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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...