Xiaguan Tea FactoryEdit Company
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Recent Tasting Notes
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
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:
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
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
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
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
I am writing this a day later from memory since I didn’t write anything down at the time.
Nice hint of camphor scent on the brewed leaves and gaiwan lid. Mellow flavor, earthy and grassy. Flavor stayed strong enough that I just flash steeped for the first 5-6 brews, ended on probably the 9th or 10th brew with a full minute. Astringency was a bit higher than I usually enjoy but it didn’t ruin it for me. I enjoyed the tea but it didn’t really stand out to me.
This is a phenomenal tea for the price. The amazing thing about this tea is the “chi” more than the flavor. It is very energizing, and not just in a caffeine buzz sort of way. If you drink much puerh, you probably have had a similar experience from other tea. Top notch! Would definitely recommend.
Here are my notes (unedited) from the first session with this tea. I have since upped my “dosage” to 8g for my 90ml gaiwan.
Brewing Vessel: 90ml Gaiwan
Rinse – 3s
Much earthier than the Jing Gu from yesterday. Wet leaf has a very sweet smell. Not so much the usual apricot smell… maybe more earthy. I can’t quite pinpoint it.
The wet leaf smells amazing… Dried peaches or something… Very bitter this steep. A lovely astringency. Not very vegetal at all. A bit of an iron-y finish. Malty mouthfeel.
Wet leaf getting a bit more apricot. Very astringent. Delicious malty thickness… this is a really fantastic tea.
Less astringent. Smoothing out a bit. I am expecting the sweetness to come out in 3-4 steeps. After pausing for a while, there definitely is a lingering sweetness in the mouthfeel.
A bit dusty. Thought I caught a hint of sweetness in the background of the first sip. Bitter, but less malty. Deliciously getting a bit vegetal. This is just a phenomenal tea.
Smooth with a light bitterness. A little harshness from the water? Leafy leafiness.
Life changing. Smooth and sweet. Very good. Top notch tea. Absolutely amazing.
Slight sweetness coming through
Flattening out a bit… should have increased 8s or 10s.
Sweet and light. Happy taste.
A decent tea and an above average xiaguan production. After a year in my pumidor the smell is getting more complex: a nice mix of sweetness, wood, tobacco, some fruits and just enough smoke to make it interesting. The taste is similar to the nose with good sweetness, bit of kuwei and some aftertaste. Good durability without turning rough in the late long steeps (what is rare for plantation teas). Some residual astringency which should transform with further age. Not a tea which will thrill you but a good mid aged sheng with a refined xiaguan profile.
Flavors: Plums, Smoke, Sweet, Walnut, Wood
You know those schoolyard bullies who you couldn’t avoid because they made a point of seeking you out? All the rough treatment you took? How you thought those days were behind you? Then you started drinking puerh and the abuse started all over again. No not with every encounter, but on more than one occasion you were bullied. There were the quaint bullies who you forgot about and then there were the bad-ass ones that you tried to forget.
I took about 8.5g and placed in 150ml gaiwan. I gave it a m rinse as it’s an iron cake. First infusion 20s light unremarkable. 2nd 15s uufff. 3 flash oohh. This is the stuff I consistently tasted in KM, stuff people drink like water. A previous sample had been US stored for a while, while this is basically KM stored, a bit ceramic stored for a year in about 68% LA weather. A gut buster. Color is already solid gold. 4th flash floral, astringency feels more dynamic and lower concentration allows the fragrance to emerge more immediately in the mouth. I actually noticed some sweetness.
In light of the wrapper, which is revolutionary in its spirit, the production makes sense, being pressed into an iron cake and its character. The bitterness feels similar to some Tulin and SGTM productions.
Flavors: Astringent, Biting, Bitter, Floral, Smoke
2011 Xiaguan Red Star courtesy very generous Steepstarian. This one is throaty all the way. I started in on it yestiddy. It takes about five infusions or so to get beyond the grown-up taste of tobacco and bitter. Already has some organgish tinge to it.
The yun with this is v. good. Very complex tastes of crayolas, oak, dish soap, laundry powder, some bitterness. It really roaches the mouth, especially as I’ve gotten deeper into it today. First run of a minute today had me feeling flowers and that tidal rise of heat that comes with those that possess power qi. Next round, a minute and a half maybe (this might be more than the 10th infusion, I do a pretty horrible job of tracking) feels and tastes like I’ve tumble-dried my mouth with a ghaddam Downy drier sheet. I hate those things.
I remember as I drank it yesterday that beside having a power phlegm-cutting penchant that my sense of what I was drinking would go back and forth between grown-up tea and something kinda Jennifer Anniston. I don’t watch movies but I suppose she’s supposed to be the “fresh girl next door type,” not too intimidating.
The aroma is equally complex with all that Downy and dishwater, with a hint of musk. You ever had a really good oaky white wine where the taste hangs on and you’ve determined that you’d really found the right wine for the occasion? Me neither and the only occasions life affords me are these cyber rants fueled by tea inebriation. As you get into it, some of the trademark Xiaguan smoke comes through. I’m breathing deeper, and feeling a bit zonkers. My head is kinda pounding. I had enough of this for today. I’m too much of a light-weight. Red Star has kicked my arse.
Flavors: Floral, Oak wood, Smoke, Soap, Tobacco
I picked this up from Dragon Tea House for a reasonable price thinking I’d get a nice 10 year old aged tea… but there’s barely any age to speak of. I’m wondering if they sent me a newer year by mistake or if it was just stored extremely dry or was sealed up…?? This thing is greeeeen. I started enjoying it though once I adjusted my expectations. It’s super tightly compressed which is annoying but workable. And the flavor is green but sweet, like chewing on sugar cane. It’s a little dry. Some bitterness/astringency still if brewed too hot/long. I’m not tasting any smoke or tobacco like everyone says they get from Xiaguan teas. All said, it’s an enjoyable and unique tea, if a little one-dimensional.
Flavors: Sugarcane, Vegetal
I have found this tea to be a bit of a chameleon. I’ve had 5 sessions, or something like 50 small cups, yet when I review my notes they vary tremendously. My current session is has been very woody and smoky, but in prior sessions I have notes of fruit and in others bitterness. One theme is that I’ve enjoyed the steeps at higher temperatures, which seems to bring out the fruit without adding bitterness.
One consistent theme has been a certain amount of coarseness. This is not a delicate or smooth tea, although it does become softer after half a dozen steeps. There is quite a bit of astringency. Also, although various sessions have varied flavors, any given cup is relatively straightforward. This would be a decent everyday sheng, but I didn’t find it to be special.
Thanks to the friend who shared the tea with me.
This is a tea I got from Angelina’s quite recently, it was fairly inexpensive but it is still kind of a young sheng. This is a very aggressive tea, smoky and bitter in the first few steeps. I found it helped to lower the water temp. to about 180 and do very short steeps with this one.
It definitely started mellowing out around steep #4 and then became more woodsy with some interesting plummy flavors, definitely sour but with a bit of sweetness too. I am picking up some tobacco notes. I would say this is fairly typical of a traditional young sheng. Sorry I don’t have time to write more about it today.
I’ve tended to like Xiaguan products in the past and this is definitely an energizing tea but it seems like it needs a few more years of aging before most people would really like it (including myself!) I know this isn’t exactly a connoisseur’s tea but since it was cheap it will be interesting to see how it ages in the my closet, lol
Often purchasing a quality pu’erh is on par with ‘falling down the rabbit hole’ (#Alice in Wonderland).
Fortunately Tibetan Flame is a well-known product from the Xia Guan Factory in Yunnan. This brand was specially developed in 1941 for export to Tibet. The logotype displays the most important colours for Buddhists, as well as the meaningful symbols and images. This tea brick is of high quality.
As soon as we broke open the package, we were transported. Back to the Himalayas. We breathed in the earthiness of the trail and noted the dried yak dung lingering in the air; then came the musty aroma of the donkeys and yaks sweaty from the challenging climbs; and then we entered the hillside community, tea houses billowing smoke from their stone chimneys mingling with tobacco and dry hay notes; finally we sat and enjoyed a sweet lemon tea, the fragrance swirling around and mixing with the uniqueness of this environment.
The taste of the tea did not disappoint either. Brewed for under a minute, the first infusion was medium intensity, without bitterness. The flavour profile was earth and sweet nuts, with a subtle citrus note. The after-taste is a lingering sweetness. After a few infusions, the addition of an apricot note was a pleasant surprise.
The Tibetan Flame bricks have earned a good reputation amongst tea drinkers who are seeking a pu’erh that’s affordable, strong and ages quickly. Give it a go!