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