So, I think that Verdant’s Xingyang 1998 pu’er is one of the best pu’ers out there. When I saw that Verdant brought in another, younger pu’er from the same workshop, I was really excited to try it.
The dry leaves look really different (they are very small little buds instead of the giant twisting leaves of the 1998). Smelling them, however, is that same, satisfying musty Xingyang smell. Light, bright and clean, but undeniably old-smelling, like that great library smell.
Once steeped, the leaves start to distinguish themselves from their older cousin. They smell like warm tree pulp or maybe tobacco. They also really remind me of one of the woven bamboo mats we use on our tea tray when it has tea poured over it, or of woven reed shoes and being in a room covered with tatami mats (the description is definitely spot on about that part).
The smell of the liquid is really warm and cozy (more on the brown sugar/caramel end of the spectrum), and reminds me in aroma and color of the Twin Elephants Golden Buds brick.
My notes on the taste of this tea suddenly drop off and are really sketchy. I became distracted and too excited; I was too busy talking to my drinking partner about what I was tasting to remember to pull my pen back out. Here’s what I can reconstruct from nine scribbled words and an arrow:
If the Xingyang 98 reminds me of a lunar landscape, the 2007 has all of those same qualities, but brought back down to Earth. This tea feels like it was made by those same hands, but for real human beings, not just some terrific/terrible other-wordly beings. This shares the same soul, but still has the breath of life in it, not yet distilled to the spiritual essence. If 1998 is the cool glow of twilight and dawn, this is the burning, heady redness of dusk and sunrise.
Sure, there are tastes too (brown sugar/caramel, musty yet perfectly lightweight and airy, bamboo, celery notes and..in later steepings.. that delicious, crystalline sweetness of the back of a postage stamp or new book-binding glue), but that doesn’t really describe my experiences with this tea. This is excellent!! I love how fibrous and alive this feels (there is also a tingling, vibrating texture, if I’m remembering correctly), and I love what a great companion tea this is for the 1998.
It definitely stands on its own, but it’s so much more fun and exciting in context. I am excited to see what this will turn into in ten more years, but it is also perfectly drinkable now. I feel like I’m allowed to have this more often than my other Xingyang, both because of the age and lower price, and because I feel like it’s something that fits in more easily to everyday life. This can transport you, but it feels less dangerous than the 1998 (with that tea, you are practically guaranteed to reveal hidden about yourself; you won’t be able to resist coming closer to those you’re drinking with, or learning something new about yourself). This tea opens that door for me, but I feel like I’m being given a choice. I can walk through of my own free will, or I can linger at the doorway, peeking in, and then turn my head to enjoy the present as a simple, sensory experience.
Alas, I feel I am beginning to make less and less sense, so I will try in vain to sum up. This is a great tea that I am happy to add to my collection. On its own and paired with its older relative, it continues my pu’er and tea flavor education. This will be exciting to watch grow, and a pleasure to enjoy drinking on a more every day basis. I definitely recommend it to folks who’ve been drinking pu’ers for a long time, and for those who are just getting started.
I hope there will be other Xingyang offerings from Verdant in the future. They’re operating at such a high level; they’re going to raise the standards and expectations of what pu’er can be, and that is a good thing.
steeped in a gaiwan over multiple steepings, as always