Thursday, April 5, 2012

1983 Xiaguan Xiao Fa Tuocha

I guess it's about time I write about tea again :)   This morning's session was with one of my favorites, a 1980's issue of the Xiaguan 'Xiao Fa' tuo.  Today I had the one that's currently offered at Best Tea House in Canada (100g size and said to be from 1983), but Essence of Tea also has these for sale (the larger 250g size, noted as "1980's").  I've tried both of these teas side by side and they're very similar.  I find the smaller 100g tuo is a bit more rich and intense than the 250g one, which I think might be due to the size/mass difference of the tuos.  Or maybe the 250g tuo is as much as 6 or 7 years younger?  I can't say for sure, but both are very enjoyable and favorites of mine.  This tea is said to be a lightly fermented shu, and it's fantastic.  It really shows the best of both worlds (shu/sheng).  Suits my taste and preferences very well.  I've never had a session with it that was anything less than wonderful.

On the shu side of things, the Xiao Fa is full of sweet richness, with plenty of complexity to keep you on your toes through the first 6 or 7 infusions.  At times it shows cinnamon and spice.  Other times I'll find soft chocolate notes in the nose, with rich sweet wood carrying it at the base.  Now and then I'll get flashes of a sheng-like fruitiness, which always surprises me.  Toward later infusions the taste and aroma will lose some dimensionality but is still very enjoyable, increasing in sweetness and settling into a deep-wood-with-hazelnuts yumminess.  But it plays out very nicely this way since the qi of this one builds to a wonderful state of contemplative calm, so by the time the aromas are settling I'm very much in a place that welcomes steadiness and calm.

Sheng-wise?  No, this isn't a sheng but I'm guessing that the more lightly fermented leaves are what's responsible for the activity and complexity found in this tea.  The tea soup is lusciously silky, coating the mouth in a soft and gentle way.  The aromas and flavors are multi-layered and changing throughout the earlier infusions.  Every time I drink this tea the word 'elegant' comes to mind.  Best of all, it shows a great deal of activity throughout the body.  It definitely has my kind of qi going on, melting all the edges of experience and settling me into a warm pool of "aahhhh..."  

Speaking of warmth, this tea has a way of bringing a surprising degree of perspiration to the skin.  Definitely warming in that way.  But what's most interesting is that while I feel heat to my skin, there is a contrasting sense of coolness in the throat and core of the body.  This morning as I was trying to find words to articulate this I kept coming up with "cool breeze through the central core of the body."  That's kind of what it feels like.

I really love this tea and almost hate to blog about it because I'd like to hoard it all for myself :)

I also want to point out a new cup in the photo above.  Another Petr Novak beauty, this is one of his porcelain celadon-glazed cups.  Like the antique cups I mentioned in a recent post, the shape of these enhances the gold ring effect of certain teas (like this Xiao Fa), and also seems to encourage the pattern play of steam and mist (cloud feet) more so than cups of other shapes.  I've really been enjoying getting to know these cups.  A big thank you to Petr for blessing me with them :)


  1. Glad you finally got around to reviewing this one. Its old but do you really think its worth $280? I haven't tried it but i can't help thinking its far too expensive for shu. Thats in line with buying the 80's Yiwu cake from Essence of Tea.

  2. Anonymous -- I hear you on this one. Obviously the EoT offering is a far better deal. Is it worth $280? Ultimately that's a question the individual has to answer for himself. I would say that considering the complexity and qi of this one, its clearly not the average shu. I'll also say that my patronage of BTH is due to more than just their (admittedly very pricey) offerings. But for an online buyer who will not be developing a relationship with the shop, I'm sure that price alone is enough to deter.

  3. A wonderful post as always. You have now sparked my interest in sampling this tea. I've been on the hunt for some good shu recently after a nice Star Of Menghai of which I received a sample. I had considered this one when I was purchasing some of the 1980s Bamboo Wrapped Tuo Cha from EoT. I now wish I had ordered some at that time... :)

  4. Disciple.. DOTTL.. (or can I just call you Eric?) :) I admit I've got a real soft spot for good shu. While a lot of it is one-dimensional and ho-hum, now and then you run across something truly notable. I'd be interested to hear more about the Star of Menghai you mention (year? vendor?).

  5. Eric, it is... :) It says '2009 Dayi Star of Menghai Shu' on the sample pkg. I would be more than happy to send you some if you are interested. I also have some of the 98 Xingyang Golden Leaf shu from Verdant (I purchased a whole 100g tin) which I would also be happy to share... let me know. I think you have my email address, but if not, it is just