Xiaguan Tea Factory

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Recent Tasting Notes

5.9g, 100 mL roc Zini pot. 212f. 2 rinses. Not as strong medicinal taste as before, smoothed out a bit and somewhat sweeter. Better texture today, not sure if water (Brita filtered tap, per usual) or pot. Nice floral in aftertaste at one point, but fleeting. Still can hit the floral grassy note to some degree. Still not sold on this one. It’s pretty mediocre and seems to die off quickly. Not sure if it’s a pot thing, water, or my brewing, but pots seem to make teas die off quicker for me. Maybe it’s just also that I’ve burned myself one too many times so I’ve developed the habit of spending less time focused in response (let the pot sit on gongdaobei usually to pour) and that makes the time seem to fly by too.


I have a sample of this one I need to try as well.

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Ordered from LP as part of XG Kunming vs. TW storage comparison. This note is for the Kunming stored.

5.2g, 90mL gaiwan. Brita tap. Quick rinse. can’t remember dry leaf, but nothing standout. I’ve also been under the weather a bit lately, so a bit stuffy every morning.

wet leaf: BBQ smoke, hay, dark slight medicinal, mushroom. aged sheng taste, slight minty bright taste. Finish was also somewhat mushroomy and grassy initially, but then was more slight bitterness and sweetness on subsequent steeps. Can hit the medicated leaven TCM taste on longer steeps. soup is on the thin side, but not sure if this is a water thing. Not sure what the whole “rock flavor” thing is about.


I have a sample of this as well. Brewing the Camphor Sheng currently.

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Thanks to R2 for the sample!

7.0g, 100 mL duanni, Brita filtered tap.

Dry smell very clean, a sweet wood and bread-y aspect.
2×15s rinse (maybe overkill?).

Initially very clean slight bitter medicinal, with slight spiced black pepper note in taste. Really good mouthfeel, bit of cooling + sweetness in aftertaste.

2nd steep had some throatfeel, not as complex in taste, but slightly more creamy.

Occasionally a sweet metallic or caramel hint. Afterwards is consistent, mostly a sweet soft woody base, and the dried jujube profile sometimes in taste and aftertaste. Some salivating effect. Very comforting, even though didn’t seem terribly warming.

Steeps of varying times, but did 8 steeps before moving to thermos since it was getting late. Really enjoyed this, and would consider picking up a few from Sandy of SThirtyTea if I had extra space and cash. At S30’s .65/g price (keep in mind: pre-currency exchange fees, etc. though, because I tend to forget about those and get blindsided last minute by how ridiculous PayPal rates are), I think it’s a fair enough deal given the age. It does not appear to be a steal, and I’m not really inclined to run to buy it. I also have not tried enough aged shou to judge value well, but based on this session, I would be unwilling to pay the Jade Leaf price of ~.95/g or Camellia Sinensis’ ~$1.17/g (not sure if this one is different material though since loose leaf?) for this.

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Thanks to R2 for the sample!

2017 Xiaguan Jingmai “Gushu” shou

7.0g, 90 mL gaiwan, Brita filtered tap, boiling

Dry leaf is pretty standard shou smell, slightly sweet and slight fishiness

18s rinse

Wet leaf is smoky sweet fishiness initially and later more of a woody honeyed smell

9s: nice mouthfeel. A woody medicinal slight bitter sweetness. Slight cooling on tongue after.

12s: similarly nice mouthfeel. Tastes more medicinal than before, but also the slight sweetness is stronger in this cup. Same cooling on tongue, but lingering more than before.

12s: similar, but less sweet and less cooling afterwards.

12s: a muted woody taste with a light bready-sweetness

12s: generic woody shou taste. Shook up the gaiwan to break up the chunks that were stick stuck together, which I later regret doing. The tiny particles that usually filter in the strainer must’ve broken down too much because they ended up repeatedly clogging the strainer after, and I had to wait for the tea to drip through every steep at an aggravating pace despite clearing it out each time.

12s: A medicinal slight sweetness though not much else of note

20s: forgot to take notes, but not memorable

1 min. 20s: light sweetness amidst generic shou background.

Will thermos the rest since it’s not interesting enough to me to continue from here

Overall: I can see why LP mentions a floral likeness, though I would not have described it that way myself. At .24/g, I’m not expecting anything earth shattering, and this tea, specifically in its initial steeps, punches above its weight considering price. It was nice to try this since I’ve been tempted to blind cake this before and I’m glad I didn’t since I prefer sweeter shous.

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2003 Xiaguan Jiaji tuo

Purchased from Liquid Proust
HK natural stored

6.0g, 100 mL gaiwan, 212f, Brita filtered tap

This was a pain to break apart and I ended up with a fair amount of dust and holes in my puer tray… the 6.0g here is all chunks though, so should be an okay session. Have never tried any XG tuos, so this should be an interesting reference tea session

20s rinse

Dry leaf smells slightly sweet, but nothing else of note. Not very aromatic, but I’ve also been noticing that some of my Bovedas need to be rehydrated so this might be dried out. I’m not sure.

Wet leaf smells just like aged sheng slightly mushroomy. But also none of the chunks have really come apart. Let it sit in the gaiwan for a bit before continuing.

8s: a light sweet mushroomy aged sheng taste, very slight menthol. Light sweet aftertaste. A warming feeling

10s: good aged light mushroomy woody taste, a hint of what might’ve been bitterness in its youth. A vegetal/minty and slight sweet aftertaste.

10s: slight sour medicinal aged mushroomy taste. Slight sweet aftertaste. Nothing special here but this is really easy drinking. If not for the pain of breaking up a tuo (some sessions probably will be majority fannings…) and slight annoyance at the rising cost, I would love to stock up on these for years to come.

10s: slight smoky bitterness atop the general aged taste. Cooling minty aftertaste with a nice bit of sweetness. Slight aroma mouth and upper throat.

12s: stronger sweet medicinal along with the usual sour mushroomy aged taste. Slight menthol and cooling aftertaste

12s: a slight sour rubbery taste. Leaves a drying feeling on tongue. Slight crushed mint aspect to it.

10s: light, nothing exciting

15s: light, mushroomy slight sour, but also slight sweetness. Tinge of astringency.

18s: generic aged sheng taste, very light medicinal bitterness. Slight cooling minty sweetness in aftertaste.

30s: color is still decent, but taste is pretty light, probably owing to the nature of a choppy factory blend. Will probably cap this session and thermos soon.

1 min.: surprisingly sweet woodiness. Slight hint of bitterness. Some drying, but fades pretty quickly.

1 min: light in taste, drying on tongue, but sweet aftertaste that turns into an almost wood chip like character. Sort of odd, not sure what to make of it.

2 min. 10s: Light taste, but still decently sweet aftertaste

2 min. 30s: similar

3 min. 10s: light herbal aged taste

5 min.: pretty light and not evolving much at this point. Will thermos remainder

Overall: some warming on the first steep, but slight warming comes and goes with the rest.

I like this far more than I expected. Also this steeped out for much longer than I expected from the other Xiaguans I’ve tried. ’03 must have been a good year.
Anyway, 36c/g isn’t terribly far fetched for a sheng in a nice spot with nearly 18 years of aging since this was produced back in December of ’03, but it’s painful knowing how cheap these were even a few years back. Someone has to pay for the prime HK real estate, I guess.


I could have almost sold you a cake at that price. Old stuff is expensive for sure. Still deals out there though.

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A Taiwan stored version that had some traditional storage on it. There are hints of the strorage in the first cup. Very small touch of bitter hardly there. A little drying that goes fairly to sweet quickly. Second cup brings more of the bitter note that rounds the corner with some camphor and mintiness hiding in there as well.
I don’t get the thickess as I do with some teas but this coats the mouth and feels a bit slippery for a few seconds on the tongue. Some mintiness but the Camphor on this is really nice. Good to find a tea that has some storage that doesn’t wash it out completely. I am probably getting the bitter as a harder hit since I was brewing the scraps of a few cakes up. Def a good one if you want to explore puerh a bit more. Some of the older factory cakes are way better and less pricey than most of the new factory stuff.

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 10 g 100 OZ / 2957 ML

We got a live one!


Yeah had to do a few cups. Switched over some of my drinking habits. Back to the good stuff.


I’m always surprised that Xiaguan teas don’t get as much attention in Western tea communities as some of the other big factory teas. I also remember when both Xiaguan and some of the better Xiaguan fakes were extremely cheap. I snapped up a bunch from several different sources between 2015-2017. I won’t even go near Dayi stuff now unless I can get reasonably priced samples. Their newer cakes are just too expensive for me, and I don’t think the quality is there compared to some of the older productions.


@eastkyteaguy I feel the same. Properly aged XG is nice and they are the second biggest producer in China. They have had a rap as a smoky tea early on and the older stuff for sure has that aspect to it. The newer stuff is processed differently in many occasions. I have been buying up some good older XG and way cheaper than the new Dayi and boutique productions out there. When you can buy a new Dayi for $100+ I will opt for getting 2 XG’s with age for the same price.


Could not agree more that XG with 15-20 years on it is a damned fine thing. I had some iron cakes stored in Malaysia and they were mighty good.


@ J-P I am actually selling some XG products and some other stuff on the side. It has allowed me to dig up some really good older stuff.

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2013 Xiaguan Love Forever, Paper Tong, TW stored
Liquid Proust Teas
7.3g, 80mL shuiping, 212f Poland spring water

Curious to see what the hype is all about…

Dry leaf smells pretty dried fruity, but has been stored with my other samples, so that could be it too

10s rinse

Wet leaf is a dark smoky herbal medicinal with a touch of fruit, so essentially all the good aged sheng hallmarks. Something about is reminiscent of gasoline but not quite there

8s: bitter citrus tinged medicinal in the vein of the TCM stomach pain medicine my parents would make me drink as a kid. Aftertaste has a slight mint hint on the edges of sweetness.

12s: similar, but with a deeper medicinal bitterness. Leaves mouth and teeth a little dry, with a crisp sugary aftertaste, but is very fleeting.

18s: Bitterness in the TCM medicine aspect is very strong. Not much aftertaste, still drying.

22s: similar vein but a touch of fruitiness to complement what was there. Not much in the way of aftertaste… given that I leafed on heavier side and am left w abt 60-65mL per steep after accounting for leaf displacement, I can’t say I’m super impressed with this so far. I did probably set my expectations too high given how much hype is around LFPT though. As of this steeping, I would not purchase a cake (the lame cheesy wrapper is so tempting though I gotta say… all my other cake wrappers are on the boring side), though I’m curious to see how this will change over time and if the bitterness and drying will fade any. Granted, the maocha is from 2003, so it’s already aged quite a bit. Am feeling some jitters from caffeine, but also some calming effect. Not much in the way of warming or other effects that I might’ve been expecting from the qi, so pretty light in this one

30s: in between steeps I read through Shah8 and Oolong Owl’s notes. I smelled the leaves and I agree that there is a plummy aspect, though light. This aspect is something I’ve smelled before in aged sheng leaves but I’ve never noted it because it’s fairly subtle to me (probably would’ve just noted a slight woody fruity and left it there) and I wouldn’t have been able to distinctly point it out without reading other’s notes on it. It’s one of those things that you can’t unsee I suppose. I guess I am still sort of dense when it comes to this type of thing because the only time I’ve noted plums is when I was bowled over with the association from aged oolongs.
Taste is still medicinal, though less bitter and more of a forward fruity aspect. Something slightly crisp sugar and floral in the brief aftertaste.

40s: lightened, though with crisper aftertaste

1 min. 30s: still steeps a nice color but not much taste to it except a fruity bitterness

4 min.: something about this smell reminds me of tart apple skin. Still a light taste like before. Will do one more steep and thermos remainder

10 min.: quite bitter again. into the thermos this goes

Overall: Good texture overall, though this is something that is usually hard to evaluate for me due to usually using tap and getting thinner brews. I’m glad I never blind bought a cake, since the number of times I’ve felt tempted to is far greater than I care to admit. The bitter medicinal draws up more or less not too pleasant of connotations for me, and it was definitely the most drying tea I’ve had in quite a while, which was none too pleasant. Perhaps I would’ve been more generous if I hadn’t come in with such high expectations but that’s the downside of reading too many favorable reviews beforehand

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2011 XG Huang Jin Yun 下关黄金韵 (simplified) or 下關黃金韻 (traditional)
From LiquidProustTeas, ordered as part of golden Xiaguan sampler
212f, Brita filtered tap, 6.6g, 100 mL gaiwan
Dry leaf has a light mushroomy smell
10s rinse
wet leaf has something of a burnt wood, campfire-y smell. Dark, but not nearly as forward or as crisp as a lapsang souchong might be.
7s: herbaceous and cooling, leaving a slight minty edge on the tongue. Lightly woody and mushroomy
11s: definitely brisk as LP’s description said. A bitter note appears that fades into the same herbaceous, cooling, and mushroomy profile overall
15s: less bitter, more rounded. More cooling with the mint edge sort of way, but less herbaceous and mushroomy.
25s: bitter woody mushroom. The minty edge is much lightened and takes on an almost sweet aspect
31s: losing steam. A bit drying.
1 min: woody water with an edge. Tossing into thermos.
Overall: Glad I finally got around to trying this one. Need to get better at sample organization, as I have unintentionally built up a sample backlog that probably rivals my actual tea collection, which is a little sad for me. slight caffeine buzz. Would recommend to leaf heavier on this one. A very affordable aged tea (pressed from 2003 maocha) if you like this profile, and probably hard to beat for the price + age + HK storage (from what I can tell anyway, and I believe LP sourced from Cloud’s Teahouse iirc). Not a personal favorite, but I can’t say I particularly dislike it either.

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7.2g, 100 mL gaiwan, Brita filtered tap, 212f or just off the boil

5s rinse

dry aroma is a bit earthy

wet aroma just like a sheng, not much else I could pick up. tea smell has a bit of mushroom and age, but that could just be my cha hai starting to accumulate aged smells (oops)

5s: slightly dried fruity in the aftertaste. initial taste is a bit peppery, then slight sweet in taste and aftertaste.

3s: mildly sweet

5s: brew darkened. darker medicinal notes creep in, with hint of astringency and cool lingering feel.

10s: same as before. less sweet, more of a peppery bite in slight medicinal undertones

12s: bitterness is slight, but present.

20s: bitter

did some more steepings, but this one was iffy for me, as the bitterness was a bit much. Even the thermos brew overnight didn’t remove bitterness, but merely lightened it and thickened brew w/ slight bit of grainyness/peanut-y of thermos sheng. Probably needs more aging to take off more of the harsh edges.


That old BuLang bite to it.


I was surprised, given the age already on it. Curious to see what people say about it in the years to come!


I have some aged in Taiwan that has a lot of the rough stuff taken off. Going to be a good one to have.

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I’ve got and love the 2006 version of this. So I’m comparing the age really at this point. I purchased these from King Tea Mall and they appear to be fairly ‘dry stored’.

Still pretty raw and bitter, this doesn’t have the ‘baked goods’ flavours present in the older cakes. I haven’t let this ‘air out’ either. I just couldn’t resist chipping off a chunk to brew up.

The compression isn’t rock hard, but it’s tight and you can see some nice silver haired buds present throughout the cake. No green remains.

I’m steeping it today in a little 90ml porcelain gaiwan and I used 4.5g of leaves. Boiling spring water with a quick 5-sec rinse.

The initial steepings are mild grassy and floral. The scent from the lid is strongly one of honey or honeysuckle flowers. The leaf smell is musty and sweet but without any fermentation whiff. Very clean.

Somewhat typical XG flavours are exhibited, but it is initially mildly sweet, hay-grassy and floral. After steep 4 it starts turning more sour and leathery and is very reminiscent of stuffed vine leaves with the mild and pleasant astringency of olive stones.

These later leaf smells remind me of stables and a wet spring day.

The vine-leaf and olives would lend themselves well to a good Mediterranean meal.

The body on this isn’t thick at all but is smooth and the broth is clear and a glowing orange/amber.

I’ll stick to drinking my way through my 2006 stack (for a few years). But this is a favourite ‘daily drinker’ class from XiaGuan and I’m happy that I have a stack ageing. If you like the more savoury and bitter notes this would be a winner.

4 out of 5 for me.

Flavors: Hay, Honeysuckle, Leather, Olives, Vineyards

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 90 ML

It will only get better with good storage. 10 years from now it will be a gem in your cupboard.


Thanks @mrmopar for sure, I’m glad I got it for that reason. I’ve definitely got some other stuff that’s super bitter.

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A quick review on this. I possess just one of these ‘premium’ 250g tuo and I should have ordered more. I just noticed the price double, don’t you hate when that happens? It’s mildly irritating.

It’s made of decent early spring material from 2007 and has aged very nicely.

I tested it in both Duan’ni and Zhu’ni pots – the Duan’ni polishes off any edge, but this tea has hardly any of that.

I’m looking, in my glass, at what resembles a thick-robed brandy.

Silky and full-bodied, with a soft in the mouthfeel.

The flavour begins with hints of straw and leather but gets more starchy and progresses toward a mild-sweetness very reminiscent of stewed pears (or maybe softened peaches or apricots) with a little demerara sprinkled on top.

Mildly fruity, but without any tartness or sign of sourness. Possibly a bit of an almond-skin or walnut astringency in the later steeps.

It also just keeps going… I’m on brew 12 now? I lost count after 9.

This really is very drinkable and would be a classy every day tea.

It isn’t punchy at all, Though not ‘thick’, it’s definitely full in body and plenty of this silky body holds through all of the brews which is fairly rare. In my experience (so far) this usually fades away far more noticeably.

I’ve added this to the list for future buys and I’m on my first brew, so I’d call this a very positive first impression. (I’ll edit this if I get bored of it or change my mind).

4 to 5-star tea and a solid ‘would recommend’.

Flavors: Apricot, Brown Sugar, Butter, Hot Hay, Pear, Stewed Fruits

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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This is quite nice. It has the typical Xiaguan sweet and smoky profile. It seems a little less pungent and a little easier on the palate than the 2006 Te Ji that is my main Xiaguan reference. Very cheap and great value.

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I’m on a bit of a ‘tuo’ bender…

This is a very fine example. It’s like honey and baked sweet pastry on the after-breath. Not a typical smokey and leathery Xiaguan tuo. Most similar to the ‘golden ribbon’ but this is sweeter.

10 to 12 decent infusions.

5-star tea. It’s so good in fact, that I immediately bought more.

Flavors: Honey

7 g 3 OZ / 90 ML

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Ooooh, yeah!
This tea is still pungent and fragrant and has a lot of punch to it, yet it is made from already aged material (from 2008 if I recall correctly). The tea is very tightly compressed, which may explain why it still tastes quite ‘young’. This cake is so tightly packed you could probably send this to the moon and back.
This tea smells beautifully, I mean when you open the wrapper, the smell of nice sheng literally fills the room.
A litlle goes a long way with this fella, though you need to wait till the leaves open up. So maybe a flash steep just to get things going, and then you’re in for a very nice experience (6+ steeps).
Taste is 100% Xia guan to me: a little bitter, a very long aftertaste, round, balanced, yet with quite a lot of punch. Slightly raspy in the throat. So you would probably better start with a smallish leaves/water ratio (like around 4 g. for a 70 ml gaiwan).
Buy it while you can: this will probably age beautifully in an adequate setting. But you can definitely drink this now.

Flavors: Almond, Apricot, Astringent, Bitter, Dried Fruit, Herbaceous, Smoke, Tannic, Thick

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 30 sec 4 g 2 OZ / 70 ML

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Interesting this tea was listed but not reviewed; at any rate I just tried it. I liked it. It starts in with a bit of smoke, which ramps up on the second infusion and then tapers back off later. That transitions to a sort of char effect as a primary aspect, sort of similar to a heavily roasted oolong (common to really cooked TGY and Wuyi Yancha, just the char part), in late rounds not unlike French Roast coffee, all over a warm, heavy mineral base range. So why did I like that so much, being mainly smoke and char effect? Somehow it was clean and balanced in spite of that, with good complexity and sweetness that compensated, with a promising nice feel and aftertaste effect. I don’t think it’s aged as ready to drink just yet, or at least far from its peak in the version I tried, which probably aged a bit slower for being from Kunming, sold through the Chawang Shop. But I’d still enjoy it just as it is now, and expect it to change quite a bit over the next 3 to 5 years, to finish off transitioning in a nice way. A much longer review version, compared with a Tulin T868 tuocha version:


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So, I’m presently having the ‘06 Xiaguan Gold Thread tuo. This is the fifth Xiaguan tuo I’ve tried. Both productions of the Dali Tuo production I can get with. This one falls into the latter category, I’m afraid. It’s not as bad as the Nanzhao tuo or the Red Chamber, the latter I’m chalking up to still needing time, thinking optimistically. However, the Nanzhao and the Gold Thread share traits that I had chalked up for “storage.” It’s not. They’re from different vendors neither providing other items that gave me pause about storage conditions. Both the Nanzhao and the Gold Thread smell like foot. The Nanzhao tuo is undrinkable. The Gold Thread is drinkable, with hints of fruit, tobacco, ashtray, and minerals. Nice and sudsy. Decent storage with a deep brown color. Interestingly, the Nanzhao cake is great. The Dali Tuo are too. As far as raw smoky productions, I feel Haixintang makes the best.

Flavors: Ash, Dried Fruit, Mineral, Tobacco

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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2006 Xiaguan Te Ji Sheng Tuo through Teasenz

This morning I set out to cure an odd, single-beer hangover with my freshly received Xiaguan tuo. Yesterday I picked up its parcel from the tobacco shop, so that means I can first-handedly confirm that this tea indeed smells of… well, maybe not so much of tobacco as of tobacco shop. (Not that it had picked up its smell at all; this is just the Xiaguan tobacco profile that has aged out for a good while.)

Both the dry, warm and wet leaves say ‘tobacco shop’. Only in the first wet leaves you get ‘orchid buried in tobacco shop under shou’. Shou-like (obviously fermented) scent returned around the 4th steeping, but later on became distinctively sheng (obviously pu, not so obviously fermented, and somehow you can smell its sheng bitterness as well). Even at its 10th-or-so steep, the leaves still smell richly and warmly of tobacco.

Flavour-wise, that sheng bitterness, which in this case may even be likened to the sharpness experienced when smoking tobacco, was very present only in the first few steeps, likely caused by the tea dust from prying the tuo, all of which I simply left in.

The fourth steeping suddenly missed these bitters, and was subsequently less interesting. Greater steeping times quickly rectified this, with the bitter turning to dry wood. The tobacco smell now also turned into a flavour, and this not too complicated profile persisted for an almost endless amount of later steepings.

As I started this tea to cure my hangover, I happened to take most of it on an empty stomach, which could take it pretty well. Qi-wise I think it must be OK, but for now all of it went towards the hangover :) Later I supplemented it with a bit of whole-bread toast with butter and linden honey. Me like!

Highly recommended for people who want to quit smoking and cure a hangover at the same time (a great combination!) or replace their coffee with something of equal or greater character.

Maybe a bit uncomplicated, wondering what remains in 10+ years after the sheng bitters are completely aged out, but that’s really all just downplaying it for being cheap and bold-flavoured, which I feel are important qualities to aim for these days.

Flavors: Bitter, Orchid, Tobacco, Wood

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 120 OZ / 3548 ML

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The big dipper reviewed this a few years ago, which is why I thought I’d try it. The ‘08 has aged up quicker than the ’06 150g production of the same name. Awesome packaging of some totem venerated in the area. This might be my favourite XG because it was stored so well. The leaves are durable, sweet, and what I’ll call Wuliangy. It’s smokier than the ‘06 but they’re both pressed to kill. This leads to extended steeping times and a gradual soaking through the clod for a graduated release.

There’s a bit of interesting lore involving XG, I guess. It’s in part interesting because Communist-era production has taken on an aura. This is particularly evident in the area of teapots, but equally so regarding the old factories. So, I’m sitting drinking with this guy in Kunming and he’s talking tea. He remarks that the new productions from Dayi and Zhongcha he doesn’t have much regard for but it’s a different case with XG because they are still government-controlled. Dunno, I thought they’d all privatized, but then he continued saying that they’re required to allocate a portion of production as welfare to Tibet. A neat tid-bit.

Flavors: Sarsaparilla, Smoked, Sweet, Thick

195 °F / 90 °C 1 min, 0 sec 10 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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Tight press. Pretty light taste with medium thick body. Sweeter front and back.
Several steeps in and with cooler water, there’s a bitter fruit and stone fruit finish.
Unnamable spice in front.
Relaxing qi.

10+ steeps in – light and sweet but keeps going

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My first factory tea. Also the oldest sheng I’ve drunk to date. My tuo was acquired via Teepolku/Tea Trail based in Finland. I don’t know anything about its storage history. I’ve had mine for a while, but have wanted to get better acquainted with young sheng before trying it out. I’ve also been a bit afraid to try it, which is another reason why I’ve been holding off on it.

To deviate from my usual routine, I prepared nine grams of this tea in a 130ml gaiwan. I usually use my Yixing clay teapot which I love very much, but I guess I didn’t deem this factory production worthy of touching my beloved and my tuo also smelled very smoky so I kinda didn’t want it to impart some of that flavor to the clay. The bundle of compressed leaves was hard as a baseball and the small pieces of broken leaf and dust that primarily broke off didn’t exactly inspire confidence.

The dry leaves smelled smoky and like aged raw pu’er and placing them in the pre-heated gaiwan didn’t really reveal anything new. After a brief 10s rinse the smell became that of intense smoke and ash, but after the first proper infusion the smoke pretty much disappeared from the leaves and the scent became more and more akin to typical pu’er smell over time. The liquor also had some smoke in the first couple steeps, but this too went away over time.

After a ten minute rest I steeped the leaves for a total of ten times for approx. 10s, 10s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 35s, 45s, 65s and 110s. The leaves would have probably been good for one more uberlong steep, but I didn’t see enough value in doing that so I decided to call it at ten. Throughout the session the tea produced a nice, clear liquor with an orange hue to it, denoting its fairly reasonable age. If you paid attention to it, the tea did have some minor body to it in the mouth, but nothing that drew your attention to it.

The initial steep was both a bit smoky and fruity. In the second one these were replaced by the taste of coffee. It had both the bite and bitterness of black coffee and if you let the tea cool too much the bitterness became extremely intense surpassing that of coffee. The taste of the third infusion was a bit elusive, seeming to slip off the tongue whenever you tried to latch onto it for even just a second. I detected a taste reminiscent of the flavor you get in many black teas in their late steeps. I’ve always called this a tannic taste, although I have no idea if it’s actually what people mean when they speak of tannin. After some searching, I finally found the green raw pu’er base you can taste in many young raws, a small remnant of this tea’s humble beginnings. In the taste left lingering in your mouth you could taste a combination of the green and tannic flavors, paired with some astringency.

In the fourth steeping some sweetness finally started to emerge. The taste was a bit fruity and there was perhaps even a hint of some vanilla flavor. Once again there was a small amount of astringency and the tea was perhaps also a bit drying in the mouth. If you forgot the tea in your cup for too long and let it cool down too much, it got extremely bitter. Steep number five had multiple things going on at the same time. A characteristic raw pu’er sweetness was starting to emerge while there were some other notes going on at the same time. I’m not sure if I’d say the initial smoky flavor was making a small resurgence or if something else was going on. This was the first steep that had very notable bitterness even when you drank the tea hot, but it remained just below the threshold where it would have become uncomfortable.

The sixth infusion continued to have bitterness and astringency while the sweetness increased. The seventh was sweeter still, with a large increase in the amount of flavor as well. The sweetness was actually quite nice and had a honey-ish character to it. Surprisingly, there wasn’t all that much bitterness and only a small amount of astringency. In the last three steeps the flavors were clearly starting to taper off and the tea was reminiscent of most other pu’ers on their last legs, presenting some sweetness accompanied by some astringency.

So what’s the verdict? I was dreading I might not like this tea, which is why I’ve put it off for so long. At the same time I held hope I’d learn a lot about how aged pu’er tastes from it and find it a really pleasant tea to drink. As was to be expected, the truth lay somewhere in between.

Despite the base material being what it is, this was not a bad tea. It’s not a great tea, but it’s quite decent. You can taste that the leaf material isn’t the best, but despite that this was a fairly interesting tea to session and also pretty decent flavor-wise. I did not expect any qi from this tea and didn’t get any either. I can see this tea improving gradually over the years, but it’s never going to suddenly become stellar after a decade or two. That being said, I don’t see it being worth to try to age this one and mine isn’t going back in the pumidor. I’m going to be drinking it as part of my active rotation. For that purpose it’s actually better that this one doesn’t have qi, because that allows me to drink it anytime I want.

I don’t know how much of it stems from the leaf material being pretty chopped up, but I was a bit surprised about the amount of bitterness in this tea. It may be due to the fact that I nearly always brew sheng in clay, but I’m not used to bitterness in raw pu’er. Astringency, yes. Bitterness, no. Makes me wonder how bitter this tea was when it went on sale. I’m not one of those people who think bitterness is bad, not at all, but this tea can get a bit nasty if you let it cool down. It’s the bitterness that held me back from pushing this sheng any harder in the mid steeps in fear of it becoming undrinkable. I will have to experiment in the future how much the bitterness correlates to the steeping time.

Despite this being a fairly decent tea, I find it hard to recommend because I simply feel there are better teas you could be buying at this price point. Even if you’re looking for a simple daily drinker, I still think there are many better inexpensive alternatives available. The tea isn’t forgiving enough for a pu’er novice nor interesting enough to satisfy a more seasoned drinker. It’s an okay tea, but with so many great teas out there it simply isn’t competitive enough in my opinion.

Flavors: Bitter, Coffee, Fruity, Honey, Smoke, Vanilla

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 9 g 4 OZ / 130 ML

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