I am aware that one of my failings is being a stickler for detail.
For example, I recently reviewed a 20-page submission for a book chapter, on behalf of a friend, and found that the list of grammatical and syntactical errors I had identified ran to 4 pages - 20% of the entire document's length. This is not a great side of my personality, I'm sure, but at least my friend knows what he's letting himself in for when he asks me to review chapters.
So, you will forgive it as a failing of character when I point out that the full name of this tea in Pinyin is in fact "2007 Chun Xizihao Dingji Huangshan Gushu Yangxin" [2007 spring Double-Happiness character brand best-grade desolate-mountain ancient-tree nourishing-heart]. Of this mighty list of buzzword-compliant phrases, the wrapper actually calls it "Xizihao Dingji Gushu", so that's what I've termed it in the title. I do apologise for my pedantry.
This tea is available from Houde, for $145/bing, where it is sold as "Xi-Zhi Hao Din-Ji 'Yan Shing'".
I've been looking forwards to trying this presumably rather special cake for quite some time - for unaged shengpu, it is second only in price to the 2006 Lincang sold by Teamasters for $200/bing.
"Scottish Mountain" @ 100C in 14cl shengpu pot; ~7-8g leaf; 1 rinse
Emotionally stimulating leaves. They are large, exceeding in beauty, and compressed to absolute perfection, coming apart easily, but not too easily. Rich and dark, the hairs on each individual leaf are visible, showing remarkable care in handling and processing. Sweet, rich leaf scents abound. This is quite the masterpiece for visual tea appreciation.
The rinse instantly alleviates fear over the processing, when a pure yellow soup is seen. Given the orange quasi-wulong nature of some of the other Xizihao cakes from this year, it's good to see that the showcase cake has got it right.
3s, 5s, 5s, 5s, 5s, 10s, 20s, 70s, 90s, >2m, >3m:
This tea is a multi-stager.
The first stage runs from infusions 1-4. The tea is instantly alive on the lips and tongue - funnily enough, just like the 2006 Lincang. It is vibrant, effervescent, and clearly active in some interesting way.
It becomes a big mouthful of sour mushrooms in the middle of the palate, and I am grateful to see that the ku has not been processed away. It is an "impatient" tea, sprinting through the mouth to become a pleasing, tongue-aching huigan.
One of the fascinating aspects of this tea is how it changes as one watches it. Over the course of perhaps 30-60s, the soup in the gongdaobei changes from lucid yellow to rich orange. I've never seen a tea so very active in the presence of oxygen; it's like watching an apple turn instantly brown in the air. I attempted to document this phenomenon in the accompanying photograph, in which the two (slightly misaligned) central images are taken 45s apart.
Commensurate with the highly active sensation of contact in the mouth, there is a bright chaqi that flushes my neck and shoulders.
Guang's notes point out a "numbness" at the top of the mouth, and this is clearly evident from the effervescent nature of the tea's contact with the tongue and palate. In fact, Guang's description of the product, in terms of flavour and aroma analysis, is very accurate.
That was stage 1. Stage 2 runs from infusions 5-8, and the flavour has collapsed. This must be due to the fact that I let the leaves cool, due to my absence for 20 minutes. On return, it was vapid, uninteresting, and shallow in aroma and flavour, though the active character remained.
Stage 3 ran for the last 3 infusions, at which point I went into overbrew-mode to try and reclaim the flavour. This was successful, and I got better results by really pushing the tea on at the end.
Healthy spring leaves, kept in excellent condition.
Amazingly active, the sheer quality of the leaves is beyond question.
It is light. It is a good tea, but it is rarified and refined - like a thin, fine porcelain piece of crockery. It's sheer quality of workmanship is not in question, but it lacks serious substance. This is very much a question of personal taste, but I long for chunky, robust characteristics in my tea - particularly when paying such large amounts - and this tea doesn't really meet those (personal) goals. I used a lot of leaves, hoping to achieve this, and while the result was really very beautiful, it didn't pack the array of eye-opening flavours that I look for.
The energy was, like the 2006 Lincang, beyond compare in young shengpu.
If money were no object, I would buy several of these for the sheer energy and refinement alone. However, I must weigh expenditure with received pleasure and, for me, there are other cakes that more urgently warrant my capital.