This is the 2007 Xiaguan tea factory "te-ji" tuo. Pu erh tea are usually compressed into cake, brick or tuo shapes before they are sold in the tea markets or shops. This makes for easy storage and takes up less space as well. If you look at the last pix, you can even see the Xiaguan logo when the tea was compressed into the factory mould. There is a hollow at the bottom of the tuo, which I was told, helps to allow moisture to escape during the drying process.
Xiaguan tea factories are famous for their pu erh tuos and iron disc cakes. The latter cakes refers to tea cakes that are compressed and shaped into flat cylindrical discs that normally come in the standard 357g weight. I will purchase this disc in my next teashop visit and will put up the pix of the disc. I should add that these tuos and disc are very tightly compressed and you would need at least a metal letter opener or a tea pick to break up your tea. Be careful......I accidentally poke myself.......drinking tea has its hazards.
I had bought this raw pu erh tuo locally at Amoy Tea at Sims Drive. This "te-ji" (special grade) tuo was sitting in an obscure corner of the shop when I decided to buy a tuo and give it a go. The 1st 5 infusions was, to me, the highlight of this tea. The aroma was a light flowery bouquet with a mild citrus scent. In addition, there was this strong burnt-firewood scent in the tea. I had found out that, during the pu erh processing, the tea leaves are pan fried at one stage, and wood was used as fuel in the pan frying process (there are now tea factories using electrical pans for convenience and I was told, is easier to control and get a even heat). I had mentioned in my earlier blogs to keep all your tea away from odours as tea absorb smells easily and its hard to get rid of that scent. This Xiaguan tuo as well as as many of the Xiaguan pu erh, had absorbed some of the burning firewood smoke, thus the signature smoky scent in their tea.
The highlight, to me, of this tea is that the smoky scent combined with the light flowery and citrus aroma makes this tea a wonderful brew. I would like to add that if you have never tried a smoky pu erh like this tuo, you may need a little time to get used to it. My wife, in her very first sip of this tea, commented on the strong smoky burnt wood scent......I told her that this scent is part of this Xiaguan tuo and told her to evaluate the entire tea again with this scent in mind. And now.....like me, she likes this tea very much.
There are tea drinkers I know that told me the smoky aspect of a tea distorts the true taste of the pu erh. Many will agree and disagree with this statement. For me, you should buy and drink the tea you like. Every tea will have its own distinct aroma and taste and every tea factory have their own style of tea processing.....which is the very reason I enjoy drinking Chinese Tea.......it is a wonderful adventure for me - every time with every cup.
This 2007 Xiaguan "te-ji" tuo comes bagged in hypo-allegernic bag (5 tuos in a bag). I had purchased a single tuo locally from Amoy Tea for $5 to try and subsequently buying a few bags of this tea a couple of weeks later. I would encourage you to try out a tuo if you are at the teashop (I do not have any business interest in the shop and will not receive any commission). Highly recommended - for $5.