I thought I would share my first experiences with this tea that I am pleased to see so many others enjoying as much as I do. I first came into contact with it through Wang Shilin, a middle-aged man with the coolest black 1950’s glasses. (Though I am not sure that they were meant to be hip particularly). Wang Shilin represented Xingyang Workshops offerings in the city of Qingdao, near Laoshan Mountain where I source my green teas and the Laoshan black.
I first came across him on a search for a brick of old Yabao tea to give to my wife for Christmas. He was the only guy in Qingdao who even know what Yabao was, as it isn’t normally seen outside of Yunnan. We drank tea together all day, starting with a white tea brick from Xingyang workshop, and moving into pu’er. He didn’t realize until later in the day how interested in pu’er I was. He was so excited to see a younger person drinking pu’er. He was lamenting over how so many young people in China drink cola or coffee with milk.
It wasn’t until we had become friends and I was on my way out that he looked sort of shiftily around and pulled out a little paper bag of pu’er leaves. He asked me to try it at home and come back next week to talk again. You could tell that this tea was one of his secrets. I knew that he was extremely proud of it.
Of course, I went right home and tried the tea- I won’t even try to describe it. It was hard enough to write a description for the website without going on tangents about memory, childhood, spiritual experience, etc. This is just one of those teas. You can’t help but be moved by it. Every time I brew it at a tasting, everyone starts talking about Grandma’s attic, or that time when they went to Maine, or the library of their old school.
I waited three days (that is the rule for second dates, right?) before rushing back to Wang Shilin’s shop and telling him all about the tea. He had the expression on his face of knowing exactly what I was going to say, and feeling satisfied to hear it out loud. He brewed it up for me again, explaining how different Xingyang is. The tea liquor was perfectly crystalline, he pointed out. Many old pu’er may get more complex, but they can also get murkier over time. Xingyang’s does not.
Honestly, having two, dwindling tins of this tea on my shelf at home was a big impetus in going into business. Now that I am back in touch with my tea friends, I am assured access to my beloved Xingyang 1998.
I must say though, I was only able to get 30 tins, or six pounds of this total in my last shipment and it was pretty hard to convence Xingyang to part with it. This tea may soon be a memory itself…