Xiaguan 1986 – An In House Review

As you may probably know by now, I am a fan of raw Pu Erh. It’s pretty much the only type of tea I drink on a daily basis. I love its complexity, and the fact that it will change positively over time. This week marked my first anniversary of Gong Fu brewing. About a year ago, I went to Camellia Sinensis tea house in Montreal and bought my first gaiwan and two types of tea : a roasted Taiwanese Dong Ding Oolong, and a 10 years aged raw Pu Erh from Youle mountain. Right off the bat, I was hooked on Gong Fu style brewing, but most importantly, it was my first meeting with raw Pu Erh, a semi aged one. I was in the mood for celebration. I wanted to treat myself. I went to Camellia Sinensis to drink tea, and I noticed they had this expensive 33 year old Xiaguan sheng Pu Erh on their menu. I instantly ordered it, and never looked back. This was my first contact with properly aged Pu Erh. I will offer you today an overview of my in house session.

Brewing parameters

I was not in control of the parameters, and I’m not quite sure about them, but I will give them a go. There was a bout 5 grams of leaves in a 120 ml Yixing gaiwan. The server told me to infuse the tea 15 seconds for the first three steeps, and increase the brewing time by small increments.

The wet leaves

Unfortunately, I couldn’t do the dry leaves, because the tea was given to me already rinsed. The wet leaves displayed a red-ish brown-ish color. It’s really hard to believe that this tea was one day a young sheng. I believe this tea was aged in Taiwan, but I don’t have any way to find this information as of now. The leaves were also broken up, because the cake was aged in a Tuo Cha shape. And when breaking it apart, it’s really hard to keep whole leaves. The smell of the wet leaves was quite unique. From only a rinse, it unveiled a very mineral and wet forest floor notes. It speaks a lot about its age. The notes from smelling almost reached a shou like quality.

The tea liquor

The liquor in the first infusion showed a very dark and bright red color with a brownish hue. Through the infusions, it got continually darker. The tea was very clear, and was not cloudy at all. In my opinion, it shows that it had great storage conditions.

Infusions

  1. The first infusion was 15 seconds long. Right off the bat, the tea gave if a sort of mineral sweetness that I never came across when it comes to raw Pu Erh. There was also a definite woodiness, wet forest floor, after a rainy night. It was very sweet, which took me by surprise. I was not expecting such a sweetness from a 33 year old tea. The energy this tea deploys is quite impressive. After a few sips, the Qi started to hit. It’s a tea you not only taste, but feel quite a lot.
  2. This infusion was also 15 seconds long. It started off with the same mineral sweetness, but a bit stronger. It was sweeter, and it lingered for quite a while in the mouth after drinking. The texture was thick from the start, but it got really viscous on this brew. It was a heavy texture, but a juicy one as well. The wet woodiness notes reminded me of wet pencil shavings (Thanks Tea DB for this unique tasting notes). Slowly, it started to develop a spicy character, and a strong and earthy note. At this point, even after brewing, the only thing I could smell was this tea. It was very intoxicating, but in a good way. The aromas were wonderful. They’re still locked up in my head.
  3. The third infusion was also 15 seconds long. The texture of the tea smoothened and gave sweetness all around. It was still very mineral, and it gave off the same mineral sweetness as before. It was still strong in terms of woodyness, but gave spicier and earthier notes. If you close your eyes, you could almost imagine the place where it was stored. It’s a pretty special experience.
  4. For the fourth infusion, I gave the tea 20 seconds to hang around with the water. It almost seemed to me like this tea won’t die. It’s very ‘’infusable’’. The sweetness is still there, and it is combined with a mineral aftertaste. On this brew, a slightly metallic note occured up on the first sip. It went fast and was replaced by a rewarding sweetness and woody notes. It’s to note that on this brew, I was really tea drunk and the Qi went to my head.

Later brews

I spent an hour and a half hammering this tea with boiling water. But it came to an end, where the leaves and the water would give a very, almost too much, light brew. I reached the end of this tea. On steep 16, it got lighter. And on steep 20, the tea stopped living. After brew #4, I stopped taking notes, because I wanted to enjoy this session thoroughly. I was living in the moment, and it was really rewarding.

Body feel

The Qi this tea offered is out of this world. I almost cannot describe it. I felt very meditative and introspective, and it very much calmed me, but kept me focused on what was important and brought me positive thoughts. I was very tea drunk when I got out, and I punched a hole in my walled, but I didn’t feel bad about it, because it was a once in a lifetime experience. For all of the afternoon, sweetness lingered in my mouth and this tea made my organs move quite a bit. I felt really at peace with myself for hours on and. I was calm like I have never been calm before.

Overall

Overall, this experience was out of this world. Camellia Sinensis tea house is a very relaxing place, where technology is not allowed. It really gave me the opportunity to turn my cell phone off, and enjoy the moment. I think that’s missing from our lives sometimes. I won’t drink a tea like this any time soon. There was not a lot of people around when I went in, and the staff took the time to talk to me about the tea. They successively came and asked me about my experience, which lead to interesting conversation about tea aging and the Pu Erh industry today. Although it’s on their menu, very few people order such a tea. I had a wonderful experience that I would like to repeat one day.

PS : Words don’t do justice to this tea. Order a sample online or go in house for a session. You will not regret it.

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