Xingyang 1998 Golden Leaf Pu'er

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Pu-erh Tea
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Edit tea info Last updated by David Duckler
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Boiling 0 min, 45 sec 8 g 3 oz / 100 ml

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From Verdant Tea

Xingyang Workshop is a tiny artisan production known for extremely clean and sparkling flavor. Their tea is differentiated by the unique style of fermentation. Instead of fermenting the tea in big wet piles for a short period of time, the tea is spread out in smaller heaps and allowed to dry completely during fermentation, which inhibits the rapid growth of cultures. Then, the tea is allowed to sit dry and loose for several months to a year before being packaged. The result is a complete lack of of sour, murky or heavy taste that so many shu pu’ers have.

The 1998 Xingyang is a true tea lover’s tea. It evokes the smells and feeling of being surrounded by books in an ancient library, yet it is not musty in a dirty way like many older pu’ers. The mustiness takes the mouthfeel of an enveloping vapor. The aftertaste is perfectly sweet and lingers for hours. As this tea steeps on. (30 or more steepings can easily be had) a bright vegetal taste emerges, which plays with the sweet aftertaste. The smell is deep, like wet ocean sand.

Despite its age, this tea is incredibly accessible due to its sweet and sparkling taste. It appeals to anyone who is interested in tea as an experience that goes beyond the beverage. In friendly competition with other tea hunters, this Xingyang has outpaced teas from the 50’s and 60’s in terms of complexity. See what all the fuss is about and try some for yourself.

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36 Tasting Notes

300 tasting notes

Hmm it seems I did not log this months ago when I received and drunk half of the complementary sample, as I thought I had, though I did comment on Verdant’s Facebook page that it was amazing as I was drinking it, so that must be where my memory got confused. No matter, I was so moved by my experience drinking it today that I was going to write a second note and bump up whatever rating I had assigned to it then.

Now me, I love my shu, I haven’t found a Verdant Shu I didn’t love, but this and Yaxin’s Reserve ‘04 Shu Nuggets (the angel food cake) are very different from the other shu’s. They are so sparkling and light on the tongue whereas say the Peacock Village or Elephant Tea Trail are dark and rich and nearly syrupy in their sweet earthiness, which I love, but this is just so fine!

It tastes of parchment but doesn’t feel that way mind you, no it feels like slippery silk especially in the second infusion, its downright scandalous! There is plenty of sweetness in its sparklingness and there is a lovely natural vanilla note. I’d love to wax poetically about ancient books and libraries but we are watching Pirates Band of Misfits and the husband is complaining I am not really watching.

September is tomorrow and I get one order of tea for the month. I’m going to pick up some samples of the new teas and order an ounce of this, I wish I could get more, maybe for the birthday or holidays. But I cannot not have this. Thank you David or sharing such a fine tea with us!

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Autumn Hearth

Enjoying this a second day because I can, this tea is very generous!

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166 tasting notes

A few months back I reviewed this and said I was going to try to have the willpower to save the last 5 grams to see how it would age in a year or two. Well, I have tons of tea, but I wasn’t up this am when my husband was looking for a morning cup, and which one did he find of all the teas in my pantry? You guessed it—this one. He doesn’t know too much about tea and it was the first thing he found. He figured this was as good as the next. Oh well-I just had to laugh at that point. I should have hidden it away! In the future, I will have to mark anything really special “Do not touch”. At least this pu’er, like most, provides multiple steepings and he had only done 2, so I proceeded to do several more for the two of us this evening. It is a really wonderful Pu’er, but alas, it is out of stock and I will never know how it would have aged.


Oh nooo! It had to the one of course! Definitely have to hide the «precious» :-)

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39 tasting notes

I shared this Pu’er and Verdant Tea’s Spring Tieguanyin with a friend last Tuesday. Refer to my tasting note of the latter tea for more backstory of the context. I will begin by saying that I’ve probably tried around 18-20 pu’er teas, and to date, this Xingyang 1998 Golden Leaf Shou remains the best of them. In a broader context, among the countless teas that I’ve tried (including all types and classes), this Pu’er stands out as an exceptionally fine representative of what tea can be, and is securely established in the top 3 best teas I’ve had the good fortune and pleasure to experience. When I give a tea the highest possible mark, it means that I consider it perfect in its own right, lacking nothing, and offering an additional something that I have not encountered in another tea. I trust that “finer” teas may exist, and indeed I hope to try them; but it is with this Pu’er that I feel we’re talking about a level of quality at which the tea deserves to be assessed outside of relative considerations. Essentially, I would have to rate such a tea as being “without rank”, as it and its peers are each embodying their own unique perfection.

Before I prepared this Pu’er a week ago, five months had passed since my last experience with it. This length of time was not for any lack of love or lack of desire to brew it, but because I refuse to drink this tea by myself and feel that it is worth being reserved for special occasions. The fact that I’ve only had one ounce of it in supply has also contributed to my reluctance, though I’m planning to buy more for the future while it’s still available.

My friend had specifically requested a proper Pu’er initiation when we made arrangements to meet, as his few pervious experiences with this class of tea left a particularly unpleasant impression. He described having suffered the misfortune of tasting fishy, probably low-quality, Pu’er that was prepared with western brewing methods (no wash, 4 minute steeping). When I had told him of Gongfu brewing and what I’d learned about the appropriate treatment of Pu’er, he expressed an enthusiastic interest in trying it again.

I started preparing this tea after we’d grown sufficiently blissed-out drinking Teiguanyin for over an hour. The room was getting a bit hot so we opened the window and let the brisk night air flow into our drinking space. The previous day’s temperature had been around 90F in the afternoon, and dropped a sharp 30 degrees within a couple hours in the evening. It felt like we stood on the threshold of autumn, and the Xingyang Pu’er being prepared was the perfect tea to take us through that gate into a new season.

The first infusion after washing the tea was excellent, surprising both of us in its depth, fragrance and delectable taste. Just taking in the bouquet of that first infusion gave me goosebumps. A sweet and mild spice, slightly cinnamon-like, tree bark and freshly fallen leaves. I held the tea in my mouth for ten or more seconds per sip; its taste and feel ran through my body with the softness of a quiet stream, compelling all of my muscles to sink in relaxation. “Oh my God,” were my friend’s first words. All I could say in response was a deep and emphatic, “Yes”. Letting the aftertaste settle between sips and cups is an experience unto itself with this tea, which can unfold in interesting and exceedingly pleasant changes of character for over a minute. I remember most vividly this sparkling sensation developing after several seconds in the aftertaste, as if the awakened and stretching flavors of the tea were shaking off their 13-year sleep with a lively dance on my tongue.

The infusions that followed provoked powerful and evocative stirrings in our imaginations. My friend was overcome with recollections of early childhood: “Cedar crates next to the house of the kindest old woman, who was my neighbor in Japan. I was four years old and wandered into her yard.” I recalled the experience of jumping into piles of oak leaves and watching the clouds pass overhead, then being followed by the smell of oak on my clothes for the rest of the day. We remarked on this particularly powerful evocative quality of the tea. It was not just evoking memories, it was opening doors to insight, as well as forming new deep stores for remembering our present experience and experiences to come. This is a contemplative tea par excellence. My friend suggested it would be a great companion to creative work, as in composing music or poetry.

After a number of infusions, it came up that I hadn’t brewed this tea for five months, and I mentioned that it seemed to me to have grown better even in that relatively short time. My friend was surprised to hear that I could drink this tea so infrequently in light of how amazingly good it is. It was at this point I told him that I will not drink this tea alone. I explained that, for my part, I felt like drinking this tea without a companion to share it with would be selfish and wasteful. Not to judge others who would or do drink this alone, I’m just remarking on my own experience with it. To drink this Pu’er by myself, for me, would come with a feeling that I’m failing to serve the tea, in every sense of that word. I consider the opportunity to partake of a tea this good as a great privilege and a gift; and the only way I can completely express my gratitude for that is by sharing it with others.

My friend and I proceeded to enjoy this Pu’er and it’s fascinating profile changes for well over an hour, and it was far from spent when we ended. This particular session was a peak experience with tea for me, and for my friend it was something akin to a conversion experience. Of the drinking sessions I’ve had with this tea, this one was definitely the best to date. I whole-heartedly recommend this tea, and would suggest setting aside some unhurried time to brew this with good company and your undivided attention.

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Bravo! what a tasting note, what a tasting, what a tea. I feel privileged to share in the experience via my own tea drinking and your note.

David Duckler

Yes! This is exactly the ideal description of what great tea can do for a person. Perhaps it is audacious to compare the finest of teas to the fine art medium, but great tea, like great art, goes beyond itself. It is a connection between the everyday and the sublime. Just look at Teaism, and the cult of the beautiful that Okakura Kakuzo writes about. I am honored to know that the Xingyang 1998 went beyond itself to create a connection between the everyday and something more.

Thank you for sharing.


completely agree…this is what love of tea, place, culture, and environment can do…tranform awareness into memory, bind the ‘now’ into the flow of consciousness and join us all in a moment of shared reflection…

Nathaniel Gruber

Great description! This tea is also in my top 3 or 5 that I’ve ever tried, Pu’er or any other kind.

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149 tasting notes

Had a sample of this from a while ago, finally got around to trying it out. Magical. Simply magical. I’m going to have to save the coherency for another time… this is simply stunning.


I still have several oz left. It’s magical all right! No way to explain this tea…You just have to experience it for yourself. Time for me to drink a little…it’s been awhile.

Terri HarpLady

I love it. I’ve been hoarding it for a year, lol. I’ll be hoarding it for longer, having an occasional session to remind myself of it’s awesomeness.


It’s available again on Verdant under the reserve tab at $19.95 an ounce (well worth it) and going fast. You can get up to 30 steeps from one session (not to mention the physical/ethereal effects). Certainly, as David Duckler told me once, this is a mystical tea…one to share with friends.

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290 tasting notes

Thank you, Bonnie, for this wonderful tea. I’ve been saving it until I felt I could appreciate it and then I thought that really, I would never feel ready so I dug out my Yu Ru Yixing pot and got stuck in.

Do you stick your nose into a book and inhale deeply when you first get it? I do. I’m a total bibliophile. Well, maybe not quite that far! What were you thinking? Anyway, the worst thing possible for me is that there might be no more books in the world for me to experience. This tea reminded me of that new book experience. Well, actually, it was more like an old book experience. The smell was musty like an old book, and exciting in the same way. Where has this book been? What has it seen? Whose hands have held it and what stories might it tell about those hands? Yes, an exciting tea. Smelling of old books, slightly musty, notes of cedar in there too. It’s obviously a bookcase full of old books and made of cedar, or perhaps an ancient book bound in cedar boards. I’ve been drinking this all day. I am up to steep number 8 or 9 now. I’ve lost track. I got lost in the tea, you see. It had a story to tell me and I have not finished it yet.


A mystical Scots library!

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7 tasting notes

This Xingyang Golden Leaf, well, what more can be said about it at this point that has not already been said here below.

The flavor is exceptionally clean, earthy, mossy. Its’ complexity begins to stretch out into notes of molasses and pepper within three steepings. It delivers a mentholated sensation that expands from the hollows of your mouth into the sinus cavity where it sits quite contentedly. The broth coats the tongue, awakening it with a tingling sensation.

Within two steeps your body begins to slow, and by the third and fourth your feet and hands begin to tingle. I have done 8 steepings this afternoon, so you can assume how I am feeling at this point. I am planning a lengthier session for tomorrow morning.

I was actually considering a cold steep. Has anyone else done this with this pu’er, or any other? While in Beijing this past September I had just finished an incredible session with a sheng prepared by a tea master. I was about to leave for an appointment, and suddenly a small yixing pot was lifted from the side of the table and I was given a cold steeping that had been going for hours. In all honesty, I was scared that it was going to be beastly in flavor. It was however, quite the opposite. Despite being near to midnight black, the tea was exceptionally smooth, clean and sweet, and frankly a revelation. I had two porcelain cups full and stumbled out, tea drunk, into the night.

Charles Thomas Draper

Erich I am pretty well known here for my cold steppings. I have not cold-brewed any Pu’ers. These I will brew normally and if there is some left over I will just chill it. My recipe for cold brewing is generally done with greener Oolongs. I truly believe the natural essence of the tea is brought out.

Charles Thomas Draper

Pardon the spelling it is late here….


:) and pardon me for appearing unobservant, as I should have clarified that as other pu’er (i was actually enjoying your post on the cold brew of white recently last night catching up after some time down due to a persistent low back issue). I have done white, greens, reds and oolongs in cold steepings, but had never considered a cold steep of pu’er before that one in Beijing. I was going to steep this one out more this morning and was planning on giving it an overnight sit, as I seem to remember that is done at the latter point of the session(s).

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93 tasting notes

Glad so many folks took so many comprehensive notes I happen to agree with ‘cause I just sat there and brewed this over and over with the attitude of a little kid blithely playing with a new toy. Okay, maybe I also rambled on and on about the merits of well-done puerh and the sad state of poorly made wo-dui teas or wet-stored teas for a little over an hour while sharing this with a neighbor, then proceeding to brew nine very different teas back-to-back into the night before returning to this, once again. When all was said and done, we’d been tasting tea for about four hours and only one tea out of the ten we tasted was capable of blowing this one away. But, hey, this tea was a highly effective springboard to drag an unsuspecting Matcha drinker into the realm of puerh and take him on a trip of different processing styles and techniques. Come to think of it, he’s one lucky duck having this be his first puerh!

I got this beauty as a roughly 11g sample from Geoffrey (THANK YOU!) and used it ALL in my 200mL Zi Ni Shi Piao pot for Shou Puerh using water brought up to 98C and occasionally drifting down to 87C before being refilled and heated. Last pot was the 11th infusion and I’m sure I could’ve milked a few long brews out of it to finish it off but it was competing admirably with one of my favorite teas of all time and I was running out of purified water. All infusions were around 30-45 seconds except for maybe one cooler steep I let go a little while. Color had great clarity and swung from deep yellow-orange to red-orange and lingered in the red-tinged range but overall had the appearance of Port only once really venturing into the range of red wine coloration.

Exceptionally clean yet very full bodied. First couple infusions had a nice resinous tang and softwood sweetness but it really started to shine ‘round the third and fourth brews. Fourth infusion was a big, fat, teddy bear hug over my tongue. Oh so warm and cuddly. Infusions 4-7 were graceful and borderline sensuous. Mouthwatering, brandy-like (neighbor said it was like a good whiskey) and with a comforting flavor and aroma reminiscent of wet river rock and antique wood.
Okay, that’s not good enough… “Antique Wood” doesn’t carry the weight this did for me, as it carried a very particular scene.
There’s this “World Goods” place a few blocks from me that just went out of business that had a terrific but frighteningly expensive range of furniture and various wood and paper goods produced by tribes from the Indo-Pacific and Africa. They had several massive solid teak four-poster beds placed intermittently among sandalwood trays sitting atop carved hardwood cabinets. A few years back, my then-girlfriend and I laid down together on one of these beds to see if $20,000 was really worth it for a frame. The comfortable feeling of laying in each others arms on that warm afternoon in the loft above that store filled with the smells of teak, bamboo, sandalwood, hand-pressed papyrus paper, dried lotus leaves, and the faint hint of coconut oil in her silky hair accentuated with the all-too-appropriate sounds of bamboo wind chimes and a trickling fountain wrapping all together in one of the sole truly pleasant memories from an otherwise not-so-good relationship… This tea dragged that whole sensation and memory back up from the depths of my mind where I’d intentionally kicked it.

This is probably the second best (maybe tied for second) of any Shu Pu’er I’ve had. At roughly $1/gram I’d say this is a good deal for even 1.5x the price – 2x would be the norm for the range and durability of flavor I got from this. The only issue I have with the tea at all is the description relating to “mustiness”, of which there is only a tad in the wet leaf aroma alongside the smell of a riparian cave. I’d say replace that signifier with the word “Humus” or “Moist Bark” and it would be much more accurate and less suggestive of your average pile fermented tea.

I’ll be singing the praises of this pretty little thing of a tea for a fair while to come and just hope I can buy some more before stock runs out.

And as for the tea capable of knocking this and my socks off and halfway to the moon… I might consider writing about it if it finally makes it onto the online catalogue of the company it’s from and then I get time to attempt doing it justice. Knowing me, that’ll be after hell thaws from a deep freeze, but here’s hoping…

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec

LOVE your reviews!

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15 tasting notes

Thanks Bonnie for the sample! I brewed this tea in a yixing pot. I used approximately 2 tsp of leaf for a roughly 6 oz pot.

Dry leaf appearance: almost like bits of charcoal. Very dark, crisp looking leaves. This shou is loose-leaf, not compressed into a cake.

Dry leaf aroma: Very little aroma from the dry leaves, likely because the leaves are very old!

After a short rinse, I brewed the first infusion for around 20 sec with boiling water. The liquor is surprisingly light considering the darkness of the leaves. Aromas are musty, but not in a bad way. The flavor is very sweet and toasty (but not roasty) up front with some very interesting notes that I couldn’t really name. Subsequent infusions reveal a peppery spice and increase the sweetness.

Oh, and this tea does indeed have strong chi! After four infusions, I can definitely feel the theanine kicking in.

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I hope you continue to steep away and enjoy the Chi Eric! For all the grand tea you’ve served me this year and the expertise you have with Puer…you deserve a fine time!

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41 tasting notes

First let me preface this by saying that I don’t like to rate teas this high. I really won’t ever give a tea a perfect 100 score, so 99 is essentially saying that it’s the best thing I’ve had to date. A perfect 100 would in essence be stating that nothing could possibly be better than this tea in all existence, and I’m not ever going to make that claim.

I remember the first time David from Verdant Tea made me this particular tea. I remember the emotions it evoked and how it brought me back to a place of comfort from the past. I tend to relate things to good music, as I am a musician. When I write a particular piece I tend to write something that envelopes all emotions, making myself feel completely content, heartbroken, moved, and yet hopeful without sounding forced. In a weird way this tea does that for me. The aroma and essence of this tea reminds me of sitting in in an old library with books that have absorbed the flavors of the weathered wood surrounding them. It also brings about the memory of sitting on a particular dock at camp growing up, talking with my best friends while fishing and relaxing.

I think because of the pure nostalgia that this tea has brought about for me and everyone I know that has tried it, puts it in to a category all its own. It is not flavor, it is emotion, aroma, and beauty. I only bring this tea out ever so often for a very special conversation or time…to brew this everyday for me would be to make it commonplace, and I dare not offend the tea in that way.

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I almost always forget this tea is a shu; it’s just so different and feels much more like an old sheng to me. More impressive is that this one was created in 1998, when shu’s generally still tasted terrible. I sure hope Verdant can find some more stuff from the folks at Xingyang, especially since they were creating such great stuff so early on.

Nathaniel Gruber

It’s true. The leaf material for this one is spectacular. I think the fact that the body and color of this tea are so light is deceiving. I have never seen a shu of this age act in such a pleasing and crisp way.


Definitely. Most things I’ve tried in the States that are this old taste simple and predictable: old and like pleasant dirt. This one tastes old, sure, but it also tastes like you’re on a sparkling trip to the moon where you find a hidden library like an abandoned city that holds the secrets of all of your memories for all time. And you get to drink this feeling and share it with friends.
What will this taste like in ten more years? Will we even have the self-control to find out??

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2 tasting notes

So, here’s my story. Over the past few years I’ve been broadening my horizons in the world of tea. Like most I’ve taken the leap from bagged teas to loose leaf teas and I’ve tried just about every tea that I could get my hands on…except for puer.

The other day I got my first paycheck from my new job, so I decided to pick up 3 Verdant Tea samplers (shu, sheng and oolong). Now, as a puer novice I’ve heard how harsh puers (especially shus) can be. With that being said, this shu was gentle beyond words. Being a newbie, this throws off everything I’ve heard about puer teas.

Thinking that I must have made a mistake I tried adding less water, some more leaves and even hotter water, but this shu stayed cooler than a hindu cow. Like other reviewers have noted, this tea is quite evocative of a library. A quick wiff of the leaves reminds me of the aged paper of an old dictionary that has never been sullied by words like “unfriend”.

I’m blown away by how mellow this tea is. Frankly, I would rather choose to not rate this tea, but since that isn’t an option, I’m going to rate it highly because this was a hell of a treat.

205 °F / 96 °C

Just an FYI, it’s possible to write a tasting note without rating the tea. Just click the “Add Tasting Note” button and then write your note without touching the rating slider. It will post your note without a rating.

Glad to see you’re setting out on the pu’er adventure. And what a place to start! I consider this tea is one of the finest representatives of it’s type. With time and more experience you may revisit your encounter with this Xingyang pu’er and find that it was among the very best, if not your pinnacle, of pu’er tea.

Happy drinking!

Nathaniel Gruber

Great Review, and welcome to the best pu’er on the planet! Part of me is happy that your first experience with pu’er is this, because 99% of what’s out there IS rubbish. The problem now is not being continually disappointed by your future experiences with pu’er. Like Geoffrey said, you may very well come back in the future and find this one to be the pinnacle. Keep searching and drinking…I’m excited to see where your journey through pu’ers takes you.

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