1999 Xiaguan Iron cake
16 Dec, 2016. I’m very grateful for this sample from Stefano.
5.5g/100ml gaiwan [4.8]
The sample consisted of several fairly thin chunks of highly compressed cake, brown with lighter and darker leaves. On the damp leaf there was a sweet fermentation dominant aroma, with strong mineral/rock note and a slight mold note. I associate these with traditional storage, but they were not at all overpowering the sweet pungent aspect.
After the wash and the first steep, the wet leaf had a totally clean aroma, no mildew or sweet fermentation but mostly strongly mineral and rocks.
Steeps 2-5 were dark red and clear, with medium thickness and increasing bitterness and astringency, although the astringency had a fine granularity and was not unpleasant. The dominant taste was neither sweet nor briny, but more of a strong oily complex of bitter herbs. It also had quite a lengthy and interesting bitter aftertaste.
Interesting components of the bitter herbal taste were notes of african basil and holy basil, as well as clove.
After steep 5, sweetness appeared in the aftertaste, coating the bottom and rear of the mouth. Some cinnamon or nutmeg, or some mixture of baking spices, appeared, and a savoury arrival became more prominent. At this point I would call this “Christmas loaf made with rocks”… Bitterness quickly petered out over the next couple of steeps but astringency was maintained and got a bit stronger. The overall flavour petered out significantly before 8 steeps.
The tea had a clear but relatively restrained body and qi effect, giving waves along the neck and shoulders from steep 4 and a very pleasant focusing behind the eyes, encouraging eyes to close and pause for a long while. Steep 5 was maximum force for the qi, with face tingling and numbness and large waves circulating throughout the head, neck and back, as well as quite a lot of heat. It also made me a bit loopy and in a joking mood for steeps 6-9.
I prefer this tea to, e.g., the 04 Simao Fangcha and the 05 Xiaguan Nanzhou FT Tuocha, but I rate the 05 XG 8653s I’ve tried higher.