2012 Xiaguan FT Taiwan #6

2012 Xiaguan FT Taiwan no6 - boxed

At the same time as I was placing my recent order with What-cha, I also gave in to temptation over at Green Tea Guru.

This is one of the teas that ended up winging its way to me once the right buttons had been pressed and the plastic had worked its magic.

Now, as this blog no doubt shows, I love all types of tea, but I have a special place in the tea cabinet of my heart reserved for Pu-erh, both sheng and shou alike, and the order that this tea was part of neatly demonstrates that – 3 shengs and 1 lot of shou were in the box that was catapulted Northwards.

First up is this 100 gram tuo from the Xiaguan tea factory.

2012 Xiaguan FT Taiwan no6 - unwrapped top

It has to be said, I’m rather partial to Xiaguan’s teas to start with, but the description Olli of Green Tea Guru gave of this tuo as one perfect for “lovers of strong, young raw puerh…” who would “…relish this interesting offering from Xiaguan with its pleasant bitter, slightly smoky & syrup sweet finish….” made a sale a mere formality.

This 2012 pressing is a re-make of what now seems to be widely regarded as a “classic” from Xiaguan’s FT (“Fei Tai“) series, which as I understand it was originally a special range custom produced for the Fei Tai Company in Taiwan.

2012 Xiaguan FT Taiwan no6 - unwrapped bottom

I’ve read that good examples of the 1999 pressing are very collectable, and can go for as much as £359 / $500 US.

The tea was pressed using spring water from Cang Shan Mountain.

Steeping method
Weight of dry leaf: 7.2 grams
Infusion style: Gong-fu / Asian
Steeping vessel: 150 ml porcelain gaiwan
Water temperature: 100°C
No. & duration: a 2 second rinse, then a 1st. infusion @ 10 seconds, then @ +5 seconds until 60 seconds, then @ 75, 90, 120, 150, and 180 seconds for a total of 16 infusions

As you come to expect with tuos from Xiaguan the compression was quite tight, and it took a fair bit of force with the tea pick to break into the leaves and free off a couple of nice looking chunklets.

After a quick rinse, we were off and running.

First impressions post rinse suggested that this was a bit of a dusty tea, with a fair amount of particulate finding its way into the tea strainer. In fact, the strainer needed scraping clean after each infusion until well into the session. The warm wet leaves gave off a muted typically sheng aroma, albeit a slightly smoky one with hints of tobacco.

This tea started delivering the goods right off the bat – the first steeping gave a nicely coloured soup with a lip smackingly oily body. The aroma that clung to the inside of the empty cup was all dark honey with a smoky, mineral quality to it.

2012 Xiaguan FT Taiwan no6 - a cup of

The qi also came rushing in straight away, resulting in an excited, almost giddy feeling, which made you want to chug rather than sip this tea, and press on to the next and subsequent steepings as soon as possible.

After a few more rounds the leaves had really opened up, and the promised bitterness dropped by to say hello. It never threatened to overpower any other aspects of the tea, though, content instead to hang around in the background and compliment them.

About a third of the way into the session the nature of the qi shifted, kind of oscillating between the aforementioned high energy giddiness and a more muted, slowed down chilled out vibe. At the same time I was experiencing a warm glowing sensation in the stomach after taking each sip.

Even though I began this session just over an hour after eating lunch, somewhere around the 13th infusion I was attacked by the dreaded sheng-munchies beast, who was only chased away after being clobbered by a banana and a satsuma. That speaks for the potency of this soup – it’s not every sheng that can come on so strong after diving into my stomach when it’s still dealing with a recently ingested meal.

Towards the back end of the session this tea had morphed from a rapid fire swigger into a more leisurely sipper, with the final couple of rounds lasting almost a quarter of an hour each.

Sixteen rounds wasn’t a bad return for a tea which although containing one or two whole, large leaves seemed mostly to be comprised of larger pieces of chopped leaf. Again, I think that is a nod towards how much of a punch this tea packs – on the whole choppier leaves tend to give up their goodies over a shorter, more intense period.

2012 Xiaguan FT Taiwan no6 - used leaves

It had been an interesting session, one that started off all “whoo-hoo” and rapid fire, and that ultimately ended up easy paced and laid back.

I think this tea is noteworthy on a couple of fronts. Firstly, that body feel/cha qi was a bit of a roller-coaster ride!

Secondly, even though it’s already a nice tasting tea, from what others are saying it has significant potential to age into something really special.

Olli recommends getting more than one in – one to drink now, and at least one other to put away for the long haul.

Judging by my first session with it, I reckon I just might have to do precisely that…

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