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.