2007 Xizi Hao Xishangmeishao: 40C storage outcome
Xizi Hao lists this tea as a 2007 spring Kuzhu mountain (Jinggu, Simao) production, although people seem to believe it’s an autumn production. We can find an early tasting of this here:
and a more recent tasting here:
About three years ago, I stupidly bought a cake of this from someone who was pawning off cakes with very humid storage. When I received the tea it smelled and tasted very strongly of geosmin/beets.
I also measured the generated humidity and it was an extremely low 47% at 32C. Normally cakes should be in the 60-70 range. I often find that very musty cakes, which have been stored in humid conditions and perhaps dried afterwards, are extremely low in generated humidity (sometimes called water activity).
First, I tried solving the overwhelming geosmin problem by “airing out” the tea, which, I have to say, means something different for every person who recommends it. In my case I broke apart a sample and left it in a clean area without sealing it in a container for a few weeks. When I tried it after about a month of this, it was still very strong with humid notes and geosmin. I wanted to try something more pro-active.
I didn’t intend this as an experiment, but what I did to this cake was first bring it up to 65% generated humidity using a 69% humidity pack in a sealed mylar at 32C. After a few months (increasing at about 3% per month) it reached around 65% and I took the humidity pack out. At this point the leaves were noticeably less “crispy” than before but the geosmin was as strong as earlier.
Then I stored it, sealed in mylar, at 40C for 2 years. Finally I tasted it today.
The most important result of all this is that the geosmin aroma and taste are completely gone. The dry leaf aroma has no geosmin, it has a bit of fermentation funk aroma, and some old paper. It’s very twiggy and very flaky, maybe as a result of storage, or overoxidation. In any case I often encounter this with the available XZH and YQH cakes, I wish they were less humidly stored and less oxidized.
The damp heated leaves have some fermentation funk and still no noticeable geosmin. The wash is super clear, bright orange, and very thick.
- Clear, orange, very thick. Not bitter or astringent. Lots of aged woody notes. Coats whole mouth. Some woody incense aspect. Good sweet aftertaste and a strong heating effect in the arms and legs. Quite surprisingly strong.
- The heating effect has rapidly become cooling of entire body. Definitely feels like a major vasodilation which lets blood rush to the extremities and give off heat. Cooling the body. Very woody taste, wood chips. The tea has some char as you can tell from the photos and this gives a very slight charcoal note which is actually pleasant. Remarkable body feel of cooling with a sheen of sweat.
- Longer steep shows savoury briny aspect, leathery and juicy. Very thick, viscous. Smooth. Sweet-leather-paper. Same heating effect followed quickly with major cooling.
The tea is strongly coating in the mouth and throat. It has a leather, paper, and woody-incense profile, but not a perfume profile. Very strong energy effect of quick heating followed by extended cooling. Whatever bitterness or astringency there is is extremely mild. The material is twiggy, crispy, overly red/oxidized for the age. It has a relatively mild flavour, and a very low aroma, but I give it points for thickness and energetic effect. But the most interesting thing to me is that after re-humidification and storing for 2 years at 40C, it seems to have lost the overwhelming dank humid storage. The tea also drinks like an older tea now, which is probably not surprising given the humid storage it had.