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Recent Tasting Notes

This is an aged offering acquired through Teepolku based in Turku, Finland. As the name suggests, this is supposedly from Xi Gui and from older trees no less, but I would always take these things with a grain of salt. The tea is priced rather affordably at €49 for a 357g bing, which would suggest it’s not Xi Gui but from the greater Xi Gui area or perhaps a blend trying to mimic the profile. Nevertheless, at the end of the day origin and authenticity mean very little, at least to me. If a tea’s good, it’s good. If a tea’s bad, it’s bad. Famed areas produce both good and bad tea. Imitations can still be good teas. All information really does is set (often unnecessary) expectations and maybe help in trying to determine the expected trajectory as far as aging goes.

According to the description this tea has seen some humidity, but the specifics aren’t mentioned. At least based on the nose this seems to have been rather mild as my sample at least has hardly any dankness to the aroma. I started with one of the large pieces of cake that was in the sample bag and broke it into smaller pieces along the layers until I had 12g for my 180ml teapot made from clay from Dehua. The compression does not seem tight at all as I needed to apply hardly any pressure at all. Reusing the water I’d used to heat up the teapot, I rinsed the leaves for around ten seconds. After this I gave them a second, shorter five-second rinse with water from the kettle that had already dropped to around 95°C. This was followed by a rest of a few minutes before proceeding with the brewing.

Just rinsing the leaves was enough the fill the room with their fragrance. I smelled root vegetables, my drinking partner licorice. I did a total of seven infusions, the timing for these 12s, 12s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s and 75s. Xi Gui Wang started off strong yet gentle in its nature. It was sweet, soft in the mouth with a very nice mouthfeel and body. There was some sourness and a touch of smoke which I assume come from storage and processing. Initially I got some compost/dirt, but this eventually switched to a very distinct taste of peach with its skin on. As the skin brings a sort of earthy character, I’m not sure if this was the same or a different earthiness as the one that came before. The aftertaste was long.

Keeping the steep time the same, the second brew was even stronger. Very sour and quite smoky. The tea retained its softness and nice mouthfeel. I was still getting the fruit, but it was being overshadowed by the sourness. There was also now a licorice/anise taste present with very mild medicinal vibes to it. Very interesting tea.

The next two steeps were similar. Third one even stronger than the second, both still very sour. I was getting some cooling in the mouth now. Licorice and anise were starting to become the defining taste, whereas the sweetness was starting to resemble the kind you’d encounter in root vegetables like rutabaga, sweet potato and others. The overall impression was quite bright, cooling and refreshing.

Steep five was definitely my favorite one. The aroma of the liquor in the cup was simply divine. The sourness was now finally gone and the tea had this… clarity to it. Everything had finally come together. Licorice had come to prevail over the anise and the tea was sweet, so sweet. At this point my tongue started going slightly numb.

In the final two steeps I did the tea started to simplify a lot. Steep six was still strong and sweet, but you could tell the flavors were beginning to grow thin. Sweetness was one of the few things that remained in the final brew, but most of the notes had practically fallen off a cliff and the tea was beginning to taste quite watery. In fear of pushing the tea into nasty territory I decided to call it there.

Some of you may know that I’ve struggled with finding aged raws that I genuinely like. I’m glad to say that this is the first tea I can say that about. As far as my experiences go, it’s a really unique and enjoyable tea. I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of the intense sourness in the first several steeps, but it was also never unpleasant and when it comes to aged teas I’ve come to learn to just roll with most of their idiosyncrasies.

Since I’m far more familiar with young raws, I always find it a challenge trying to evaluate the quality of these aged teas. I’d say this one is above average, but in my experience the average quality of most aged teas is not that high – teas that a regular person can afford anyway. It brews up strong, but the longevity is piss poor, making me very much doubt the claim about older tea trees. I don’t recall the last time a sheng only lasted me seven infusions, and an aged tea at that. That being said, I really enjoyed the tea and I think the price is very good for what you get. Xi Gui or not, the tea does match my limited experience and impression of what to expect: fragrance, softness in the mouth and lasting aftertaste.

This is definitely a tea I can recommend. I won’t be grabbing a bing as I don’t really have the space and don’t think it necessarily that good. A lot of the appeal for me lies in the novelty factor and that’s eventually going to diminish over several sessions. Still, a very enjoyable and unique tea.

Flavors: Anise, Earth, Licorice, Medicinal, Peach, Smoke, Sour, Sweet

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 12 g 6 OZ / 180 ML

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This is a cake I acquired via Teepolku/Tea Trail based in Turku, Finland. Thus far in my young pu’er drinking career I’ve focused on young sheng, and this was a curiosity buy I acquired a while back to act as my first foray into semi-aged raw or at least something close to that (I also have a Xiaguan tuo from 2004 waiting for me). According to Teepolku, Ju You is a small pu’er producer who specializes mainly in tea from the Yiwu area. As the name suggests, this tea is allegedly gushu material from Kunlu mountain. As both of these claims are difficult to prove and don’t really matter in the end, we shall not dwell on them any longer than this. I don’t have any knowledge about the storage history of this tea.

The cake is fairly loose and prying leaves off is quite easy. The color is indeed a few shades darker than the younger cakes I’m used to looking at and even the buds have gone from their young silvery appearance to a dirtier off-white. Still, there’s a fair amount of green shades left. The dry cake doesn’t smell all that different from your typical young raw bing, but in the pre-heated teapot the dry leaves start to reveal a slightly fruity scent. After the rinse the fruitiness becomes more pronounced and is joined by the scent of tobacco.

As per usual, I steeped around 13.4g of leaf in a 250ml Yixing clay teapot. I gave the leaves a brief 10s rinse and let them rest for ten minutes before the first infusion. I steeped the tea nine times for around 16s, 14s, 15s, 18s, 22s, 26s, 34s, 54s and 70s according to my own mental clock. The tea had nice strength in the early steeps, but then started falling off quicker than other raws I’ve had. I didn’t do a perfect job of trying to compensate for this, and in the future I will likely need to increase the steeping times in larger increments than typical. The tea could have probably gone for a bit longer, but I felt it didn’t have anything else to show me and there would have been no point in drinking it for the taste.

The first infusion presented light, clean flavors with a lightly floral nature to them and perhaps a touch of floral sweetness. I was reminded a bit of a white tea or at least the image people have of white tea. The next steep was more potent, with some slight astringency and a taste leaning more towards a greener color. The taste remained unchanged in the third infusion. What set it apart from the one that came before it was the way in which it coated your mouth, leaving hints of various flavors lingering in your mouth. You could also detect an interesting aroma in your mouth when you breathed out through your nose, but I for the life of me couldn’t place it.

The taste in the fourth infusion was less green, less astringent. It wasn’t sweet, but it had a note with a character that made you think of sweet. The steep also showed a small resurgence of the initial floral nature or something of that nature. I can’t be sure, but I may have also detected the tiniest hint of some mild qi. In the next two infusions the other flavors started to taper off while a characteristic sheng sweetness seemed to start to emerge. I could feel the qi very stealthily starting to creep up on me, and so I decided to take a small break from the tea and snack on something in case it was bringing my blood sugar down too much.

After the break I tried pushing the seventh steeping a bit harder, although brewing it for a couple seconds longer would likely have resulted in an even better result. I managed to extract some more flavor and somewhat unexpectedly the tea was actually less sweet than before. Drinking this infusion I could feel noticeable warmth in my chest and throat and my breath felt hot. Despite pushing the eighth infusion even harder, it wasn’t very flavorful and didn’t even offer any real sweetness to speak of. On the other hand the presence of cha qi was probably now more noticeable than before. Surprisingly the last infusion I did did once again have some flavor, but the astringency was also on a steep rise. The tea was still quite warming, almost causing a burning sensation in my chest.

This is the point where I decided to stop, because in my eyes the only reason to keep drinking the tea would have been the cha qi. After the session the tea made me feel very listless for a while and this was followed by my stomach being a bit grumpy for most of the evening, which is not something pu’er typically does for me (this is the first time). Despite it not being any warmer inside than normal, I was sweating a little all through the evening like it was early summer, and when I woke up during the night the legs of my pajamas were wet from light sweat, akin to breaking into a cold sweat when you are sick.

Throughout the infusions, the color and hue of the liquor were indistinguishable to my eyes from a young sheng’s and coupled with the flavor profile of the tea I would draw the conclusion that this tea has been fairly dryly stored. If this tea had been served to me without showing me the dry leaves, I would have pegged it down as a spring 2016 harvest. As I feel the tea is still a long way from even reaching semi-maturity, I will likely be slowly drinking it away instead of storing it. Next time I will experiment with brewing it in a gaiwan, which should allow me some more control over the brewing time, and see if there are nuances to this tea that were lost to me the first time around. The qi in this one didn’t seem to agree with me on first meeting, but hopefully we can get better acquainted over time and maybe find some common ground.

Flavors: Floral, Sweet

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 13 g 8 OZ / 250 ML

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i rinsed the tea once.

the first steeps have a smokey and tannic taste with a similarly smoky aroma. i noticed a lot of sticks in the blend and that the tea leaves are fairly large.

overall the liquid is smooth to drink and doesn’t dry your mouth all that much. mellow but with some pleasant astringency. feels slick in the mouth.

the taste is vegetal, smoky and with some nice acidity later on with an apple-like aftertaste. the color is a deep yellow bordering on orange. the vendor describes the tea as having a bold “swampy” feel to it to which i agree. in addition i think there’s a very nice subdued smooth and calm side as well.

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 2 OZ / 70 ML

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the dry leaves have a grassy aroma with hints of citrus notes. steeped leaves smell like cut grass and a bit brothy too.

the first steep was light and fresh. the second was thicker in body and felt tingly at the top of the mouth. taste is grassy and moderately astringent. third steep was much like the second but with a bolder, thicker, almost cream-like, mouthfeel. the fourth steep died down a bit in flavour but had a newfound sweetness.

a good value tea!

180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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brewed in a gaiwan. the leaves have a strong roasted fragrance. the liquid smells faintly of a fruit.

early steeps are mild and clear, taste has notes of deep fruits and the strong roast. as expected of the tea there are mineral flavors present. it feels refreshing to drink.

the liquid feels very quickly pleasantly sour at the top of the mouth and fades into a long huigan. the lingering feel after drinking is very pleasant.

later steeps have savory mineral qualities and less of the sour fruity vibes. drinking the tea leaves a dry tannic feel but not to the point of discomfort.

the leaves look dark and have interesting shades of a warm green and a crimson red. the liquid is an orangeish cadmium yellow with hints of brown maybe.

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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