17 November, 2011

2010 Xizihao "Manning Gucha"

You know that I loves me my Xizihao. It used to be terrifically exciting when Sanhetang released a new cake; or, rather, when Houde or Yunnan Sourcing chose to stock them. The 2005-era cakes were really very good, and perhaps, if quality has waned a little through the years, then we can say that Xizihao are, at least, still reliable.

(I consider productions such as the recent 2010 Xizihao bamboo tong to have been transient negative events that I'd rather pretend didn't occur.)

2010 Xizihao Manning

This cake, unsurprisingly, is expensive.  At over $110 for a one-year-old cake, we are expecting good, perhaps great, things to occur in the cup.  It is the more expensive of a pair of Simao cakes stocked by Houde, which reportedly come from Jinggu (not Jingu!), in Simao prefecture.  For a man like that likes Simao cakes and Xizihao cakes, surely a Xizihao Simao cake will be impressive!

(Edit: thanks to Shah8 for suggesting that this might be a Manzhuan (?) cake - this information wasn't available at Houde.)

2010 Xizihao Manning

The leaves look healthy enough.  Much ink has been spilled concerning the varietal of pu'er trees in Jinggu, and concerning the predominantly taidicha [plantation tea] crops in the Laowushan area on Zhenyuan county from where this product derives.  In this case (edit: unless it's a Manzhuan cake!), the leaves appear to be medium-sized (not particularly small), and have the gentle, sweet aroma of a cake coping with the English wintertime.

2010 Xizihao Manning

Alarm bells begin to ring from the rinse, which is orange.  I'm willing to accept that some regions might brew orange straight away, but I am left with the suspicion that something untoward has occurred.  There are plenty of reliable young Jinggu cakes out there that brew bright yellow, after all...

This suspicion builds when we consider the aroma in the wenxiangbei [aroma cup], which proves to be a muted, uninteresting, generic sweetness with little potency.

2010 Xizihao Manning

As with all Xizihao cakes, this is a clean tea.  It brews a fresh, zesty brew. However, something is amiss here.  Somewhere near the back of the throat is a hint of a huigan [returning sweet sensation]; somewhere on the tongue is a distant hint of cooling freshness; somewhere on the lips is a muted vibrancy.  I take such characteristics to be positive signs, but their presence seems significantly diluted, as if there is a portion of leaves in the blend that is trying to make itself felt, and which is failing in comparison to some other, larger contribution to the blend.

Sadly, that remainder of the blend must be less accomplished, because it is a fairly flat, generic affair -although tasty enough, in its granary Simao way.  The distant sensations of quality are all that suggest that this cake is more than a mainstream cake, and I suspect that many tasters would pass over it in a blind tasting test.

Whether this majority of the blend comes from processing or from lesser leaf quality is debatable; the result is a decent, clean, but ultimately unrewarding cake.  The final nail in its coffin is that my mother, who was passing by and tried a cup, noted "It's rather empty."  And that's my mother.

I respectfully disagree with Guang when he writes that this is a masculine tea which would probably overwhelm the senses if brewed "incorrectly".  Its orange character makes it very forgiving and difficult to overbrew, and it is not at all the powerful, masculine cake that the product description had led me to hope for.

It is entirely unimaginable that this cake could sell for over $110.


Anonymous said...

You're showing the Manzhuang (曼林, so as to avoid taiwanese spelling) label, but talking about it as if it's the Lao Wu Shan, the Zhenyuan tea. Which is it, just to be sure?

Not that the Lao Wu Shan would be something to be all sweaty about either.

Houde's put up 100g XZH 2011 tea sorta like the gift set I'm fond of. Zhang Jia Wan and Ding Jia Zhai, along with Nannuo gongting shu. Judging by the prices, and tea areas, I would have to doubt that the sheng would impress anyone, given that it's cheaper than some fall YS '11 Yiwus. Also, if the Manlin isn't that impressive, then I fail to see why I should be excited by Yiwu that's a bit more than half the Manlin's price per gram.


A Student Of Tea said...

It looks like you have a new aroma cup - a beutiful one, that is! May I ask where you got it from?

Bryan said...

I feel much better after reading this, as some of my findings on this tea were very similar. I was really pushing this tea, but it just didn't produce! What a shame. However, your writing is very enjoyable, as always.

Take Care,


Hobbes said...

This one's the more expensive of the two, Shah8. :)

The aroma cup! Well spotted. Paradoxically, although it's new to my tea-table, it's the oldest set of cups in the house. We bought from them in a Sichuan teahouse many years ago, but they've been in storage ever since because I didn't think they matched the zisha feel of our tea-table. I have since realised that it was a nonsensical thought, and have recently been enjoying these more decent white cups, in preference to my knackered old zisha cups. :)

Bryan - thanks for the note. I haven't read of anyone getting much joy out of these Xizihao cakes (the cheaper one is slightly better, in my estimation, but not by a huge amount).