2015 Xiaguan T8653 "Iron Cake" Sheng / Raw Puerh
The Xiaguan Tea Factory is one of the oldest in China. They are located at the foothills of the Himalayas on the edge of the Xiaguan mountain range in Dali, Yunnan, China. The factory is uniquely situated to channel the strong winds that travel down these mountains. They claim that it is these winds that give their puerh its special taste.
Xiaguan uses leaves sourced from many tea gardens in Yunnan. These leaves represent multiple years. Their blend is proprietary and a secret. These leaves are a good balance of different grades with some very large leaves, small twigs, and also smaller buds. The leaves are mostly complete.
This sheng puerh cake is a classic blend and very popular in China. The "T" designation implies that it was heavily compressed and is called an "Iron Cake". Xiaguan Iron Cakes have a reliable reputation for long term aging.
Aromas are vegetal with barnyard and alfalfa notes. The warm leaf aroma reveals a honey sweetness with a floral finish. The wet aroma is mildly mineral and reminiscent of Chinese medicine. Bitterness comes quick in the first brew, but disappears like magic and returns as sweetness. This tea is similar to traditional border teas the minorities would use for butter tea. Later brews are smoother with floral sweetness, pleasing aftertaste, and a menthol cooling. A tangy astringency makes your mouth salivate to balance the drying effect of the tannins.
This is a puerh that rewards patience. Early brews should be handled with a gentle touch. There is an untamed aggression early on. Tame the beast and you will be rewarded with gentle flavors.
This is a really cost effective sheng puerh. Buy a few and "lose them" on a shelf somewhere. Let your grandkids discover them. Xiaguan sheng puerh has a long history of aging well. These would also be perfect for some home pumidor experiments. Put a few in different environments and see how they age.
Use 5-10 grams of leaves and brew with 2-5 ounces of water at or near boiling. Wash once for 3s, then start with a quick steep of 6-8s. With each re-steep adjust the steep time to your taste.