; Cwyn's Death By Tea: 2011 Xiao Jin Gua Sheng ;

Saturday, May 21, 2016

2011 Xiao Jin Gua Sheng

Well, 2010 really. This tea goes by the conventions of sheng nomenclature attributing the tea to the pressing time rather than the harvest. I scored this cute little 237g melon for $38 when picking up some accessories from Verdant Tea, I’m especially fond of their Yunnan bamboo strainers and decided I needed one for every type of tea. But even more happily, Verdant puerh stocks are rather full, perhaps the whole marketing fiasco of the 1800 year old puerh slowed the pu fanatics from shopping there. I continue to pray that more tea companies fall out of favor with buyers because that means more tea for me. I’m ever so grateful to you tea “monks” leaving room for us tea psychopaths, lacking any tea morals, to prey on the unclaimed stocks left behind.

Nice diaper wrapping.
Verdant Tea mainly sells puerh from the Mt. Ailao/Simao region and has since 2012. This happy little melon is an autumn tea, and while I don’t have a whole lot of autumn puerh in my collection, once in awhile I’ll pick up a little bit because I know that the tea is easy to drink compared to its spring counterpart. Whether I drink it or not isn’t the point, the objective is to hoard anyway, so a tea getting lost in my piles is just fine by me. I don’t exactly have many melons in my lot either. Verdant describes the tea as spicy with cinnamon rum type of flavors, and the tea has browned already in just six years.

Okay so a melon beeng hole is a little pucker at the top.
I chipped off 9 grams for about 100 ml of water, usually I will go heavy on autumn leaf. Hit it with boiling water and smelled nothing at all other than mineral heat. This tea is very much asleep. It was happy clinging to the heavily compressed melon shape and not at all ready to come apart and go swimming. With two rinses done, I poured out steeps 1 and 2 into a cup together.

Honest. Sort of. Scratch the old.
The smell in the gaiwan is a bit apricot-y like a Menghai tuo, though the tea is Mt. Ailao in origin, and very slightly smoky but not much. Smells like an ordinary puerh in the gaiwan. 

Autumn puerh leaves.
In the cup I didn’t taste much from the first two steepings poured together. But then 5 minutes after a good gulp with not much flavor, a massive huigan hit my tongue. Hard. My mouth filled up with sweetness, like the after effect of eating licorice. During my Vegan days I ate a lot of Panda licorice because it contains iron, something that as a vegan female I needed to have in my diet someplace if I’m not eating beef. This huigan reminds me very much of Panda licorice with the lingering sweet aftertaste. Not easy to find Panda licorice where I live now, but once in awhile I come across it and pick up a box. If you’re vegan Panda is a super sweet treat, if not then you might miss the sugar since it is sweetened with molasses.

photo by worldharvestfoods.com
Steep 3 of the tea is bitter, I’m finally getting some flavor here. The tea is waking up. Steep 4 is tongue-curling bitter, a very welcome sign that I made a good purchase and promptly went online to order another melon. Even more explosive huigan in these two steepings, I could swear I just ate half a box of Panda. I kept sniffing the gaiwan because the scent is still just like ordinary puerh. If the tea were a spring tea, I’d expect a very pungent, bitter and smoky cup based on the smell alone, but the autumn tea is much more forgiving. I don’t find the bitterness unpleasant or difficult to drink, other people might though.

First few steeps are brownish, later steeps are more a lighter yellow.
Long legs in the stomach, not very thick in the brew, but cooling on the tongue and I get a bit of sweat and heat in my body. Not that I need any more heat, guess I’ll save this tea for fall and winter. My hands are hot now as I type. I’m a Yang person, someone Yin might be just comfortable but my ring is tighter on my too-warm finger. My mouth is somewhat dry so I break for water. I sniff the cup not smelling much of anything, very often my strong puerh teas leave a honey fragrance behind, but I guess autumn tea doesn’t have that full thickness of spring. 

At steep 8, the green tea youth has emerged, but still potent.
The Verdant description of the tea is cinnamon-raisin-rum and spicy, I get that mostly in the warm effect that spices have on the body, not so much in the flavor. The huigan here is so intense with 9 grams and bitterness left to age. I don’t care what this tastes like, with this kind of huigan and heat I can see why the guy who pressed this hoarded it for five years and still kept ten melons for himself when he sold the rest to Verdant. The tea is still going at 8 steeps and 30 seconds of steep time, and still bitter.

So my advice here to you tea heads is absolutely, positively, stay away from Verdant Tea. And keep your mitts off this melon, the website only allows me to order one at a time. Thank you.

Now, half of you are sitting there having read TeaDB’s piece this weekend on drinking your stash. I think the point of it was to tell people to drink their good teas, but I found a slur in there against the semi-aged tuo like the one I’m drinking right now. And this type of thinking is what I see all over the net these days. People have a yearning for a mythical tea, LBZ or whatever, maybe something they actually own or something they tried once and for whatever reason the tea of today just doesn’t cut it. The leaf ain’t as good, or people just aren’t excited anymore because their heyday of when everything tasted better is long gone.

I have to ask, what do people want? I don’t know anyone who holds the exact same collection of teas as anyone else. And the tuo I just discussed is actually sold out now because I bought the last one. So you can’t even have what I’m writing about here.  Or you might feel disillusioned with Old Cwyn because she is sitting here drinking a $30 tuo from a horrible company. I feel that some people expect that as time goes on, tea experience should get better and better, but maybe with your evolved palate the experience actually gets worse. Fewer teas satisfy and for you nobody is excited anymore, at least not the same people who were five years ago. So what do people want, five, seven years later? Tea is going to be limited in what it gives, and tea just isn't the ultimate aesthetic experience in life. Kind of like how sex is great is your 20s and 30s and then it isn't that aesthetic experience anymore. If you can still stand your partner at all, they have nevertheless evolved into a survival buddy as much as anything else. Your partner isn't LBZ, they are, at best, a semi aged tuo. And if your partner was LBZ before, time and storage maybe didn't sit so well, and now you feel like you got stuck with a dud and want something else.

So, what does a person want at this point? Will you be that 50 year old guy dating a young 20 year old chick again? Does that work or does she take your money and run like Heather Graham? Maybe all that we can expect from tea is what you can get from a decent semi aged tuo or LBZ with bad processing and mediocre storage. But even if someone else has something better, there is no real way to get what he has. At least not for the poor man who is ugly and has no connections. And it is just tea anyway.

So he says often enough, "if I had money I'd buy a tong of this" but then a month or a year later he doesn't like the tea anymore. Maybe that is why people don't drink what they have because a year later they don't like it. I doubt it is all just about the palate evolving, but rather that the disappointment stays the same. People forget in their arguments of Starbucks over Petes that the real alternative that exists in reality and is accessible to them is Folgers. Or for a better tea analogy, if all I can have is EBay, or Verdant Tea, and every other option for buying tea goes away, well I'd be fine with that. It is just tea we are talking about, not a school for my children.

Well anyway. At some point I'm going to be accused of not having enough of a discriminating palate. But I don't need Michaelangelo every day to find a painting to look at. And I don't need Shakespeare just to go to the theatre, I'm fine with "Guys on Ice" (a local Wisconsin musical). My point is, I've been to the Royal Shakespeare, I’ve produced Tracy Letts and rambled my way onstage through Lanford Wilson. And because of that, I can enjoy the Necedah Community Theatre Rabbit play for what it is rather than bewailing what it isn't. After all, the ticket only cost me $5, not $85. I don't feel deprived of any less aesthetically because I realize I don't need to eat prime rib on a daily basis to be happy. I don’t feel deprived of good tea simply because right now I’m choosing to drink a pretty decent semi-aged tuo. I’ve had great tea and bad tea. I’ve internalized all possible picnics, the experience of them lies within me, so today’s picnic can be brats and kraut rather than needing champagne and brie all the time. The person who truly yearns and truly feels deprived is the poor man, the one who has nothing and never did.

So if this semi-aged Verdant tuo isn’t good enough for you, the seasoned tea drinker, I can’t help you. And no one else can, either, not because your palate has evolved, but because your disappointment hasn’t changed.  The only ray of hope I can give is, well, 2016 is another year and may your storage be moist.



  1. One small positive of buying good tea is that in a crunch, or, indeed, you don't like it anymore...you can resell it easier than that Verdant tuo.

    1. There is really no re-sale market in the west for tea unless you are willing to sell for less than you paid for it. Definitely not for high end tea.

      I have heard from a lot of people already on this post. What most seem to be saying to me is that tea has a point of contentment for them, having tried both pricey tea and moderate price tea, the point of contentment is the same. Therefore they don't feel the need to spend at a higher price point. Tea has its place, it is what it is, for them

    2. You sure about that? I don't find that to be true out of personal experience.

      As for fine tea and contentment, well... Really good tea has always made very good medicine for bad days, for me. I do not get the same contentment from my cake of Dayi 8582 801.

    3. Yep I'm sure about that. I'm not talking about personal experience though, tea friend to tea friend. I'm talking about a resale market willing to pay over retail.

      Everyone has their uses for tea. For many people, it is just one of life's pleasures.

    4. Okay, but what's "over retail"? The resale market has always been about teas that no longer exists on retail shelves. And of course, when we're talking about "good tea", we're basically talking about really good tea. And when we're talking about really good teas, they always have sticker prices that are way too high. Please note, I never said "at a profit", or "at retail value", but that if you're hard up, you can indeed actually sell them, which wouldn't be true of more average teas.

      In the West, tea has to compete with so many other things for the spot of one of people's "life pleasures". As an aesthetic activity, it has to be at least somewhat refined. In any event, the best teas are not about everyday pleasures, anyways. It's about the high moments and low moments of your life, and what you indulge in. Good tea that you can drink on the regular is indeed a life's pleasure. Moreover, doing a good job buying decent tea often means that you have a stash of teas that would retail for much more for any newcomers. Or, well, that used to be the case. I think production and quality grades have stabilized a lot now, and more resembles the games in other kinds of teas.

    5. Why would anyone want to sell for less than they paid? There is no true resale here aside from individual fire sales to raise money when someone is broke. And those who do so are selling to tea friends or via discussion forums. If you want to call that a market, go ahead.

      Just where exactly do you think you can sell? There is a pervasive view among tea buyers that their collection appreciates in value. However, the true price of anything is only what someone is willing to pay. And aside from EBay, there is no organized tea resellers' venue. If you can find a single individual to buy a tea from you for more than you paid, great. But that is only anecdotal one-off selling, not evidence of organized venue selling such as tea auctions in Asia.

    6. Well, yes. Individual fire sales to raise money when you're broke. You can actually sell well known to be good puerh for something, even years later. As opposed many teas that aren't well known or of easily available quality that one merely dumps.

      Of course there is no particular formal market.

    7. What I see on Steepster is the "dump" teas sell. People don't want to pay high prices, it is difficult to unload pricey teas unless the seller is willing to break up the cake and sell small samples or lots. But even here people are paying $2-3 for a sample, which generally runs below the price per gram originally.

      Another problem we have now for fire sales is the greater numbers of people posting reviews and notes, when some of them are negative. Whether deserved or not, or experienced or not, those notes get read when people are thinking to purchase something. I would count anyone's posts as potential research, mine included. You've gone negative on quite a few expensive teas over on B and B (EoT Bulang generally a bust, etc.). People do read that stuff and might pass on an opportunity to buy later on.

      But as you probably noted, the guy who responded to the Bulang comment is interested in teas in the $12-30 range, so that sort of person is more likely to buy a tuo in the $30 range than pay over selling price for that EoT Bulang.

  2. "Whether I drink it or not isn’t the point, the objective is to hoard anyway"

    Cwyn please do not say that too loud. My wife might hear it and she could suspect I do the same.😉