24 April 2008

2003 Xiaguan Shu Tuo (ToM)

2003 Xiaguan Shu Tuo

The appearance of this tea caused me to have reservations about its authenticity. At first glance, the tea appears fine:

03 Xiaguan Shu Tuo - cap

But the interior leaves are all huangpian:

03 Xiaguan Shu Tuo - gross interior

While many, many manufacturers hide ugly leaves under pretty leaves, this is not something Xiaguan has been known to do, not even for the Xiao Fa (French Export) Tuo, which this tea is. While some of the faces do not match the back of the cakes on blended cakes like the (T)86## series, I've never seen Xiaguan practice this level of deception. Xiaguan teas being faked all the time, I went to see if I could find this tea on Taobao, the Chinese version of eBay. I found only one 2003 Xiaguan tuo matching the wrapper--another Xiao Fa Tuo--but it has no picture of the leaves. Also, it sells for all of 36RMB, the equivalent of roughly $5 (*grumble*). In comparison:

03 Xiaguan Shu Tuo - leaf

Worse, it tastes and smells terrible. My first attempt yielded a chemical smelling wet leaf and a perfumey, thin liquor tasting of straw and no earthiness. It even made my stomach upset. I stopped after three infusions.

Today, I brewed the tea again using more leaf. The chemical smell was still there, but the tea was improved. Smoother in texture, it still tasted more like fucha: all dry grass and little earth. The qi was whack, upsetting my stomach and making me woozy. The 3rd, 4th, 5th infusions were the most pleasant, coupling earthiness and grass. After this, it regressed to harsher chemically hay flavors.

03 Xiaguan Shu Tuo - liquor

The "deception" and low quality leaf combined with poor flavor makes me wonder if this is really a Xiaguan tea. I'm no authority, but I've never seen Xiaguan do this and have never tasted Xiaguan shu pu'er that I disliked. A closeup of the brewed leaves below shows the leathery huangpian. I'd love to blame the huangpian alone, but I've had huangpian shu before without complaining as much.

03 Xiaguan Shu Tuo - leaf huangpian

Pros: no pond
Cons: artificial/chemical aroma and flavors, needs a heap of leaf to get good flavors, ends poorly
Cost: $16/250g. 35 gongfu sessions at approx. $0.45 per gongfu. $0.09 per cup. Low quality damages its value.
Verdict: Low quality leaf deceptively hidden. Poor flavor. Finicky brewing. Not very good. Going to try this again with just the face leaf and update this post later.


shichangpu said...

i've tried this one as well--purchased a couple of them sight unseen. i agree--quite iffy stuff. i have no way of knowing whether it's authentic xiaguan, but whatever it is, it's not so good. and i do like huangpian (case in point, the tian xia old tea horse road bings available from ysllc, which i find quite enjoyable.

(for the same price as this, one can purchase 06 menghai v93 tuos from tuochatea.com--a much better investment, imho.)

Hobbes said...

MA's spot on, the 2006 V93 is very enjoyable shupu for me, too.