Monday, September 9, 2013
2003 Xiaguan Raw Brick
I bought this brick during my recent trip in Guangzhou. This is a 2003 Xiaguan raw brick 250g. From what I gathered about this tea, this Xiaguan brick was not individually wrapped. No wrapper - naked, and placed in a carton of 80 bricks (if memory serves me correct). My Guangzhou teashop people told me that such tea were meant to be shipped to Hong Kong, which was the main export market for most of the pu erh tea, but some cartons were purchased by local tea shops in Guangzhou as well. These tea bricks were very inexpensive during that time with no premium prices attached to such tea.
But I digress. It has been 4 years ever since my first visit to the Guangzhou tea markets. I had noticed a few significant changes. There are even more teashops at the Fangcun tea markets. Most importantly, prices of tea had gone up.....a lot!! The general cost of living had risen significantly these past 4 years; labour costs doubled, rents and property prices more than doubled, raw commodities are more expensive partly due to the higher standard of living, higher demand and the not too good weather China had experienced these couple of years. In other words.....tea prices are up. Add on the fact, there is some speculative elements these 2 years due to the more affluent consumer, new prices of tea like new pu erh cakes can command as high as US$80-100. I would argue that the tea shops are not making a killing of us, the tea buyer. The teashop owner is now faced with higher tea prices, higher staff costs and rentals and may not have much of a choice that the new tea sold today are significantly more expensive. Many smaller Guangzhou tea shops are family run business, and their livelihood are solely dependent on selling tea. Prices have to be competitive as there are thousands of similar shops in the tea market.
However, this situation had caused an anomaly - the older teas that are unsold and/or still on display at the teashops may be cheaper or compare favorably (price wise) to the new teas.
Back to this tea. This is a 10 year old tea. When I brew the tea, there were slight hints of an aged tea. Nice light woody notes of sandalwood and camphor with a mild fresh herb aroma. I could sense this pu erh tea brick when new was a smoky tea, but this smokiness had dissipated, over time and perhaps the brick was packed without a wrapper. Quite a mellow tea. This tea had exceeded my expectations. It is made more pleasant that it was sold at a faction of the price of a new tea. Don't forget; you would, for your new cakes, store it away for 5-10 years to achieve some aged tea taste.
However I would like to warn my readers not to jump for joy and start twerking when you come across such good-priced 'older' teas. It is very important that you sample the tea before you purchase. Make sure you like it.