Yesterday I received the parcel from HouDeAsianArt with three new San Ho Tang beengs, the Yi Wu Cha Wang, Xue Shan Chuen Lu and Ding Jin Nu Er. Since I really like the Xi Zhi Hao brand I decided to try each of them. This is the first. Yi Wu Cha Wang, the Yi Wu Tea Emperor.
First, here are few facts about the tea. This is the fourth Yi Wu mountain tea made by Mr. Chen, previous were the test-run 1997 "Yi Wu Zheng Shan Wild Big-Tree", 2006 Spring Yi Wu Cha Wang and 2007 Spring Yi Wu Cha Wang. The beeng is Gu Hua, Fall Harvest and it is supposed to be made from the same mao cha, that was used to produce the 2006 (Autumn) and 2007 (Spring) Chen Guang-He Tang Yi Wu Cha Wang beengs – the mao cha is originally from the highest plantation area "Gua Feng Zhai (Howling Wind Village)" of Yi Wu. This may also mean, that the tea is single estate but not from wild trees.
Why I decided to try the Yi Wu beeng first? Because I like the 2006 Chen Guang He Tang Yi Wu beeng a lot, even when I consider the negative critics around. The second reason was my extreme disappointed with this beeng.
The San Ho Tang factory was always an expensive one, but the high price was compensated by the high quality of product. Even the “inferior” product line - the 2006 Ban Zhan beengs and the 2007 LongFeng (Dragon and Phoenix), 7542 and 8582 series - were nice made and used ok leaves. The higher or even premium beengs always displayed beautiful craftsmanship and top-quality mao cha.
In real estates everyone knows the mantra “location, location, location”. And I believe that in pu-erh applies similar mantra – “mao cha, mao cha, mao cha”. The juicier and bolder the leaves are higher is the chance of good pu-erh. And you could understand my disappointment, when the worst beeng I ever saw was this premium-priced San Ho Tang.
Please, click the picture to the top right and carefully examine it. You may notice, that most of the beeng consist not of leaves but of mao cha dust instead. It looks like it was made from the absolute bottom of mao cha sack, where only the most inferior and broken tea leaves rested. Please take special note to the third picture, you can clearly see how fragmented was the mao cha.
By the way, if you check the picture of this beeng on Guang’s website, you may notice, that his beeng has the same problem. The bottom left side is OK, there are nice, big leaves, but the top right side is dusted in the same way than my beeng is.
This tea is hydraulically compressed – that’s certainly not good for aging in dryer environments. Also, it’s pretty hard to break it to get the leaves needed to brew the tea. The smell of the beeng is very fresh, vegetal, and floral; you can feel how young it is.
The tea brews light orange brew, thick and clear. It tastes like typical young Yi Wu tea – rich fruity sweetness and acidity, light floral touch, no smokiness. Actually, this tea tastes really good, I liked it a lot. I was surprised with the aftertaste, really powerful and filling the whole mouth.
Actually, this tea is pretty nice. Tastes good, is strong enough – if I weren’t feel like cheated because of the dreadful mao cha, I would be devoted.
I believe that it’s unwise to sell the “bottom of the sack” beengs to public; it caused a huge scar on my judgment of San Ho Tangs reputation. Well, I will be more cautious next time.
Note: the review of other too Xi Zhi Hao minibeengs will be available here soon. Also, Hobbes will review these beengs in short time, so check his blog, too.