Monday, February 1, 2016
2003 Xiaguan Iron Cake
This is the 2003 Xiaguan Tea Factory iron cake. I had purchased a few of these cakes during one of my Malaysian trips in December last year.
This 2003 iron cake was a much discussed cake in the Chinese tea forums in China. I supposed this cake had already 'aged' for more than a decade and I guessed a few collectors had taken the cake out, brewed the tea and made notes. I had my first samplings of this tea last year in Guangzhou (link) and had found that the tea had nice flavors. When I saw these cakes in Malaysia, I bought a few cakes thinking that Malaysian storage of this tea cake would make the tea more pronounced in terms of taste and aroma. You will noticed from the 4th pix, that the neifei (enclosed leaflet) indicated that this tea was manufactured by Xiaguan.
Xiaguan iron cakes, I was told by a retired tea manager who had worked in CNNP tea factory, used technology imported from Russia, to produced this super high compressed cakes. You will have noticed from the above pix that the cakes are disk shaped with tiny spikes on one side of the cake. This spikes were made from the molds used to compressed the cakes. I suppose it would be easier to dislodge the iron cake from the mold after the compression process.
These tiny spikes on the cake had helped some buyers to determine the authenticity (there are other things to look for as well) of a Xiaguan iron cake. Some tea buyers told me to rest my palm on the spikes and feel the 'pointy-ness' of these spikes. It seems the fakes are less 'pointy'.
Breaking up an iron cake is not easy. Readers, if you are embarking on dismantling an iron cake, please be careful. You would need a tea knife and you may accidentally hurt yourself. A Hong Kong tea expert, Cloud had posted a video on how he opened an iron cake (link). It is a good instructional video. Thank you Cloud! Do check out other Cloud's instructional tea videos as well.
My Xiaguan iron cake is still rock hard. Even though, this cake is a Malaysian stored cake, the compression remained very high and showed no signs of an 'easy break'. I usually find the regular shaped pu erh tea cakes easier to break open especially if the cake had been stored in this part of the world for more than 10 years. Yes, I use a tea knife but I still ended up with lots of tea dust, something that I disapprove as these tea dust will affect brewing of this tea as they clogged up a teapot and significantly slowing the pour out of tea from the teapot.
This tea, when brewed, has hints of an aged pu erh. Some nice complex hints of dry wood and herbs are present in the aroma. It is very pleasant to drink when hot and this tea can easily make more than 10 good infusions. This tea is smooth and very easy on the throat.
However, I could still feel a 'newness' in this iron tea cake. There is a edge of rawness in the tea and I could sensed that this tea would be more ready to drink in another 3-5 years. I am sure a few readers would have an iron cake or two in their collection and I suggest maybe for such cakes, that you break maybe a small portion each time (recommend every 2-3 years) and store the rest away. You will get to enjoy this tea while it ages very slowly in your tea cupboard.