eat as a kid.

      Second, from my perspective, you can always do better than something that tastes predominantly of soil. The good stuff generally just has a clean warehousing taste, and that soil is balanced by many other flavors, if the leaf grade is towards the tippy. Broader leaves will have distinct and desirable flavors well beyond soil. They will taste of ginseng, of traditional chinese medicine, of plums, of many other interesting things.

      There are those aged shengs that do taste predominantly of laid-back soil and some undefinable wood or other heavy flavors. Don't be fooled into thinking that it's much more than tolerable. Aged sheng is capable of leading a symphony in your mouth, or an awesome solo in the cases of single estate stuff. If it's like, oh, an aged 8582 without much detail in the flavor profile, best be sure you're at least getting things like body, sweetness, and qi. Do be aware that well aged older tea is totally hoarded, and it's hard to get your mitts on something that's that's not disposable. If you find something truly good, after you've some experience to know what's what, you *will* be forced to pay a high price for that item, and it will never get better, price or availability-wise, so don't miser out if you can avoid it.

      1. Dear Shah,
        I agree with you on both fronts here. The cleanliness is an important factor indeed. I.e., the Xiaguan 8653 Trad. stored from EoT was a lot muddier and "mixed together" than the dry stored one. Also, just as you say in the second part, there was a lot more going on in means of taste, which was not particularly interesting in the trad. stored, while it was quite lovely in the dry stored.

        Indeed, the teas I considered good (and were drier stored) all had something beyond the soil/undefinable wood.

        I just thought that it's pretty strange to say that the above mentioned (moss, forest after rain,...) are signs of fake or wet storage. It just sounds so much to me like sour grapes.

        Btw. what do you call high price? $5/gram? $100/gram?

      2. Price is hard to gauge, because it's dependent on what's available, in what condition. It's also dependent on your connections, and how tight you are with your supplier of choice. Lastly, there is a nasty tendency to have an outdated sense of what is an outrageous price. When I started, I could buy the XZH '06 Yiwu or the '07 Dian Gu, and they were $110 and $96. I could buy any number of LBZ without breaking any banks, no matter how boutique it was. LBZ was merely very expensive, and not outrageous like it is now. I could buy a whole ounce of 1960s sheng for less than $200. I could say the same for a 250g box of really good aged 80s shu. By May-June of 2011, this was all a fantasy. Before the spring of 2007, pretty much the entirety of the puerh world was available (outside of pre 1949 pu cakes, but samples could be had). XZH LBZ was $68.50, and the great cakes of the 80s and 90s could be had for reasonable, if very expensive prices.

        Today, it's difficult simply to buy a decent cake at times, and that's really where the challenge is. You don't stick to some number identifying what's expensive or not, such as, say, 30ct a gram, which my arbitrary mark for an expensive new sheng. Even that is outdated, since the kind of cakes I used to identify with such prices are now around 50ct a gram or more. It's even worse with older cakes. So leaving aside the question of basic affordability, which is an obvious limitation, it's better to focus on the question of what is a good cake or not.

        Two basic missions--you want to hold down the costs of your future puerh consumption, and you want to buy the best tea you can afford for the special moments, or when you need to treat yourself as therapy. They are mutually contradictory because drinkable and cheap tea becomes expensive and unavailable eventually. The elite tea becomes very expensive, if it's not really any good, and unavailable if it is--with the obvious exception of very famous teas that are liquid enough to sell, one way or another. Thus, purchase is entirely an opportunistic activity--you have plenty of money, you had the time to do a decent amount of research, and have 10000 brews under your belt. All this, up against a merchant that wants to sell tea and make money, with the consequence that there is a lucky moment where you can buy lots of a very decent tea, or walk in on a deal to buy an elite tea. And it's not someone trying for the Nth time to scam you out of extra cash, the real chance. How much it costs then, is how much it cost, and thinking about how expensive that is, is what makes one a peasant who is impressed by the price of the thing, and not the thing itself, and whom promptly fills Fujin's coffers.

    4. Tento komentář byl odstraněn administrátorem blogu.