; Cwyn's Death By Tea: 2014 Xigui Ball ;

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

2014 Xigui Ball

2014 "Xigui" tea ball 250 g
I’ve been busy getting ready for the upcoming trip to NYC for the Saveur Blog awards. I want to thank everyone who participated in the crowd funding at GoFundMe, the trip fund is now at $1210/1400. There are no words to express my gratitude at this opportunity to go and get away from my son for a few days, and attend an event like this. Right now I’m cooking away trying to get some meals in the freezer for when I’m gone so there are no more complaints. Next week I’ll post some updates to my blog while I’m at the events, so stay tuned! The fund is still open until it reaches $1400, if anyone else wishes to participate. Until I leave I’m also still mailing t-shirts and tea samples from the crocks to those who wish to get a shirt, see link above right.

My real plan for the trip is to bring along some puerh tea and see how many people are willing to give it a try. I’m going big with a super nice tea too. Why not drink the good stuff, right? So I’m bringing my 1990s Yiwu from white2tea for brew heaven instead of cocktails. We will see how many brave foodies there are in NYC.

In the meantime, I’m moving my puerh collection off the porch with the flooding rains we are having. Humidity is great but then seven inches of rain is a bit too much, remnants of Hurricane Paine. Now, I live on the opposite side of the continent from hurricanes but this one is actually drifting up to my area in the form of torrential rain. This is an unfortunate event for the farmers here trying to get corn and soybeans dried down to harvest. Even when the rain stops, which is not likely for another week at least, the ground is too muddy for combining crops. The machinery will get stuck in the fields. Prices for grain are so low now too, just adding to more to Hurricane Paine.

While moving my puerh, I came across a tea ball I purchased last spring on EBay and decided to crack it open. This is a 2014 “Xigui” tea that I’ve had on my Watch list for well over a year. The tea arrived last May during a hot spell smelling like wet daisies and green tomato vines. So I let it enjoy the summer heat until now to air out. I bought this tea because I have several friends who like Xigui tea, assuming it is real Xigui, and I have a friend obsessed with tea balls.

2014 "Xigui" 250g tea ball
This tea is made by Gu-Zi-Qin, which I understand to be a wholesale brand. I’ve seen this brand on Alibaba and a few other places. For awhile I was watching a 2012 Xigui, but that was fairly pricy at $149/357g so I didn’t buy that before it sold out. This tea ball is 250g for $34 including free shipping. I’m assuming the tea ball is the same tea as the 357g 2014 Xigui beengcha the same shop sells.

Surprisingly, the tea ball is less expensive at 14 cents/gram than the beencha, which sells for $68, or 19 cents a gram. You’d get a better value buying two of the tea balls and get 500g for $70. My expectations are always low for EBay and for wholesale puerh brands. Having a list of cheaper teas though can help one avoid buying more expensive teas when trying to stick to a budget. Since I’ve been watching the Xigui productions from this wholesale label for nearly two years, I can say they do sell out eventually just like tea anywhere else. The EBay seller of the tea ball also has a 2016 label in stock.

The "hole" is more of a nipple.
My opinion thus far is that this tea is likely autumn tea. The tea ball is hand compressed, which means hand formed by twisting a cloth full of steamed leaves and pressing the tea together. So the tea leaves separate easily from the tea ball into large, long leaves with minimal breakage. No worries for tea pick injuries! Also, this is good news for storage as more heavily compressed tuos are harder to age in my climate. And if this is indeed Xigui tea, the tea should be consumed within 5-10 years at the latest since it is likely to fade.

Top side of the ball.
Initial steeping shows the tea has tightened up, though still green of course. The soup is a clear and dark yellow gold, with some respectable thickness. Processing is remarkably clean with minimal char, unexpected for a wholesale brand. 

Nice long leaves, minimal breakage.
This tea has floral and honey notes with a light bitter finish. A very pleasant cup, and I’m of the opinion this is definitely northern tea. It doesn’t have the punch of a spring tea picking of course, but enjoyable to drink now or let sit for a few years. This tea wasn’t done after eight steepings before I moved on to something more pungent. I’m certain it’s good for at least 10-12 brews.

Second steeping
The wrapper is a cloth-like paper tied with a ribbon so the tea ball is easily retied into its wrapper for storage. This tea is a nice stocking stuffer for your puerh loving friends in real life, which of course are many. I’m kidding. But I know some of you participate in Secret Santas with your online tea buddies, and I’m sure that any puerh lover or puerh newbie will enjoy this as a treat regardless of their taste in puerh. I forgot to take a photo of the wet leaves, but picture green and wet.

Next week I’ll write from New York, stay tuned!

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