I had received a new (pack of 5 tuo) Xiaguan during last Christmas tea exchange with a tea friend. This is a 2020 production and I had broken up a tuo and started brewing this tea.
These are my findings and thought about this new Xiaguan
a) Compression - this was a shocker. I had expected breaking up a tuo would be tough: especially for a newer one. It was a surprise that the compression was low.......I used a pu erh knife and broke up the entire tuo under a minute, and with little effort. So easy.
b) Taste and aroma - a drink-now tea. No astringency, nothing rough or unpleasant about the tea. The tea tasted fresh, almost like a good quality green tea. It even reminded me a little of long-ching tea; there was a iittle nutty sweet aftertaste. A sweet bouquet of fresh floral aroma with slightly sweet mouthfeel. The tea brews well giving about 8 good infusions.
Teashops should be happy. This very inexpensive tea is an easy sell. New puerh in the past was considered 'difficult to drink' and the tea should be kept for a few years so the tea would be less astringent and mellow. Now, this tea is ready to drink; fresh and pleasant and even tasted much better than the Chinese tea offered in many Chinese restaurants. You can now see and taste this 'new' tea phenomena with the popular pu erh tea factories and even from boutique producers. I would even recommend serious tea drinkers to buy this inexpensive Xiaguan tuo and have a brew of this tea.
But I have a few concerns.
Pu erh processing is as follows
= tea leaves are harvested
- tea leaves are laid out to dry (oxidation does take place)
- tea leaves are stir-fried (called kill green, stopping oxidation)
- leaves are then rolled (by hand or machine) for shaping
- tea leaves are dried (sun or machine drying)
- leaves are sorted and may be compressed
My concerns are that, even though the entire process of pu erh tea processing remains unchanged, It is my thought that the timing or duration of certain steps are altered, whether lengthening or shortening the time of a process step, that made the pu erh tea today different from tea from 'yesterday'. Will this new pu erh tea age well? I do not know. We will find out in 8-10 years time, as many such tea would have aged by then.
Pu erh tea, to me should be drunk when it is old . Pu erh tea must have some age and with good storage, the tea will have delightful complications in both taste and aroma. There is an added dimension to the tea once you drink an aged tea. When you buy an older tea, you are buying the tea and you are buying the storage. How much weightage do you give to storage when you assess a 10 year old tea. How about a 20 year old tea? Generally, well stored old pu erh are highly sought after and you can see the higher prices of these tea as well. Storing a pu erh tea for more than 10 years or more is very challenging as it takes up real estate space and you have to monitor the storage with higher vigilance especially if you are residing in a temperate country.
When I am on a pu erh buying trip (I have too much already though), I will continue buying the older production ones for the reasons above.
Your thoughts please.