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Classic ‘Xiao Tai’ Yunnan Tuocha Review: What A Surprise

Today, we’re reviewing a Xiaguan tuocha that was originally made for export to Taiwan. Later this tea became a classic Xiaguan product line. The tea in the spotlight is the 2018 ‘Jing Dian Xiao Tai Yunnan Tuocha’ from Puerhtea.eu.

Before, we start, let’s clarify the name: ‘Jing Dian’ means ‘Classic’ and ‘Xiao Tai’ means ‘selling to Taiwan’. The Xiao Tai series is actually comparable to the ‘Xiao Fa‘ (Selling to France) series, which was the first tuocha exported to France. Same like the Xiao Fa tuocha, the Taiwan version also comes in a nice box.

I’ve always been fan of these boxes, because I feel that it makes the product more complete instead of just a simple wrapper. Additionally it offers protection against excess humidity and protect the tea during shipping.

The tea has this perfect classic Xiaguan tuocha shape as you can expect with a small label. The contrast of black tea leaves and golden buds is quite satisfying to look at. The raw materials definitely look more premium when compared to the Xiao Fa series (France).

What’s The Best Way To Pry Tight Tuocha’s?

As we expect tuocha’s to always be fairly tightly pressed, as otherwise the same can’t be that perfect. Thus, we’ll use a tea knife. If you’ve ever wondered what’s the best way to start prying a tuocha. Here’s my recommendation:

This tuo cha is actually quite easy to pry. There’s no need for strong force, and leaves come off easily.

Using an Yixing Teapot Today

Today I’ll use my Yixing teapot, which I’ve dedicated to ripe pu erh. I haven’t used the teapot for a while, and it can definitely can use some nourishment ๐Ÿ™‚

If you aren’t familiar with why you should dedicate a Yixing clay teapot for a single tea type. You may read this guide.

Obviously, you may also go with porcelain teaware, such as a gaiwan. In fact, you may get a more neutral experience relative to an Yixing vessel, as those tend to intensify and somewhat change the flavor. But hey, If you’ve got the luxury to choose, then follow your mood ๐Ÿ™‚

yixing teapot
yixing teapot brew ripe
Brewing Xiao Tai in Yixing Teapot

2018 Xiaguan Xiao Tai Brewing Parameters

In short, I’m steeping 5g and 200ml water at 90ยบC. We do a quick rinse and then apply instant steeps for the first 2 rounds, followed by increases of 5 seconds per subsequent steep.

Note: You may a well go for 6-8g of tea, if you want a darker broth. I’m personally more fan of drinking a subtle ripe pu erh.

Xiao Tai Tuocha Taste: Golden Flowers

Now let’s get to the flavor. The first sip honestly completely blew me away. It has this note of ripe fruit like jujube, and osmanthus flowers. But those notes do not define this tea. What really pops out is this flavor of ‘golden flowers’ (Jin Hua) what you often find in An hua dark teas.

Now I do not expect everyone to be familiar with this flavour, but the challenge is that such flavour is really hard to explain. In fact, it’s not really a flavour, but rather a kind of funky mushroomy umami. You should taste it to fully understand.

I generally love to drink dark teas with Jin Hua flavour when I’m drinking solo. This mysterious flavour is great for self reflection and a meditative experience.

Smooth, Round Flavours

What’s also interesting about this tea is that the texture is really smooth and round. The dry tea doesn’t look that intensively pile-fermented, so I expected a more crisp taste. But it’s in fact really round and clean in texture. You’re not going to notice any bitterness, even if you steep a very dark broth.

This tea can last long, here’s how the tea soup color looks like at steep nr. 5.

Note, it’s a flat cup. When using higher profile cups, the tea looks much darker.

What’s interesting is that the tea soup looks really clear. Obviously, hazy teas are an indication of bad quality, but I rarily see a ripe pu erh tea with a soup that displays such a nice transparency. It’s really pleasant to look at.

Conclusion

The Xiao Tai Tuocha is a great tea to add to your ripe pu erh collection, if you’re looking for something that’s really different. It’s also a great tea to try if you’re fan of Anhua dark teas. In fact, if you’ve never had any Anhua dark tea, this tuocha will not taste like anything you had before. However, if you’re seeking smokiness, stronger wet pile flavours, or more crisp notes, then you should look further.

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