Saturday, November 26, 2022

2007 Xiaguan Iron Cake 8633


Xiaguan tea factory is famous for their pu erh iron cakes and tuos. Many tea drinkers including myself enjoy Xiaguan puerh that has a smoky aroma in the tea.  It is sad that many of their new offerings now do not have the smoky profile. 

The Xiaguan iron cake. 

There is no metal in the Xiaguan iron cake. The metal name refers to the high compression of the pu erh tea.  The compression is really hard. You simply cannot break up the cake with your bare hands.  Many use a letter opener or knife or an ice pick to break up the tea cake. I use an ordinary plier to break up the cake. You would have noticed a Xiaguan iron looked unique; smooth on one side with tiny sharp stumps on the other side of the cake.  The machines used to pressed the cakes, I was told, were a Russian invention (maybe its an unfounded rumour but its adds to the mystic of an iron cake).  Based on my experience, Xiaguan iron cakes taste best after you had broken up a cake and let it rest for a couple weeks before you start brewing this tea. 

How do you brew pu erh iron cake? and high compressed pu erh cakes?  You have broken up your iron cake to small chunks, but based on my experience, 1.5 to 2g chunks of tea may still be 'too big' for tea brewing. I use boiling water for my tea infusions but I did noticed that those bigger chunks tend to remain as a chunk after a few infusions. This is due to the very high compression of the iron cake; that the tea chunks did not open up after a few infusions. I have a couple of suggestions that will resolve this issue.  You can use a thin wooden food skewer to pry open the chunks in between infusions. You can also break the chunks into  even smaller pieces prior to starting your tea session. This will ensure you get to better enjoy the iron xiaguan tea.   

There are a few variants of the iron cake.  The popular 8653 and the less popular 8613 and 8633.  These numbers are just recipe names of the tea. Even though the 3rd digit represented the tea leaf grade, many Xiaguan tea drinkers believed that the recipe numbers reflected more on the different tea blends of the cake, referring more to the mix of pu erh tea from different pu erh tea producing regions. 

This 8633 iron cake is not smoky. If you like Chinese herbal soups, this tea is right up your alley. This tea has a nice herbal profile; like those Chinese herbs used for a soup. I found the tea nice when sipping it hot. A nice tea for a quiet evening. 

Sunday, November 6, 2022

De Hong Pu erh Tea - A Smoky Treat


I had blogged about this tea last year.  I had wanted to drink a smoky pu erh and this cake was the 1st smoky thing I saw among my tea stash. 

I like this tea. This is a 100g De Hong factory mini iron cake. Undated with my guess that it was made around 2008. Initial infusions remind me of a peaty scotch whisky.  If you enjoy drinking peaty scotch whisky, say Talisker 10, this tea is right up your alley. The aroma is almost like this whisky. This tea is to me the non alcoholic version. The smoke does linger in the mouth after every sip. Later infusions of this tea has a hints of camphor. This tea is not suitable for everyone. You must like smoky stuff to enjoy this drink. 

But I digress.  There is another smoky tea called Lapsang SouChong.  It is a black tea that has a strong smoke profile when you brew this tea. I had read that the tea was 'smoked' by burning pine wood and letting the smoke infused into the tea.  This is something similar to peated whisky where peat is used as fuel to dry the barley for whisky making. The peat smoke was infused with the barley and alcohol distilled from the barley in the production phase continue to have this peaty profile in the aroma. 

Smoky pu erh was common about 15-20 years ago as the tea farmers may not have easy access to electricity. Today, tea leaves are pan dried by electrical pans and ovens. Many tea farmers do not even sun dry the tea leaves instead opting for the more reliable ovens to dry the tea leaves. These modern innovation makes work easier for the tea farmer.  New pu erh now are mainly oven dried.   I am lucky I have some old smoky tea to drink. 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Gaiwan - Too Hot to Handle

The gaiwan. 

It was primarily used to serve tea to guests.  The cover is used to prevent any dirt or dust from landing on the tea. The cover would had helped to keep the tea warm (to an extent).  

The gaiwan can be used to brew tea. 

No teapot needed. A simple set up of a gaiwan and a couple of teacups are you need to have a great tea session.  Place tea leaves in the gaiwan and add hot water.  Hold the gaiwan in one hand, tilt the cover a little bit and pour out the tea into the teacups. You only tilt the cover only enough to pour out the tea while keeping the tea leaves in the gaiwan.  

You would need to practice to get your 'brewing with a gaiwan right'.  Here are some tips

- filling the gaiwan with hot water to only about 3/4 of the gaiwan. This would not make the gaiwan too hot to handle.  

- after filling the gaiwan with water, do not keep keep opening the cover to look at the infusion. The tea would lose heat in a hurry and the tea might not be optimally brewed under such 'cooler' conditions. 

Still too hot to handle.  Yes, brewing with a gaiwan can caused small accidents. A small slip or unbalance can make the cover to slip off and cause a 'breakage'.  Your fingers may be accidentally be scalded while you are pouring out the tea. 

There are gaiwan-like variations that you may consider adding to your collection. 

A Japanese Shibo is a gaiwan except there are grooves on a section of the cup that makes the pouring out of tea without tilting the cover. This balancing act of holding the cover and cup while pouring out the tea, would be easier in my opinion. 

Then we have the flared out gaiwan with a spout. This would keep the fingers 'cooler' and the spout, which has a built in filter would keep tea leaves inside the gaiwan when the tea is dispensed. 

Still to hot to handle. Use this one in the last pix. Comes with handle and built in spout. That would resolve any heat or accidental spillage issue. 

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Duck Poop Tea

Ya Shi Xiang, aka duck poop tea and aka Duck shit fragrance is a name given to a dan chong tea growing region in the Guangdong province. Call it a lucky stroke of genius or a moment of inspiration, this yucky sounding name did wonders for the tea growing farmers there. Chinese tea shops that has exposure to foreign tourists will have brisk sales of this tea.  This tea makes for an unusual souvenir to bring back home. Local Chinese tea drinkers are also buyers of this tea as its name does pique the interest of many tea drinkers. 

This tea is very aromatic. The tea leaves exude a nice fruity and perfumed fragrance even before brewing up the tea.  Very good mouthfeel. I enjoyed the nice long aftertaste. The roast levels I would consider as just 'made it to the high roast level'. There is a slight nuttiness and beans in the taste at the later infusions. This tea is good for half a dozen infusions. 

I enjoyed this dan chong oolong. The name 'duck poop tea' made this drink even more intriguing.   

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Late 90s Langhe Ripe pu erh


Gather round and admire this old 97 loose Langhe ripe pu erh. 

You will realise there is nothing extraordinary by just looking at the tea leaves. You have to simply brew the tea leaves to appreciate the taste and aroma of an old pu erh.  Such tea would not appeal to some pu erh collectors where the tea is treated as a stamp or butterfly collection. There is no fancy wrapper, brand or vintage on the tea. It is difficult to show off this tea.  I had to use a couple of larger containers to store this pu erh as well. 

Back to this tea. This 25 year old ripe pu erh has a earthly and mellow flavours. The scent reminded me of an old used book store with antique wood flooring and cupboards. Smooth and mellow made this tea as a perfect non alcoholic after dinner drink. I even enjoyed drinking late infusions (10th -15th infusions) where the tea continue to exhibit a light woody herbal sweetness. Old Langhe ripe puerh are well known among ripe puerh tea drinkers in that Langhe factory employed longer fermentation times for ripe pu erh processing. I was told such older cakes was allowed to ferment more than 45 days to as much as 60 days under ripe pu erh processing when the tea was made.   

Such old loose ripe tea are to me inexpensive when compared to similar old pu erh cakes (raw or ripe). The only set back is that you may need a bigger container and storage space when you buy this tea in a larger quantity. 

Sunday, September 4, 2022

2011 Xiaguan Gold Impression Cake


There was a time around 2010-2012 where there were cakes that used older maocha in making the cake.  Many major tea factories got on the bandwagon and offered pu erh tea that had a few years of age in the tea. This meant that these factories had pu erh tea leaves sitting in their warehouses for a few years and are now pressing these older stock into cakes or bricks and made them for sale.  This would appeal to some buyers as this tea would not be considered as 'new' tea and is more ready to drink. 

This 2011 Xiaguan cake used 6 year old pu erh material in the production of this tea. 

I opened this cake earlier last month and had a number of tea sessions with this cake.  There is some age in the cake with good aroma and taste. There is an old-ish taste something like a few pu erh cakes that I had bought in Hong Kong.  Those Hong Kong cakes had initially had been stored in a more humid condition and the cakes were subsequently dry stored. I do enjoy drinking such puerh as it gave an impression of very old pu erh tea. 

Back to this cake. The famous Hong Kong tea expert called Cloud has a blog (mainly in Chinese)....there were comments suggesting (translated from Chinese), that this 'tea had been quickly fermented  (whether accidental of artificially) which will affect the subsequent aging endurance of the tea'   (  This is different from my thinking as I had assumed that the tea was stored in much more humid climate (I believe at the maocha stage), that the tea has this unique taste.      

I can guessed some pu erh tea drinkers would like while some drinkers would not like this tea. 

An interesting cake. I recommend you try this tea yourself if you can get your hands on a cake.  

Monday, August 15, 2022

Golden Key Oolong

This is Golden Key oolong.  Oolong produced in Fujian, Xiamen have names given by a tea village or town.  Such names are meant to give a uniqueness to their oolong produced there. You would know the popular oolong names like Shui Hsien, Tie Kuan Yin and Rougui. Other lesser known oolong names include thousand mile fragrance, Fo Shou (buddha palm) and half waist squat (I kid you not).

This Golden Key oolong (2018 production) I had purchased is from the famous Sea Dyke factory. Sea Dyke labelled this tea as Golden Key rock tea that suggested that this tea may had been harvested from the Wuyi mountain region. Packed and sold in a metal tin, the 100g of tea leaves are long and vibrant. 

When I brewed a session of this tea, initial aroma is very fragrant and perfumed like. Very pleasant. The roast is high and the aftertaste is pretty long lasting.  Good for 6 infusions before weakening.  This tea is less robust than Sea Dyke Lao Chong Shui Hsien (yellow tin).  

An inexpensive tea.  I would recommend you get a tin.