Saturday, March 29, 2008

2001 XiaGuan Bao Yan "Holy Flame" Brick

As some of you are aware, XiaGuan makes a number of products sold under different labels for export such as the Bao Yan "Holy Flame" label.

Interestingly, most of the Bao Yan products will be exported to Tibet where the Tibetans will make a rustic concoction call yak butter tea consisting of, you guessed it, Yak butter, young raw sheng and sugar. As you can probably suspect, products sold under the Bao Yan label are generally made from Lincang materials of low to mediocre quality as they are intended to be consumed now. This said, you can find aged examples on the market.

As you can see, the leaves are not the best of quality, although after 7 years they do appear to be aging as they are turning a nice leathery brown. The tea has virtually no smokiness which is quite a difference from the young Bao Yan bricks I have in storage.

Brewing Parameters

Amount - 5.3g

Brewing Method - Gongfu

Brewing Vessel - Yixing Teapot 120ml

Infusion times

Tasting Notes

My first idea was to give an infusion by infusion description. However, after tasting the liquor on the first and second round I had noticed that the flavors nor did the aroma really evolve. I don't want to give you the impression that the tea was bad, too the contrary. However, what I am saying is that it did not transform.


The liquor was nice and clear with a nice aged amber tint. The aroma from the sniffing cup was pleasantly woody with burnt honey notes. As the liquor cooled, the woodiness dissipated and became somewhat floral.


The liquor did have a slightly aged taste. Again, as in the aroma, it was very woody. The liquor had a nice viscosity and a pleasant silkiness. The acidity in the liquor also was nice and kept the session active. The liquor did become a bit more astringent which of course is expected in a slightly aged sheng. You can clearly taste a slight green naivete. The later infusions became less woody which did allow a faint floral note to come through. The liquor really did have a slight huigan which was a surprise for me as I really thought it would be a dud in that department.

Spent Leaves

As you can see, the leaves are true to the claim of mediocrity. They are quite masticated. Nothing special. These torn and masticated leaves are certainly one of the reasons that Ban Yan products are compressed exceptionally hard since anything other than hard compression will virtually make the products fall apart during transit. In fact, I am comfortable in calling the leaves fannings.


The sheng was indeed palatable. The liquor was a bit dry but not boring. In fact, it did have its moments. If anything, aging Bao Yan products can certainly provide a learning experience for what time and careful aging can do to sub par pu-erh. Again, although not typically sought after collectors, you still may want to acquire Bao Yan products aging for future consumption. There is every reason to believe that Bao Yan may age well enough to become an everyday sheng that won't break your bank. I know I am! ;)


Salsero said...

I don't get it. To me those compressed leaves looked big and beautiful, but I see the result after brewing is shredded stuff. How can you tell from that bing that the leaves are not first class? Maybe this is not a skill that can be imparted via internet.

Is this tea available somewhere currently? Pass the rancid yak butter, please. :-)

Hobbes said...

Dear Bill,

Thanks as ever for a great review. I love this tea - Carla turned me on to it, and I have some for aging. I notice that I haven't written it up for the Half-Dipper, so thanks also for prompting me to do so - it'll be an interesting comparison in light of your notes.

Is it still available anywhere?



Bill said...

Good question Sal. Actually, you can tell to some degree if the leaves are of higher grade visually. As you can see from the broken piece, there are a number of large stems; even more so on the other side. Of course some stems are acceptable, however the amount was quite abundant and they were almost twig like. Not a good sign. Secondly, the brick did not appear to have any signs of buds or younger leaves on the surface - another indicator that the material may be of lower grade. Thirdly, the leaves just don't have that glossiness that I find in some good aging sheng. Lastly, the surface of the beeng can always be misleading. As you can see from the surface, the leaves do not look anything like the spent leaves. The only answer I can come up with is that generally, the leaves are of much better quality on the surface than they are in the body. Perhaps, this may be the case. When I examined the leaves further, I noticed that the leaves also disentigrate quite easily when manipulated. I read somewhere, I believe in MarshlN Tea Addict Journal that this is not a good sign of quality. But again, understanding that the beeng is Bao Yan, I already knew that this would be the case.

Unfortunately Sal and Hobbes, there are no current vendors that I know of off hand that have this particular brick. It was an offering from Houde some time ago. Nonetheless, you can find the '04 year brick for sale at YSLLC. You can also find the mushroom shape for sale at Generation Tea although it is quite spendy and I am sure you can buy much better tea for what they are asking.


Salsero said...

So much to see in such a small bit of puerh! Thanks for the detailed explanation. Yes, I remember Hobbes or MarshalN mentioning something about "paper-thin" leaves being bad compared to thick ones.

Life.learning.sherab said...

Another good review. This trade mark is so famous. I bet you know some stories behind it. And hehe, I like your translation of the name into "hold flame"! even though the Tibetan (as well as the Chinese) nor bu me 'bar actually means "flame of a jewel" or something... By the way, did you have time try out that Dou ji beeng yet?

Life.learning.sherab said...

oops, I mistyped your translation "Holy" Flame!

Bill said...

Hello Sherab! Thank you again for yourkind comments. I have not tasted the Douji as of yet. I have been under the weather lately and don't like to drink young sheng. However, If you will notices on my blog under the "Reviews on Deck" you will notice that the Douji is next for a review! Also, if you are curious, I have sent a sample to MarshalN of the Tea Addict blog. I hope you don't mind. He has done an excellent job of reviewing the Douji!


Anonymous said...

I would love to know where you got that teacup with the painted fish in them. Do you remember by chance?

Bill said...

Hi Jenn, I see that you like my cups? I do as well. I bought them on an Ebay store called Dragon Tea House. He has tons of stuff that I think you might like. Give'em a try.

Tell Gordon that Bill from Ancient Tea Horse Road Sent ya ;)

Thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

What a great write-up. I recently started a tea blog - Tea Escapade because of my love of tea. I realize now that there is so much that I do not know. I cannot wait to explore and learn.

I will certainly link to you as you add a new and needed demension that as of now I am missing.


Home Set Up

Tea should be simple. I typically brew gongfu except when I make a good English Breakfast. Zhuni pot is one that I dedicate to Chinese b...