11 April, 2009

2007 Xizihao "Dingji Nu'ercha"

This could truly be the very worst shengpu I've ever encountered.

2007 Xizihao Dinjin Nuer

I love the quality of Xizihao leaves, and I really love some of the older cakes. Perhaps victims of their own success, they ramped up production during the pu'er bubble to unsustainable levels, and the quality dropped. They produced some delicious cakes during that period (see the Index), but also a lot of dross.

However, since seeing a video interview with the main Xizihao chap, I can't help but feel affectionate towards this brand: in the interview, he was genuine, amusing, and someone I felt had got it right. I liked his attitude. From that short interview, I felt that Xizihao was a labour of love.

I feel justified in judging him from one short interview, based on the words of Wilde, "Only shallow people don't judge people by appearances." Good old Oscar.

I've been going back over my various Xizihao cakes and samples, lately. My priority, when looking to taste something new, is firstly to enjoy samples sent to me by friends and Half-Dipper readers. When they're depleted, I head into the samples I've bought myself.

Every time I drink Xizihao, I am reminded that there is a whole world of pu'er above the major-factory lines. It's more expensive, but it can be worth the money - up to a point. I think some vendors to tend to "take the p***" with their pricing a little, particularly with Xizihao, and this problem is really evident with this particular cake.

2007 Xizihao Dinjin Nuer

This is "Dingji Nuercha" [top-grade daughter-tea], which is sold under the mangled name of "Din Jin Nu Er". The "daughter" is an oblique reference: some say it is because the tea is gentle and feminine, some say it is because it is reputedly picked by nubile girls, some say that it is just a contrast to the "qi zi" [seven sons] name of most cakes (referring to the fact that there are "seven sons" in a tong). Practically, I take "nuercha" to mean light, fresh, and floral.

Problems abound from the moment I turn out the sample: the leaves (pictured top) are a mixture of curious tan-brown and black. There is absolutely no aroma. Xizihao cakes come in two varieties: deliciously raw cakes, and highly tweaked (almost wulong) drink-it-now cakes. No prizes for guessing which this is!

The soup is dark orange (shown above), and there is the most distant aroma of sweetness. In the mouth... is this pu'er? It is somehow turned, having been converted away from pu'er and towards something presumably more acceptable by the greater tea market.

It contains no potency, some limited candy-like sweetness, and some mild hongcha notes... and that's it.

2007 Xizihao Dinjin Nuer

I always like to get a "sanity check" on particularly good/bad teas. I was drinking this tea in the morning, and Lei was busily going about her morning routine. Without any information, I offered her a cup.

"This is dreadful. I hope we didn't buy a cake of this! What is it?"

It really is quite dreadful. That's OK - not every tea has to set the world on fire. However, this tea costs over $100 for a 400g quantity.

Upon checking the vendor description, it seems that this is part of a limited run of a few hundred cakes, made to commemorate a wedding. This is perfect tea for a wedding: it has processed to such a degree that it's going to be inoffensive to everyone, from the youngsters up to Grandma and Grandfather. I must confess to feeling rather negative after considering the price, the quality, and the vendor's description that matches neither.

Time to dig up some real tea!


Actually, after further consideration, we remembered that there is a worse pu'er we've tried - an awful tuocha bought from a Chinese herbalist shop in Turin, though it cost just $4.

Erratum: it turns out that the Turin tuocha was in fact shupu, so this Xizihao "Dingji Nu'ercha" does indeed get the title of worst shengpu!


LaoChaGui said...

If you're interested I translated a version of a legend about the seven sons, the daughter is their only sister.

Salsero said...

Even if the tea was a dud, the photos of the session are fabulous!

Tony Shlongini said...

There's a saying that I absolutely despise, as it runs counter to everything I believe in: "It's not enough to succeed, others must fail." (Vidal?)

The disclaimer aside, I'll confess to deriving a modicum of solace from the fact that even one as knowledgeable as the great Hobbes can be "had".

Hobbes said...

Dear Laochagui,

Thanks very much for the link - I've been reading through your back-posts and look forward to reading more.

Dear Salsero,

A compliment indeed from one as photographically talented as yourself!

Dear Tony,

I'm so gullible. I'm vulnerable when it comes to tea. I absolutely require the restraining influence of my dear wife when we're in teashops. :)



Tuo Cha Tea said...

Hello Hobbes,

you mixed up the story of that cake. It was produced upon BIRTH of daughter of Mr. Chen and is supposed to age until her wedding (it means 15-30 years or something like that), so it probably should't be a 'drink me now' pu-erh.
But I agree with you, that this tea is not too good, I had better 2007 pu-erh from San Ho Tang and from other factories, too.

Lainie Petersen said...

What a horrid disappointment! But Salsero is right: The photographs are gorgeous!

Hobbes said...

Dear Tomas,

Thanks for the correction. This tea has been so brutally murther'd that I couldn't see it lasting longer than five years, let alone 15-30! What funny stuff is this. :)

Dear Lainie,

Thanks for the compliment. Even bad teas teach us something though!