; Cwyn's Death By Tea: Grease Your Local Politician 2006 Xigui ;

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Grease Your Local Politician 2006 Xigui

I shook the hand of my first politician at the age of four, a Wisconsin Congressional Representative standing in our driveway. My father's pride was on the line when he introduced his oldest child and I was scared to death. Then I realized I could pretend to be someone else, so I put out my hand and said "how do you do?" At the height of his law career in the late 1980s, my father managed to lubricate his way all the way up to the US Senate. The story behind Crimson Lotus' new 2006 Xigui cake is that the source material is from a bribe of sorts to a local Yunnan politician, who has apparently accumulated a massive stash of puerh payments over the years. I know a lot about bribes and as I consider the tale of the 2006 Xigui, I can't help but sift through everything I learned from my dad on political grease.

Recently sourced by Crimson Lotus Tea.
My father campaigned for Jack Kennedy in 1963 in Madison, WI, an effort that earned him a payoff of an appointment as a district attorney to a small rural county in northern Wisconsin. Just fresh out of law school, my father became the youngest appointed DA ever in the history of the state. Back then the governor appointed district attorneys. Today these positions are elected by voters. 

"Your dad would never have won an election here," a former sheriff told me who later worked for my father as a private investigator, driver and drinking partner. "He just has the wrong last name." We had a Polish surname in a county of mostly Scandinavians. Maybe cash is how my father solved a dilemma of too many consonants.

I know cash talks with politicians because they just kept coming over. A family dinner at our house was a rarity, for we always had company. Dinner began at 5 p.m. with hors d'oeuvres (horse's doovers), usually some sort of fish filets, fried or pickled along with vegetables, cold sliced salami-style sausage, cheeses and crackers. And copious drinks. Dinner at 7 often consisted of steaks, potatoes and salad. And more drinks. If my father didn't have professional politicians or priests at the house, then it was the neighbors. Even the neighborhood dogs stopped by hoping for a piece of freezer burned meat, and rarely left disappointed. Often the party went all night and we stepped over passed-out bodies lying in puke the next morning. I learned to sleep to the sound of our tinny upright piano (my room was in the basement, just off the bar) and bellowing singing. Those who survived the night left with a check or cash in hand. My dad liked drinking buddies and drinking was his price, though to be fair he had offered fine food in return. But you can see why I retired to the convent early, entirely skipping the boozy college years. When you grow up in a party, you're done with all that before you reach the actual legal drinking age. And I wasn't alone. I surveyed our community of nuns, and 47% of our 600+ community members identified themselves as survivors of a similar childhood. 

Dad held court every night like he fancied himself Henry VIII, but it wasn't always his bribe going out the door. Far more often people offered him gifts instead. But these gifts were not strictly bribes, they are what you could call "in lieu of's." Rural areas are surely the birthplace of the "in lieu of," the payment offered instead of cash, and my lawyer father accepted all kinds of payment. My father did divorce work for women who had nothing to offer in cash, but he accepted their defunct wedding rings instead. Farmers paid for legal services in loads of manure, cords of wood, plots of land, half a hog, guns, fishing poles, and even leather gloves. Later as a parish nun I found myself forced to accept "in lieu of's" though I never charged anything personally for my services. 

"Tell us what you like, Sister." 

"I'm already getting a salary," I said to people over and over. Wrong answer. People still wanted to pay me for a home visit or just for doing my job. When I said I liked bran muffins, fresh fish filets (I did miss one thing from home) and maple syrup, these items arrived at my office regularly every week. Accepting these small food gifts was easy enough only because of my father. Sometimes people want to give. What are you gonna do? The price of refusal is just rude. Maybe "bribe" isn't a good word for the bran muffins or for the 2006 Xigui. Perhaps the tea is really an "in lieu of," which means the local people appreciate a nice guy, and he likes nice things. After all, he could be worse and sometimes you're better off propping up an average joe just to keep a current situation afloat instead of risking an alternative. 

5 Grams
What strikes me, though, about the Xigui "bribe," is why tea? My dad offered a service, and so accepting something other than cash was a favor to people who didn't have the money. But politicians usually want cash. Why not ask the farmers to sell the tea and bring back the cash? Or buy tangible and portable wealth like gold jewelry or Fendi bags? We can see from our perspective "over here" that tea is a kind of money, but tea is a local crop and it grows every year. Neither my father nor local officials here want bushels of corn, dried milk or cranberries though all of these, dollar for yuan, are certainly worth as much as tea. These crops grow every year, we can always get more.

What people really want is money, they don't want something they have to figure out how to sell on their own. "In lieu of" gifts are worth it only if you really need the item, or if you're doing the other guy a favor. But bribes are always cash. Always. So I can't entirely understand why this politician accepted tea. At best I believe this tea to be an "in lieu of," a wise local official willing to do favors and overlook an actual cash debt. I just don't buy the bribe story, myself. Unless he already has Chanel hidden in the garage.

Glen from Crimson Lotus generously sent me a sample of this tea when I asked, so to be clear he wasn't looking for me to write all this today. I brew up 5 grams of the tea, Just in case the tea is really fabulous, I save the remaining 5 grams for another session. 

Steep 2 showing storage, later steepings turned lighter yellow.
After two washes, my first taste of the tea yields a flavor which I always call the "tea mall" scent. For the leaves indicate dry storage gone bad, brown leathery dried out leaf with a slight taste and odor of incense. Maybe not literally incense, but I cannot describe the flavor of sour dry storage any other way. This is a flavor I most often find in teas from EBay or from tea mall sellers. What I'm guessing is that the tea was put up wet and then dried out, really really dried out. The leaves get this accordion pleating, like a dried out bellows. When tea like this stays dried out long enough, all the water in the world never really straightens out the leaf, returning it to a condition similar to that when young and fresh. And the char from the wok on the leaves imparted more than a little of the flavor, but gone from smoky to something like incense, the smoke didn't really integrate because the tea got too dried out. 

Most recently I've seen this type of dried-out leaf in samples from Sample Teas, larger online tea vendors (the kind that have hundreds of teas), Taobao and EBay. It's as if the tea sat in a tea shop for ages and didn't sell. Or maybe under the floor boards of a local politician? Lots of people like this storage flavor that I call "mall tea." I'm just not one of them.

Having said that, I got really stoned on this tea. I don't mean over-caffeinated, or a tea drunk, or even qi. I mean stoned. Like when cannabinoids deteriorate you get that fuzzy head instead of a clear head and then you get the munchies. One of my friends on Steepster tried this tea and reported she also got tea stoned. This effect is similar to what I get off white2tea's 2005 Naka, but the leaf quality in the Naka is much better and the price is higher accordingly. As today's session went on, that awful storage flavor eventually went away. By cup number eight or so, most of the leaf had lost the accordion pleating which I don't usually see. This tea has been rescued from the poor storage literally by a hair. Or maybe even months or days just before complete ruin. 

Later cups past 8 I get a pleasant grapefruit sour flavor, which is rather nice for me since I'm unable to eat grapefruits anymore due to a medication interaction. The soup turns a lighter lemon yellow and the leaf appears more normal by steep 10 when I took this photo. The tea doesn't have much body, but again this tea has been rescued from a bad situation and clearly the processing is local with the uneven wok burn. 

Leaf after 10 steeps.
My friends over at Tee Talk in Germany have been discussing this tea recently. Few of them have prior experience with Crimson Lotus and thus have not partaken of the rather decent shou puerh that this company sells as a mainstay. I also favor the Jian Shui teapots that Crimson Lotus sources directly. Shipping costs are always a factor. The description for the 2006 Xigui recommends drinking the tea immediately, and I have to echo that suggestion. Storage is not going to fix the unfortunate drying that happened to this leaf earlier on. The leaf quality seems to rescue itself in later steeps, but just barely. If you really want stoner tea, then pony up for the 2005 Naka from white2tea, but if the price is just too much for your wallet, then the 2006 Xigui from Crimson Lotus Tea is worth considering. 

Requiescat in Pace.


  1. Maybe we should sell this puerh with a bag of Cheetos. ;-)

    1. Or a copy of Blade Runner.

    2. I always thought a tea shop that looked like the noodle bar in the beginning of Blade Runner would be pretty cool. Now I've got a tea to serve there.

  2. Why tea? Because, in 2006, puer was something Chinese people thought would go up in value forever, just like the poor schnooks who got much too deep into real estate in the USA around the same time.

    1. I'm certain that is true. The guy was probably also inexperienced with accepting gratuities. The problem with commodities and other tangibles is selling them. If someone offered me a gold bar today, I wouldn't take it unless I need a doorstop. The issue is selling, you don't get what a gold bar is worth, buying and selling futures in commodities is really the only way, and nobody really takes a put on those shares.

  3. I blind bought a full cake last year and also got nasty dry storage flavors only they were acrid and sour like a lacto fermented sour red ale only unpleasant. I aged in 60% humidity to no avail. As a last ditch effort I broke up the cake and put in a tea tin with a tobacco humidity button. 2 weeks later it tastes quite good, very similar to the Naka. For those on a budget who want a decent semi aged sheng with muscle relaxing qi. I recommend u get a cake of this and humidify it...