12 March, 2012

2011 Yunzhiyuan "Xikong Autumn"

Setting aside my calligraphy brush, Zen sutra, SLR, poetry-book, tetsubin, and guqin, I thought it high time that I try the 2011 version of an autumnal cake that really rustled my proverbial jimmies during 2010.

The Jimmies, They are a-Rustling

The 2010 version was really very good, and I wrote about it.  Before my lazy / busy self finally got round to returning to the Yunnan Sourcing web-pages, they sold out.  

The jimmies, they were a-rustlin'.

I solved this problem by whining like a schoolgirl to Scott, the proprietor.  He kindly sold me some that he'd set aside for his web-site about to debut in the colonies, although the price had substantially risen as a consequence.  Nonetheless, I had to have them.  The Xikong was my precious.

2011 YS Xikong
The destroyer will come in one of the pre-chosen forms

You are undoubtedly familiar with the old proverb: "rustle my jimmies once, shame on you; rustle my jimmies twice, shame on me."  

Being distinctly averse to jimmie-rustling in (almost) all its forms, I got a jump on the game this time around, and resolved to be less lazy about buying cakes if they turned out to be good.

2011 YS Xikong
I continue to bleat about this tea

So, forgive me this once, but I have tried this cake many times, and actually got around to buying it.  Xikongzhai [shee kong djai] lives between Manzhuan and Yibang, in Mengla County, which explains the common characteristics shared, to various degrees, by the cakes from these areas.  If you're of a mind to examine this for yourself, Scott sells cakes from each region.

2011 YS Xikong

The greater Yibang region is famed for its small leaves [xiaoye], and the above images give an indication of the extent of their xiaoness.  Happily, the blend includes plenty of tips and base-leaves alike, which can only help to improve its depth-of-character, we might assume.  Even the photograph above is causing my feet to start pulling me in the direction of the tea-table.

2011 YS Xikong
Solid orange goodness

For some reason unbeknown to me, I am listening to bluegrass on this peaceful Saturday morning, while drinking this tea.  The combination is rather good, in fact.  Perhaps its the thought of chewing on a piece of straw that links the music with the tea.

I have been generous with the leaves, because autumnal cakes are not very punishing.  I wrote the following in my diary: "the result is actually magnificent".  It really is rather good.

The complex wild-flower scents mix with a rich, leathery base, much beloved of tea from that region, and yet it is all well-supported by a core of sweetness and bitterness.  "It fills the mouth and the imagination", I wrote, probably overcome by dodgy poesy at the time.

2011 YS Xikong
They may not look like much, but they taste entirely excellent

It is a crime to drink this tea in any manner other than slowly, giving it the full attention.  I think Xiaohu had been taken out for a walk by his Nainai at this stage, which explained the peace in the house.  Not that my dear son destroying things isn't restful.

2011 YS Xikong
Yes, they do all look the same

The test for these autumnal teas is, really, how they hold up under extended brewing.  They usually tend to be a bit weak and underwhelming.  Like its predecessor, the 2011 version continues to produce strong, interesting soup after two hours (which is aided by my use of plenty of leaves, it must be noted).

Repeated sessions at other times allowed me to draw similar conclusions: I enjoyed its potency; its clean, granary sweetness; its tongue-gripping kuwei [good throaty bitterness].  All of these give me hope for good aging prospects.

Brew this tea as strongly as you dare, but brew it you must.

September, 2013

This tea is fascinating - while I remember its youth, described above, after a few years, it now tastes almost exactly like ziya [purple-sprout] tea.  It is highly floral and fruity, and does not taste like strong pu'ercha.  This is a great disappointment, and I hope that it is just a short-term minimum; however, I suspect that age will not improve this cake very much more.  We will wait and see.  I bought two or three of these cakes, and may use them as a warning to myself in future...


Anonymous said...



Of course, don't ask if I can pay for it, though.


Hobbes said...

Scott seems to have a very definite annual routine, visiting one set of places in spring, and another in autumn. I'm with you - let's have some different springtime cakes. :)



Patrick said...

This was a wonderful post! I'm happy you found time to write it in between perfecting guqin and writing poems.
I think the whole tea world is in agreement, YS Spring Xi Kong now!

Hobbes said...

I leave the guqin playing to the Chinese ladies. :)



ankitlochan said...

we plan to have a 2012 darjeeling first flush online tea tasting session .. any ideas on how we can work on it and have more and more people participate so we can make people aware of single estate high end darjeeling rare exclusive teas ... also more and more discussions would help us interact with each other ... thank you! ankit lochan - www.lochantea.com

teagirl400 said...

Bleet about the tea indeed! :)

I have recently started sampling autumnal teas myself. I particularly enjoy the extra.. pungent kick they provide.

Bluegrass music + tea = harmony.

I tend to prefer to drink my tea to harmonious music as well. When I'm feeling particularly sprightly, Vivaldi's "Spring" never fails!

Your style of humor is adorable, more posts please! :)

Hobbes said...

Thank'ee, thank'ee.

Your choice of music is very appropriate given the season.

I've recently been listening to the collected ouvre of Opeth and Monolith Death Cult with my tea, which just goes to show that it is nothing if not a variable and adaptive thing. ;)



Charles T. Draper said...

Dear Hobbes,

I believe I have solved the YS China site mystery. It was something quite simple. This was the tea I was searching for. On another tea note, I have bought some cakes from a gentleman named Nicholas at Misty Peak Teas. Quite enjoyable but I would love to get your opinion on them. I could send you a sample or I could contact Nicholas. On a musical note, may I highly suggest Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Sam Baker. They all hail from Austin, Texas and they have written some of the most heartfelt music since Hank Williams died over 60 years ago.

Your Friend,


Hobbes said...

Dear Charles,

I always take musical recommendations very seriously, thank you! I'll fire up my iTunes...

I've not tried anything from Misty Peak Teas before - thanks again. The site looks very appealing, and I appreciate the compact inventory.

With best wishes,