Revisiting this – 9 months of being broken up in a jar:
I reviewed this as my first ‘sheng’ (see previous notes).
This is a fairly cheap tuo, but it’s a solid example of a ‘good’ factory standard tea. “Jia Ji” meaning that it’s made of ‘grade one’ leaf (size). It is one of many tuo-cha from Xiaguan. If you can get the FT (lit. For Taiwan), do so as slightly higher grade material is elegedly used.
My initial tasting notes taught me what a ‘bitter slap you in the face’ tea could be when drunk freshly chipped off the block.
At 8 years old (with extremely tight compression typical to Xiaguan) it’s a bit young in the tooth to have evolved into anything different. But that’s the theory we’re messing with.
Tuo specifically (especially high compression ones) are designed for Asian high-humidity environments. I’ve found very little difference between the unbroken 2006 and 2016 versions of this tea. Breaking this up and putting them all in jars was in order to get that ‘ageing’ process started.
I’d actually forgotten about the jars (moved house, changed job, covid, general 2020 nonsense).
So here I am revisiting it at the tail end of 2020 after having drunk a lot more tea. I opened up the tuo; leaving it in a loose topped glass jar inside my 65%-70% humidity closet to ‘awaken’ and forgot about it for 9 months.
I’m not sure how interesting this is to people, but I’ll note down verbatim notes as I go (and edit them later).
Pot: 120ml Yixing (so 1:15 ratio)
Temp: Right off the boil for each steep
- First wash and second wash (10 sec) discarded, just to open up the tuo
- I’m leaving the lid on between each steep and just filling a tall tasting glass.
1st Steep: 5s
Colour is a very light straw yellow
The first glass is fairly weak but astoundingly different to the last tasting notes. Zero scent of smoke or leather. No woodiness at all. Just a sweet, spring grass with honeysuckle. Clearly, the tea is still opening up as the leaves retain a powerful pong of leather and artichoke but the taste and the brew itself is just clean and sweet.
2nd Steep: 5s
Colour: Remains a pale straw yellow
Leaves are opening up a little, the flavour is building. A bit of woodiness is coming through, but it’s like nibbling on the end of an old sugar cane. Very pleasant straw/grass sweetness. Had to laugh at how little this tastes like the first tasting.
At the end of the cup, I’m getting slightly bitter mouth feel; scent in the dry cup is of dark buckwheat honey. The leaves still smell like pongy sheng (that leather/alfalfa/orchid kind of green funk).
3rd Steep: 7s
Colour: This looks like a glass of morning pee.
I’m detecting bitterness now from the start, but very light. More of the vegetal nature is coming through. There’s a slight citrus sourness and I’m feeling a dryness at the back of the tongue and throat (just a little). Smooth mouthfeel in the broth. Pleasant sweet ‘green’ taste, drifting toward the old artichoke flavour.
The dry cup still smells strongly like dark buckwheat honey. The taste lasts for a while in the mouth – dryness inducing saliva and turning sweet in the throat. Good stuff.
The leaves in the pot now smell like damp old boots (stuffed with artichoke).
4th Steep: 7s
Colour: Maybe slightly more amber.
Pretty much the same as the last infusion, maybe sweeter, but it’s left the honey territory, we’re in sweet peas or grass now (a bit of a genmaicha taste). The glass still stinks of buckwheat honey. That Pu ehr buzz has begun, will take a little break.
5th Steep: 10s
Colour: Rock steady amber pee now, those leaves have opened up.
This could go on for a while… The flavour is holding it’s form. The leaf scent in the pot has lost some of its vegetal veracity. More grasslike and less like funky leather.
6th Steep: 10s
More bitterness, but not unpleasant well balanced as the floral/honey is still there, but it’s headed off center stage.
7th – 10th: 15s / 25s
Yeah, we’re done I think (at 10). I can feel the sour edge really kicking in by the tenth infusion. I’d say you could probably go to round 12. All that happens is the bitter woody edge comes forward in the mouth and the sweetness rides off into the sunset.
A pleasurable session though and an interesting transformation from young into semi-aged sheng. I can see the sourness dying away as it ages more.
It tastes very different to the initial fresh tuo. No longer a sharp slap to the chops. The energy is very warming while I’m sitting in a cool Montreal winter basement on a damp day. It’s a nice reminder of spring and sunshine.
The only negative point is that it was a bit on the ‘simple’ side. I’d expect some older cakes to get more of that honey complexity. I do look forward to my pile of Jia Ji Tuo ageing.
A very good 4-star tea that would be good any time and I can see why Xiaguan put it out every single year.
I would recommend it, and if you do like it, it’s not challenging to stock up. If it were a bit more ‘special’ or varied throughout steeps, i would have given a 5.
Noe that without much age this is 3-star tea (a score of around 65% on steepster). So I’d buy this and set it aside, or buy it from good storage with 10 years of age on it if you can.
When young It just tastes like a powerful, bitter and vegetal sheng full of woodshop and leather. Which can be nice in it’s own way.
Flavors: Green Wood, Orchids, Sugarcane, Winter Honey