Verdant Tea

Expanding the Collection

Expanding the Collection

Expanding the Collection

four new teas from Xingyang workshop

February 26, 2016

We are very excited to double our Xingyang collection with the addition of four new selections, first premiered in our January Tea of the Month Club box, curated by Xingyang. These two new sheng and shu pu’ers help give even more context for what Xinyang is about – careful, thoughtful bending and meticulous clean fermentation.

Xingyang’s aesthetic represents a very strong and self-aware striving towards the classic Chinese ideal in pu’er: sweet, long aftertaste, smooth mouthfeel, and lingering aroma. We love their mission to build a pu’er brand that stands for sustainable farming, quality sourcing, and peerless craftsmanship. China as a market is very brand-oriented, and the presence of innovators like Xingyang challenges the lower quality, questionable work of some larger workshops that survive on brand equity alone. We hope they continue to grow and continue to win awards in expos across the country so that the whole industry can get better.

To review these four teas before release, we took them to a collaborative project we are lucky to be involved in: IN Spirits Mixology, an aromatic infusions bar collaboration between our sister project Prohibition Kombucha and local natural aromatics company Intelligent Nutrients. We did an improptu tasting at the bar with a couple of regular patrons and liquor reps.

In tasting Xingyang’s pu’er with liquor people, we got in a long discussion on the parallels between our industries. The interesting stand out was discussing the idea of single mountain teas / single malt scotch vs blended teas and blended scotch.

The idea of blending is experiencing a resurgence in the liquor industry, becoming both trendy and legitimate. In pu’er and liquor, blending is a way to maintain control over a flavor profile and impose an aesthetic vision through varying seasons. It is something that has been done with Indian black tea and Japanese green tea for a long time, but is still a newer concept in China as brands begin to emerge in tea.

It was exciting to get a bar full of people sipping fine scotch and kombucha cocktail infusions to put down their drinks and use the same vocabulary they are used to from spirits to talk tea!

 

 

 Xingyang 2007 Wuliang Ailao Sheng

We started with the Xingyang LQ888 2007 Wu Liang Ailao Sheng, and decided to brew this Xingyang style: just 3g of leaf with 200 degree water and a long 45 second to a minute steep time. Brewed in this way, the first infusion was hugely full of apricot flavor, vanilla and brown sugar.

The second infusion was even sweeter – still full of apricot but now accented by more exotic florals like lotus and linden flower. Over several steepings, the florals and fruity notes become deeper and more woody and foresty with burdock and banana leaf aroma.

We were really interested in how this sheng is taking two specific regions with strong flavor aesthetics of their own and combining them together for a more rounded, blended experience. Wu Liang is known for sweet woody classic sheng flavor, while Ailao is more wild, medicinal and floral. The combination brings out the best in both.

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Xingyang 2007 LQ838 Sheng

Next we tried the Xingyang LQ838 Sheng, a big leaf wild arbor tea  (qiao mu) from Xingyang. This tea was much more spicy and savory, even brewing up a darker color than the Wuliang Ailao cake from the same year.

We got a ton of deep tobacco and savory sweet Japanese nori on the first infusion, along with an exotic cumin and nutmeg accent in the background. In later infusions, the savory notes faded to make way for sweet tulsi and elderflower as well as a hint of fruity raisin flavor.

The in-cake insert from Xingyang emphasizes that the pressing and fermentation process on this tea was done with long term aging in mind. With almost ten years of age on these cakes, the results are clearly paying off!

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Xingyang 2006 KT998 Shu Tuocha

 

Next we switched from Sheng pu’er to Shu pu’er, unwrapping an adorable 3g Xingyang tuocha. We steeped this Xingyang style, using the full 3g tuocha, 200 degree water and a one minute infusion. This reminded us of one of our favorite dishes in southern China, sticky rice cakes soaked in osmanthus syrup and caramelized in a wok.

The mouthful was creamy and thick, with a vanilla almond aroma. Supporting the light sticky rice flavor profile, we got a light, citrus zip with a caramelized brown sugar aftertaste (a profile that’s even more present with hotter water and a higher leaf-to-water ratio). After several infusions, the citrus becomes more pronounced, complemented with a maltier quality that reminded our liquor friends of cabernet.

The sweet, dessert-like quality of this tea made us nostalgic for Xiamen Dim Sum. The Gong Ting leaf material and age on this tea makes it a real find.

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 Xingyang 2008 KT952 Loose Leaf Shu

Finally we turned our attention to the KT952 looseleaf shu pu’er, a lovely tea made from little buds. We were surprised by the amount of medicinal spice in this tea. We got a ton of anise, licorice and camphor flavor.

As the tea steeped out, the cooling quality continued to grow, accented by herbaceous rosemary and sweet lemon peel flavor. No matter how long we steeped this tea, we always got beautiful results. Our longest steeping even brought out papaya tropical fruit notes.

It was exciting to experience all four of these teas in the context of our other Xingyang offerings. We are constantly thrilled by both the diversity of flavor that Xingyang workshop is capable of, and their incredible aesthetic consistency in creating clean, classic profiles in everything they produce.

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