It’s taking me a while to get through these samples of the new Xizihao cakes on offer. After the nu’ercha I just haven’t really found the motivation and excitement necessary to get me to try the other two. Today I felt like maybe I should give the second of these a spin, so I took out the bag of Xishangmeishao, which literally means “Happiness that shows on one’s brows” (this is an awful and rough translation) and tried it.
Looks all right dry. There’s really not much one can say about a young puerh when it’s dry. However pretty it looks, it could taste awful. However ugly some teas might be, they can be fantastic. For puerh, looks don’t really mean much of anything. The only time it matters a little more is when it’s older and you can glean information about storage condition from them, or when the leaves are obviously chopped or poorly processed.
The colour of the tea looks all right too
When drinking it though, I couldn’t help but feel there’s really nothing to be happy about when consuming it. Aside from the fact that it’s got a relatively hefty price tag, the quality is not there to match the prices, never mind basic expectations of what is supposed to be an old tree tea. The flavour is…. subdued, let’s say. There’s a modicum of aftertaste in the mouth that lingers very slightly. There’s a strange sort of floral note that I felt was somewhat present in the nu’ercha, and also here, that makes me thing something strange was done during the processing of the tea. There is also a feeling that perhaps something is simply not quite right about this — is it overharvesting? Alternative processing? Or just bad tea? I’m not sure. It’s simply not very inspiring. Maybe I’m not in a particularly generous mood today, but at some point, I feel like the product description or basic expectations should at least be matched by the real McCoy, and drinking this tea… I just don’t feel it. When other, better teas can be had for less money, why buy this?
The wet leaves give us some clues of what’s going on
Looks ok enough, but in fact, some of the leaves look old — leaves that aren’t really buds of any sort, but are rather just leaves that might be older than they really should be for the purpose of drinking. The stems are many, and some are quite hard — wooden, almost. This is generally not a good thing. The other thing that worries me is the excessive amount of redness in the leaves. Often this means that the leaves were left around in the picker’s basket for too long (sometimes because of a long trip from the trees to the frying pan) but it also means that the tea has undergone a fair amount of fermentation before it was processed. It is not a very good indicator of leaf quality or processing, but I do find that cakes with a high proportion of red in the leaves often don’t stand up to scrutiny.
The tea does brew a fair amount of infusions with no problem, but the general level of activity and content is just not there. When there are so many other options that seem to offer much more for less cost… I don’t see the value of a tea like this.