28 April, 2008

2001 Xiaguan "Baoyan"

An old favourite tea, originally bought from Houde, I have recently bought more of the 2001 Xiaguan "Baoyan" from Skip4tea, a Malaysian company. I recently revisited my Houde Baoyan for comparison with the brick from Malaysia.




The leaves of the Malaysian-stored brick look darker than the Texas-stored Houde brick. Also, the scent of the Malaysian is more obvious, jumping from the leaves. However the storage has differed between Skip4tea and Houde, the Malaysian brick has come out trumps. The pair look identical in composition, being the usual mixture of mulch, stems, and "yellow leaves" - typical Xiaguan.

Here is the top-side of each cake, with the Malaysian-stored version on the right:




And here the reverse sides (with the Malaysian-stored brick again shown on the right):




The brew is orange, already aging. A beidixiang [cup-bottom scent] of sweetness and shicang [wet storehouse] become a lengxiang [cool scent] of low, sticky sweetness. Good old Baoyan.




Baoyan is one of my go-to teas, particularly on rainy days when I need warming and cheering. It has tons of chaqi, and is a rounded and pleasant mouthful. Acidity and huigan are present and correct. After two cups, I am already reeling from the chaqi.

Cloudy soup is par-for-the-course with this untidy tea, and whopping great piles of sediment accumulate in the hulu [gourd filter]. I empty it every other infusion, never ceasing to be amazed just how much sediment drains out of this tea. I wouldn't like to pour this directly from pot to cup.

Never be too proud to remove some leaves, this is something that I have learned... eventually. I used to try muddling through, if a brew was simply too strong. Just removing some leaves (maybe 10-20%) and parking them in the chahe works wonders. I usually re-introduce them to the pot when the infusions are wearing a little thin.

As with all other compressed teas, I use far too many leaves for my Baoyan bricks. They typically expand to fill the pot, and push on the lid. I steel myself, grit my teeth, and overcome the urge to just muddle on, removing some leaves. The brew returns to its full flavour.

"Yes, this is good tea", says my dear wife, after I have removed some leaves.




Never overly complex, Baoyan isn't aimed at being a refined and subtle treat: it's aimed at being stored and brewed Tibetan style. It is sweet and I enjoy it greatly, and this particular brick has reached the precise maturity that I most enjoy (being older, yet retaining some youthful acidity).

This is pu'er of the old school: messy leaves (shown above), cedarwood character, some sweetness, and maybe a tad simple. I love it.

(N.b. Additional notes added to 2007 Banzhang Maocha.)

18 comments:

David Lesseps, LAc said...

I have a stack o f 2001 Baoyan mini-bings that I love. I haven't pulled them out in a while -- maybe I'll revisit them next time we have a cool foggy SF-morning.

How was your experience with Skip4Tea? I've been eyeing the site, but haven't tested the waters. Feel free to contact me offline if you don't want to discuss it publicly.

shichangpu said...

yes indeed, the site looks interesting. do tell!

Bill said...

Hello Hobbes.. I can see you appreciated the '01 Brick as well! Great stuff! I am also quite intrigued about this skip4tea. I have never heared of them until now. The prices seem really reasonable! Almost too good to be true.. Yes DO TELL!!

Wes said...

Let us know, Hobbes.

Hobbes said...

Morning chaps,

Skip4tea's prices are all in Malaysian, so get a currency converter to hand. I have only tried the 2001 Baoyan to date, which was (as you can tell from the article) very good.

I'd be happy if they offered a slower, cheaper option for postage - I typically like to use airmail, being happy to wait 3 weeks for my delivery. The option they provide arrives in one week, but is quite costly. I guess that's up to your personal preference. Postage on my Baoyan cost 130% the cost of the actual tea, for example.

The information provided on the site, as you can tell, is good, and it's a professional-looking outfit.

The absence of samples makes it hard for me to evaluate tea, though - I tend not to buy cakes/tongs unless I can try them first. Just common sense, I guess. Even if you know a tea, you can't be sure of the storage until you've sampled it.

Do let me know how you get on, if you take the plunge! They seem good to me, but I've got very limited experience of buying from them, so far.

I hope the above is useful.


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

David Lesseps, LAc said...

Thanks. I'll give them a test run in the future.

Wes said...

I just heard from a John Doe that got a few pieces from skip4tea and loved them all. They did shell out $40 for shipping though...

Hobbes said...

Dear Wes,

Many thanks for the update - any recommendations for which teas were worth looking at? I have only tried the 2001 Baoyan from there so far.


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

shichangpu said...

just received a shipment from skip4tea, and am already feeling cautious re: the possibility of future orders. haven't tried the tea yet, but the package arrived rather amateurishly packed (cakes in kitchen plastic wrap, stuffed in a flimsy un-padded plastic mailer). moreover, and more importantly, one cake was missing from the package. i tried to reach the vendor but was unable to get an email through to them via their website. found a way to send an email through paypal, and am currently awaiting a response. however, given the lofty shipping costs, i would have expected a bit more care with packing, packaging, etc.

jury's still out. at least the tea looks decent.

mike

shichangpu said...

ok, received a very quick response from patrick at skip4tea. he was appropriately apologetic for the shipment error, and offered to re-send or refund, whichever i prefer.

so yes, i will likely order from them again. people screw up, and i tend to place a lot of weight on the degree to which vendors provide good customer service when they do make a mistake.

mike

Hobbes said...

Dear Mike,

Thanks for the update - I've had some e-mails from Patrick, too, and it seems professional.

Which teas have you ordered, and were there any that you fancied? It's such a big site!


Toodlepip,

D :)

shichangpu said...

thus far, i've only ordered relatively low-end stuff-- a couple of the 01 baoyan bricks, and a couple of 00 zhong cha orang mark cakes. tried the orange mark today, and it's very rough, but has potential. quite potent, and it made my tongue numb. early infusions quite bitter and harsh, later infusions becoming clearer and with that incredible power that the best aged stuff has. i'm looking forward to seeing what this cake is like after airing out in the bay area for a year or so.

mike

Hobbes said...

Dear Mike,

Sounds great to me - serious numbing makes for good leaves! I'll grab some.


Thanks again,

Hobbes

Wes said...

I also ordered one of the Baoyans. Looks like they're sold out now.

Mike, is it possible for me to get your tasting notes for that one?

JF also got one, so in a week or so, we might be able to have a four-way note comparison. That would be fun.

I also got one of the 00 Zhongcha Green Marks. I didn't like the looks of the back of the orange mark (damn them for not having samples! look at how I'm deciding what to purchase!).

Hobbes said...

Dear Wes,

I'm just grabbing some green- and orange-labels, and look forward to comparing notes with you on them.

I just discovered The Green Tea Review by clicking on your Blogger profile! I'll be sure to read your thoughts over the coming weeks.


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Wes said...

Hello again, Hobbes.

I got my order today after a week and a half. I suppose it took longer because of the increasing postage rate in the US.

I was *really* disappointed with the shipping. Plastic-wrapped, then sent in a plastic bag. No bubble-wrap or anything to keep the tea safe. I think as a result of this, my Zhongcha green mark was basically destroyed. I sent an e-mail to Skip4Tea informing them of what happened, I'll let you know their response and how the teas turn out.

Adieu,

Wes

Hobbes said...

Dear Wes,

That's a bit of bad luck, sorry to hear it - thanks for the note. I was just about to order something from Skip4tea, and will be sure to specify some padding around the tea. Bashed tea is going to be really bitter where the leaves have been mushed!


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Wes said...

Dear Hobb-Dipper,

Got an email back. Patrick apologized and said that they are switching couriers and future orders will be shipped cheaper, and in bubble-wrap and cardboard. He also offered to replace my damaged cake.

I tried the Xiaguan today, blogged it too. I also found it to be at a very nice stage of aging. My tastes would like it more after a few years, I think, but the character now is lovely. Thanks for pointing me towards this one.

All the best,
Wes