07 August, 2007

2007 Xizihao "Huangshanlin"

One of the more pleasant aspects of the new house is that it's close to Magdalen College [pictured, pronounced "maudlin"].

One of the less pleasant aspects of the new house is that it's close to Magdalen College. Every quarter-of-an-hour, the famous old tower booms out it's greeting - commencing at 6 a.m.

So, I'm up early these days. On the plus side, this gives me time for a tea session before leaving for my office. Today - the other of the expensive pair of Xizihao teas from Yunnan Sourcing.



Step forward, "Huangshanlin" - as noted for the Xizihao Yuanshilin, this means "desolate" or "abandoned", which sounds very much like a poetic yesheng [wild] claim, and I treat it as such. The leaves are from the Dahuangya [Big Yellow Tips] area of south Menghai County. Again, like the Yuanshilin, this is deeply expensive tea.

Having said that, with the price of these Xizihao teas on my mind, my curiousity was piqued as I committed the unthinkable crime of stepping into a Whittards shop (i.e., one of 6 x 10^23 Whittards shops in Oxford). They will, with a rosy smile, sell you 400g of rough, anonymous wulong for the cost of two of these 400g Xizihao bing. This rather puts the cost of pu'er into context, expensive though it undoubtedly is compared to the Mainland price of most bingcha.

Brita-filtered water @ 100C in 12cl shengpu; ~8-9g leaf; 1 rinse

Dry leaf:
Silky tips of a good size and shape, this looks like the antibing of the previous Yuanshilin. There are plenty of silver tips and a fresh aroma of mushrooms. First impressions are favourable, no alarm bells are ringing (yet).

3s, 5s, 7s, 10s, 12s, 18s, 30s, 40s, 60s, 80s, 100s, >2m, >3m, >3m, >5m:

"Gadzooks", I hear you cry, "Verily, look at those infusion times!" And well you would exclaim, as they are mighty indeed.

If the Yuanshilin was deep orange from the outset (with the "dark fruit" character), this is a more pleasing classical yellow. A long, sour beidixiang turns into a sugary lengxiang. We are on firm, familiar ground, and I breathe a quiet sigh of relief (just as the Magdalen Tower rends the morning air with another brutally pleasant intonement).

This tea has a straight, unprocessed ku, which (you are undoubtedly tired of hearing) is something that I rather look for in a young shengpu. It runs throughout the centre of the tea like an iron rod, providing a good support from which are suspended a decent set of chunky mushroom flavours with a sweet, citrus appeal. "Rich, with a sweet and pleasant finish." The yunxiang is very mushroom, which is very definitely to my personal preference.

Marching on, and on, and on, this tea becomes simpler, and massively sweet, but never cracks. These are good leaves, and the quality is obvious. The huigan is excessively sweet, and remains for several minutes in the throat. "The taste is still there - this is proper tea."

We pause for our day's work in the middle, and resume the tea session at dusk.

Twilight birds
Returning to twilight nests
And the warmth of tea


Wet leaves:
Sincerely erotic. Some 6-7cm whole, healthy leaves, with some fulsome tip-and-bud systems. Lovely stuff.

Overall:
There is a temptation to approach Xizihao cakes with a strong bias formed solely from their price. I enjoyed this tea. It felt a little hollow "underneath", being a very high and sweet leaf, but the quality seems undeniable - the longevity is prodigious, the flavours are robust and rich.

In conjunction with a decent, clean, untreated ku, I look for rich flavour and endurance - the hallmarks of good leaf. The flavours here, as I just mentioned, are not entirely complete (they are high and sweet, with not much bass), but they are very full. Fine stuff, and probably the best 2007 I've had so far. Infinitely more appealing than the Yuanshilin. I look forward to a re-run of this session in future.



Cf., Tea Logic's notes on the same. I find it hard to reconcile the immense sweetness of the tea we consumed with the "not overly sweet" comment therein - VL, do please let's discuss this tea in more detail!

9 comments:

speakfreely said...

Yes, the leaves are luxuriant and impressive on this one.

Yesterday's experiment with brewing this and the 8582 side-by-side really brought out one serious flaw I find in this tea - a metallic character in the ku - a strong iron taste which you don't seem to have experienced. (Although you did refer to the ku as a strong, iron rod - but I don't think that's what you meant;-)) I've brewed this tea twice, the first time in a yixing pot, and roughly a week later in a gaiwan alongside the 8582, (and even with different water that time) and both times found the metallic taste. We are in agreement that this is a good tea, and better than the Yuan Shi Lin; in fact, the reason for my 2nd brewing was to determine whether to buy this one or the 8582.

Mary R said...

Ah, it's reviews like this that make me itch to get into puerh. The tea sounds fantastic.

As for the college bells (Keeping time, time, time / In a sort of Runic rhyme, I'm sure) you'll get used to them. I lived for three years between three churches that tolled the hour *every* hour (and one did quarter hours too). The first month was hell, but then I didn't notice it any more. Hopefully you'll acclimate soon.

~ Phyll said...

You, sir, are the standard of excellence in tea reviews! Thank you for the notes!

Sounds like the "abandoned" is now re-found and the "virginal and untouched" is now, well, touched and no longer a virgin. That comes with a high price, so it seems.

Balt said...

Hi,

just wanted to let you know, that I wrote a pu article on LJ community that references to your blog.

iwii said...

Te Deum Patrem colimus,
Te Laudibus prosequimus,
Qui corpus cibo reficis,
Coelesti mentem gratia.

I'm sure you'll miss these bells a lot when you leave.

Hobbes said...

Dear Carla,

It is a good one. Not the best of all time, for sure, but at least "good". Is it premier-league tea deserving of its price-tag? Arguable. I too wish to run this side-by-side with the 8582!


Dear Mary,

It's certainly worth picking up a sample, at least!

Ah, the bells... the bells! (Cue Quasimodo-style limp.) The place we just moved from was right next to a church on one side, and another college on the other side, so we're thankfully already attuned to the ringing - but Magdalen certainly ups the volume!


Dear Phylldrew(tm),

Thank you for the kind words! Quite right about the Xizihao deforestation. Can you put a price on innocence? Sigh... :)


Dear Bret,

Many thanks for the notification; I'll be sure to check it out imminently.


Ahoy Iwii!

You know your Mayday Choir, I see! What they don't sing about is their motto, jusque ad mortis bibendum... :)


Thanks all for the comments, and toodlepip,

Hobbes

MarshalN said...

I've seen Phylldrew being used by Davelcorp as well. Is that tm yours or Phylldrew's?

Hobbes said...

I have become weary of typing "as coined by Davelcorp", and now have resorted to a mere trademark notification!

The legal representation of the Davelcorp Foundation is without peer.


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

vl. said...

Perhaps I bypassed the sweetness somehow... to be honest I can't remember! What this tea did have in my opinion is very strong Qi.

-vl.