27 August, 2012

2006 Sanhetang - Xizihao "Taiji"

Lei is heavily pregnant at the moment.  She is 6.5 months through, and so has 2.5 months to go (all being well), and yet is absolutely enormous.  I think our second child is going to be a big'un.  I think I've mentioned before that he's a boy, which will be great fun for Xiaohu and a blessing for us both.  As an amusing consequence of working in biomedical research, Lei gets plenty of ultrasonic equipment tested on her by our overexcited doctoral students.  The upside of this is that we get 3-dimensional baby scans in utero; the new baby looks almost exactly the same as Xiaohu did at the same gestational age, even down to the structure of the nose.

The good doctor and I are off to the USA today*.  If you're going to IEEE EMBC 2012 in San Diego, then send us a message!  This time, I get to be the "partner" - Lei has been invited to give a lecture and chair a session, and so I will be humbly presenting a separate paper (which is also hers!) in a parallel session as a second author.  It's good to be put in one's place.

I leave you in the capable hands of Sanhetang.

*The only other time we have been to the United States was for a conference in Montana. It was cold, but entirely excellent.  We saw bison.


Following my recent communications with my Eastern European chums, it is with great thanks to long-time teachum TA from Slovakia that I sat down to try this "taiji" cake from Xizihao.

I recall that when these cakes came out, I was travelling to another city to see my new wife - we lived apart for the first year of our marriage, while she finished her PhD.  However, after three hours on the train, I got to spend every week-end with her.  These days, I have the luxury of seeing her every day, and thinking back to that time when we were apart reminds me of how lucky I am.  It's quite something to look back and see how dramatically life has changed.

Set against that background, the Taiji cakes from Xizihao were teas that I always wanted to taste, but never got around to it, and the price of which would have then been far beyond my means (as a humble DPhil student myself, at the time).

2006 Xizihao Taichi

You know the drill with Xizihao.  They typically look amazing, and this cake is no different: the long leaves (pictured above) have gathered some redness / darkness through age, and they give out a very decent sweet scent.

I didn't take any photographs of the soup, and so you will have to imagine the heavy orange colour looking cheerful in my small little white cup.  This is a Laobanzhang cake, and the heavy slug of sweetness that it delivers to the throat is very decent.  As you might expect (and hope), it has the complexity of good honey, which persists throughout the mouth.  It is a penetrating tea, and we are reminded once again that Mr. Sanhetang makes reliable cakes.  His record may be somewhat variable, but he certainly made solid cakes back in 2006.

2006 Xizihao Taichi

It's probably for the best that I cannot remember how much this tea costs.  Currently, it hangs in the balance between the green nature of its youth, and the darkness of age.  The storage, presumably at Houde headquarters in the southern United States of America, has been good to the cake.  It remains substantial.

Given that this cake is the black-wrapper version, I imagine that it is the "yin", whereas the white-wrapper version would presumably be the "yang", if the usual symbology for the "taiji" is used (i.e., the famous yin-yang circle).  I've no idea of the differences between the two, but this black version is fine by me.  If you own a cake or two of this, I assume that you are very happy with your purchase!

It reminds me of a very special time in my life, and it is a great pleasure to revisit.  Thanks again to TA for the trip back to those student years.


Tuo Cha Tea said...

I deleted my comment above, because I was sure I made a mistake, but after checking on wikipedia, I'm quite sure I'm right.

The cakes with white wrapper, Yin, are decorated with silvery leaf buds, while the Yang cakes with black wrapper are without the leaf buds.

And what you tasted is actually a pure slovak-hungarian storage.


Hobbes said...

Dear Tomas,

"Old yin, young yang", perhaps ;)



shah8 said...

Ah, better make the corrections here...

Guang is wrong, this is the YIN, not the Yang. The YANG is the white wrapper. It was originally more expensive, by about $3.50, because it was tippier.

Other notes?

Personally, for me, for something with such a naturally dramatic reputation, like Lao Banzhang, this is a very quiet tea, and it's one of those teas that you have to get deeper into the session before you realize that this is very, very, good (and more subtle than expected). I like this the most out of all the Lao Banzhangs I've had because the session compiles a complex and dynamic tastebud extravaganza. Really complex, if light aroma, and of course, plenty of qi. This is also a fairly non-standard LBZ taste--doesn't have the dramatic flavor transitions or the huge huigans, and tastes more...mushroomy Menghai than other LBZs.

I've seen a review in Taiwan where there was some sense of the perturbed at how...non-yang this is. This was not smoky, and does not have the kind of sharp woody-floral (maybe fruity) smell that's more typical of younger LBZs. More of a soft floral and perfume aroma last I drank it.

I think the Taiji are significant because they are among the oldest of high quality true LBZ. The 2005 cakes played a big role in generating Banzhang Mania in Taiwan. As far as I make out, real LBZ of good purity cakes started in 2004, more or less, with the Bok Choy Cha Wang '04. The road to Lao Banzhang was a complete wreck until really rather recently, so getting maocha was a real bother.

The Taiji were sold at $65 and $68.5, then prices were raised to $145 in early 2007, and sold out (I think Guang removed them rather than sell them, but hey...) in Feb 2011. You can buy 'em at the Sanhetang website now, I suppose, but the cakes costs a bit under $600. Believe it or not, ChenShengHao cakes can cost more than these, as well as many other LBZs.

Mighty Tea Monster said...

Since you and your wife are going to be visiting across the pond.. hope your visit to California goes well.. and thanks again for the many tea insights. I will be following up on some of them once I get a breath of air from my busy schedule. My tea stocks are getting low... which is...unacceptable.. keep up the good work and thanks again for keeping up the blog despite your busy schedules.