; Cwyn's Death By Tea: 2014 Hekai Ripe and 2013 Xigui Raw ;

Sunday, February 5, 2017

2014 Hekai Ripe and 2013 Xigui Raw

This 2014 Hekai Ripe is one of those “what the h***?” teas I found in my stash recently, and then tracked down where I bought it from. I bought this cake from puerhshop.com during a period of insanity last year when I needed more ripe teas to store for my sister. I like Hekai tea in raw form, and hoped this cake might be as nice.

Puerhshop is one of those somewhat guilty shopping sites for me. Located in Troy, Michigan, the online tea store focuses on low markup, no-frills and mostly budget puerh teas. Given the location, you can expect the collection is kept in dry storage, however you can find plenty of humid teas on the site, as well as newer Menghai teas. Here you are getting the traditional “factory” experience teas. In a sense, the inventory is a bit like a Taobao or Aliexpress shopping experience without the shipping hassles. The downside for me is I can easily spend a lot of money very fast and indeed I have spent quite a bit both times I have placed an order. But I got a lot of teas for that money, all in the drinker category.

Puerhshop uses some sort of testing kit to test for pesticides on their teas. There is no way a single test kit can identify all the possible pesticides in teas because pesticides can drift over from other crops. So the kit probably identifies some of the major pesticides, but I do not view this as a guarantee you are getting “organic” tea. With factory teas, usually you are not getting organic, and with puerh, organic is not necessarily better tea. But collectors and drinkers who buy factory teas usually have a good idea of what they are buying and prefer the taste of recipe teas.

This ripe tea made by Yunnan Shunda Tea Co. and is supposedly is single-origin and premium smaller leaves, such as you might find in a Phoenix shou blend. The cake I got looks better in person than the photos on the website. I thought the tea might be a bargain because of the gram weight, a 400g cake. The extra grams are in the thickness rather than width, so the cake is the same width as a 357g. The $32.99 price is therefore $0.08 per gram.

I went heavy and brewed 15g in about 150ml of water using a Jian Shui teapot. I definitely recommend using a dark clay teapot dedicated to shou or heicha for this tea, such as Yixing or Jian Shui that holds heat and tempers heavy puerhs. The tea is heavily fermented. I noted a heavy fermentation smell to the leaves, and a dirt/soil smell. I rinsed the tea three tea times which got rid of most of the soil and fermentation odors. A cold rinse prior to the hot rinses might help speed the clearing without losing brew, and I will try that next time.

Four steep after three rinses
The tea brews up dark, and very thick with the parameters I used. The liquor is brown with a bit of a red ring, and the clarity is hard to see until later steeps. I should have gone lighter on the leafing to get a less heavy brew, but I like my tea heavy. In general I either brew shou very thick like this, or I use a pinch of leaves and grandpa my shou in an Yixing mug which will also produce a dark brew because the leaves stay in the mug.

The drop behind the fish dried thick like blood.
This tea really reminds me of white2tea’s White Tuo from a couple of years ago, long sold out now. The White Tuo had the same dirt/soil and required months of airing out before brewing, but that tea was also much older than this 2014 vintage, so the fermentation flavor had departed from the tuo. This one has something of an old sock odor, probably not the best fermentation. 

Probably best to read the Chinese and skip the English if you can.
At the same time, the tea is very powerful and I had a bile reaction (white stools) probably from overleafing. The reaction was two days in a row while drinking the tea and departed when I stopped. The tea had a lot left to go. A risky and medicinal strength shou.

Heavy fermentation.
2013 Xigui from Teavivre

Teavivre wanted to send me some puerh samples. I don’t get many vendors asking to send me samples. The few vendors who try offer teas I do not drink, and the vendors clearly have not read or looked at my blog. But this vendor offered puerh so I said okay. The initial offer included a stuffed mandarin which I cannot have so I asked if they could substitute their Hekai or possibly the Xigui instead from their catalog. I got both.

2013 Xigui sample from Teavivre
I used to buy non-puerh tea from Teavivre, but then stopped buying tea from them for two reasons. One was that for awhile their website had a hack and several Steepster people lost money on credit cards. The last time I attempted to purchase nearly two years ago my browser refused to complete the transfer to Paypal, claiming a malicious third party intercept. I also found a pubic hair in one of the puerh samples. I find hair all the time in puerh, but I draw the line at pubic hair. Not that the company has any control over such things, yet the experience left an impression. I know people order all the time from Teavivre so maybe the Paypal issue got fixed. In any case, if you order from them make sure to order via Paypal.

A nice sample chunk
Many people are interested in Xigui tea because the prices for this area have skyrocketed over the past couple of years. Puerh heads have speculated that white2tea continues to offer some form of premium Xigui ever since the 2014 Autumn Apple Scruffs which I still regret not buying. Teavivre sells a 357g cake for $90. The tea has been in their catalog for a few years, and some buyers have posted short reviews. I brewed up the entire sample of 8g. I cannot recommend their suggested 3-5 minute brew time, a gong fu brew suffices.

The 2013 Xigui has some suffering from sample packing, in that the brew seems a bit dry and muted. I don’t have any idea how long ago the tea sample was packed. I am not a fan of pre-packaged samples as very often the teas can be packed years ago, not the same as a sample freshly chipped from a cake. The tea seems much younger than four years old with no evidence of real aging.

Window shot on a rare sunny day in winter
I liked the floral aroma in the cup after the first three brews or so. The tea took awhile to open up and present with some thickness, which is better than getting all the thickness in early steeps. The leaves are small and broke down a little with boiling water in a porcelain teapot after nine steeps, which is a shame because the tea clearly had more to go. I would like to try the tea right from the cake. 

Not much aging here.
The price is fairly good and the tea has a Lincang profile, which is about all I can say about whether or not it is Xigui. The tea gave me some burps and a bit of a tea drunk. I wouldn’t mind trying a full cake, but the tea falls in that nether middle region of drinker tea. The price might be too high for some, but not considering the size of the cake, yet the price is higher than the Xigui tea ball I bought last year. Again, this is another tea to try at your own risk. I cannot say whether you will like it or whether it is a good buy.

Lately I am a creature of extremes with puerh. Sometimes I drink really cheap drinkers or I drink really great tea. That middle area of “okay” tea is the tricky nether zone for me. Some folks stay firmly in the cheap tea zone, or maybe in the mid-tier area of drinker tea and are content. I want to pony up the cash for tea I cannot live without, and anything less than that I will go cheap. The middle zone still leaves me scratching my head. Tea is subjective indeed and puerh is every man and woman for themselves. Unless you have $1k to spend.

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