Sunday, October 30, 2011

2008 Xiaguan FT "Happy Tuo"

Surprisingly, among all of the ancient and old tree rare cakes I am now going to change the topic a bit and drop a line about a famous little raw nest that almost everyone has already tasted and blogged about. I, however, have had my first opportunity only tonight. 

I was considering buying a few Xiaguan tuos just for the reason of having experience, and to tell you the truth, I did not expect much. Firstly, I have bad experience with a fake Xiaguan cake which I bought blindly at the very beginning of my puercha period and I somewhat forced the existence of this company out of my awareness and avoided any products signed under this label for a few months. Then, being a little bit more courageous, I changed my mind and decided to buy a few particular well-reviewed pieces from a serious vendor, just in order to advance my knowledge about the products that are produced by one of the biggest puercha producers

I was especially interested in tasting famous ODB BaoYan and, being curious about the nuances, I also bought BaoYan tuo. I have already tasted the 2005 brick and to my surprise it tasted very sweet and spicy, despite the tobacco smell that strikes your nose right after unwrapping (and that I quite enjoyed, btw). It reminded me of classic heicha style, especially Tibetan Tea from the Ya An Tea Factory which is basically of the same charateristics as 2006 Ya An Zang Zhuan, the one I briefly reviewed here in August. Ya An Zang Zhuan is sold by Royal Puer in their Shu Puercha section despite the fact that this brick is not produced in Yunnan and many people are therefore surprised as they expect a completely different kind of flavour. This 2005 BaoYan brick tasted very similar. I have not tasted the tuo yet but am wondering what will be the difference as it is said to be less chopped, more tightly pressed and also two and a half years younger. 

Today, however, all this prologue is supposed to introduce my very first meeting the famous Happy Tuo. It is the only FT tuo from Xiaguan production I decided to buy and I must admit I gave credit to its reputation and decided only according to other blogger's reviews. I was still suspicious about its qualities even having it unpacked in my hands today after opening a small package from China.

The beautifully shaped little purple box smells after mint and tobacco. Being moreover a little frozen, it was a very special aroma that I cannot associate with anything, unless there is something like tobacco chewing gum that I am not aware of. It was a smell which I intuitively connected in my mind with an imagination of typical Xiaguan smells so I was not surprised at all. The 2006 MengKu Rongshi bing wrapper's rubber smell I mentioned in one of my reviews is not very far from it but it lacks the mint attribute. Only smelling the box strengthened my not very optimistic expectations considering this little champion but they all were meant to be put to rest in a few hours time.

I prepared myself for a struggle with a pick and the tuo in a quest for unbroken leaves. Most Xiaguan tuos are said to be tightly pressed, this particular FT Happy tuo belongs to the few exceptions. It was not as hard as I expected and after a few seconds I had this wonderful small heap of half-crushed material I could use.

The smell of wet leaves could be described as smoke-dried fat cheese as my tonight's partner in tea, Hiru, nicely put. The smell of the first infusion in a cup is very smoky, tobaccoish but not in an unpleasant manner. Given the fact that I already have a similar experience with the above mentioned MengKu bing, I was ready to change my mind completely about this tea in a second. And after having the first sip I could peacefully lay all my worries aside. This tea is not bad!

It cannot be compared to any of those ancient tree cakes I have been drinking lately but in its appropriate category (I have just created for it) it is a winner. It does not have any competition though as there are no other candidates but I am going to add some as soon as the rest of the 100g little nest disappears from my storeroom.

This tea is not boring at all. Apart from having the above mentioned aroma, the flavour is surprisingly sweet and refreshing. I did not steep it for a long time so if there was any bitterness and astringency present, I did not give it a chance. Especially in later infusions, when most of the tobacco aroma is weakened, beautiful sweet almost honey-like flavour appears to provoke your taste in wanting more. I do not regret buying this little wonder as there is definitely a place for it in my life. I can imagine buying some little Happy Tuo family soon.

2008 Xiaguan FT "Happy Tuo"
Type: Raw nest, 100g (FT is said to be of premium quality leaf)
Astringency: Some, but not very disturbing
Bitterness / Smokiness: Almost none / Quite high in aroma at the beginning
Flavour: Surprisingly sweeter, spicy, round and quite complex
Aroma: "Smoke-dried fat cheese", tobacco, cherry?
Brewing potency: Surprisingly high

I can see from the pictures that tonight was very yellow again..
Good night, good tea.



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Drink your tea
slowly and reverently,
as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves.
Slowly, evenly,
without rushing toward the future.
Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Best to be like water,
Which benefits the ten thousand things
And does not contend.
It pools where humans disdain to dwell,
Close to the Tao.

Live in a good place.
Keep your mind deep.
Treat others well.
Stand by your word.
Keep good order.
Do the right thing.
Work when it's time.

Only do not contend,
And you will not go wrong.

Tao Te Ching, 8 / transl. Addis & Lombardo