Pu-erh Reviews

2007 8582

Genre: Compressed Sheng/Green/Uncooked/Raw
Factory: Xi-Zhi-Hao
Vendor: Yunnan Sourcing
Reviewed by Tea Junkie on 02/29/2008

Background    A return to the greatness that was 8582, or something along those lines was the propoganda for this cake. I do not know too much about the original formulation of the cake, except that it occured around 1985 and the cake used 8th grade leaves (averaged or total?) and originated with the Menghai factory. I have tasted a wide variety of 8582 cakes to include some from the year of origin, and on out to 2004 and I would say that if they are stored well they are excellent, though I have only tasted a couple that I would consider well stored that are over ten years old.

Dry Leaf Appearence:    The cake was as lovely as one would expect from XZH, and it would appear that top bottom and center are all about 8th grade of leaves. Not alot of intact bud sets, but that is not really what this kind of tea is about. The color varies from deep green to light brown, hinting that this was sun-dried Mao Cha, and the whole cake has a very nice sheen to the leaves. Aroma is sweet and clean, not especially grassy, a bit more on the woody side - kind of like a hot day amidst alders and cottonwoods.

Water to Leaf Ratio:     15 gr of Leaf in 150 ml of water

Brewing Method:    This was done up in my usual pseudo gongfucha style, rinsed for 5 seconds with full boil spring water, allowed to sit for 5 minutes, then off we go. I stand by my heroic dosage of 1/10, though if I were to serve to anyone else I would halve that number or maybe even less, for me it allows for a very long session even if the leaves have a tendency to peter out quickly. The issue is really steeping times for the 2nd and later infusions as this is alot of goodies.

Wet Leaf Appearence:    A cup chock full of big bold leaf with only the stems showing any browning. A few full bud sets survived the kneading, but I have come to not be dissapointed in not finding full sets. It is unusual in my limited experience to find many in Antique tea, but there are alway alot of large and full leaves with a dense leatheriness that speaks more of fauna than flora. If those observations hold then this leaf might have impressed a Qing dynasty tea junkie.

1st Steep    45 seconds steeping to get those juicy leaves pumping. The liquor was a pale tan with a sweetness that counters the slight astringency and warm woodiness found in the cup. I could just sit and sip this infusion for hours, delicate and complex, fragrant and delicious, a soothing reminder of why I love pu-erh so much.

2nd Steep    30 seconds so as not to overuse the pudgy wet tangle that nearly fills the guywan. Now it has arrived with deep wood and anise and honey and a mouthwatering astringency that finishes with rose and a final farewell of hyacinth far off in the distance. Damnably good tea brewed up excellently. I have certainly tasted better cups from XZH, but this cup at this time with the rain and wind counterpointed by liquid summer forest is making my head float in bliss. Sippable Satori.

3rd Steep    30 seconds just seems right with this tea, and while the yellowish tan soup has become a touch sharp with its complex of sandlewood and alder and honey, the demands are worth their price with the excruciating Qi that hovers on my lower spine and the crown of my head. I am certainly tea-drunk from just three cups (actually quite a bit more since I am pooling the remains of the infusions into a gorgeous old fine bone china cup that will not retain the remains of more than two rinses so I have to keep it down around the half way mark before I can move on to the next round), and I can easily slip out of focus and surf the Kundalini that adores the tea's Qi with rousing passion. Perhaps I should take a break so I can be a bit more objective about this stuff - but then again no, ride the grace while it lasts.

4th Steep    30 seconds again and a splashy sweetness wafts across the very finest tips of the tastebuds only to be washed away with the sandlewood and alder and honey that continue their dominance that last maybe ten seconds then fades into anise and cardamom and a bouquet of flowers from yesterday left somewhere upstairs but I am just not sure where. As the cup cools a more vegetal tone comes into the finish with the taste of just slightly underripened wheat kernels (if you can ever find wheat growing where you can get to it it must be tasted to be believed - the essence of vegetal love) but still the exotic spices are really the name of the game. This cup is just so lovely that I am having trouble imagining allowing it to age.

Subsequent Steeps    As I noted earlier I was drinking this in heroic dosages so that I can get at least 10 infusions out of the leaf - and indeed I did. The astringency slid into just plain sweetness after 8 infusions when I lost count, I know I got more than four more out of the tea and stretched the time out into the several of minutes and all throughout was living wood and a complex of tropical seasonings that was always entrancing me away from Pynchon's Against the Day. This was a session that would have better been served by Paz's Sunstone, but my wife was away at a seminar in Florida with my Paz. Sure Neruda and Garcia Lorca are more politcally correct (well at least the latter) but sometimes the words sing above the fray and Paz is just a bit more cerebral and sadly so am I.

Conclusion    This is a tea that I would heartily recommend as an intro to XZH pu-erh, it has alot of refinement and excellent flavor profile at a more reasonable price than their other cakes. I would certainly prefer to have Houde's Ku Zhu Shan tea sitting in my cup, but if you are pinching pennies three of these cakes would be alot easier to let some actually age for the same price as one of the better teas. Now about the whole 8582 thing. I just drank a bazillion infusions of a 1986 8582 last night and while I know that there can be no comparison between different teas that are more than 20 years apart in ageing I am forced to consider that this cake may not taste like 8582 of old. I suspect this is quite a bit better and perhaps quite a bit lighter. It is excruciatingly hard to find 8582 that has been aged softly, everything prior to 1996 seems to have been treated very sloppily. I know that there are warehouses full of cakes treated with far more care just waiting for another ten years so that they can be appreciated for what they truly can become, but it is frustrating not getting a chance to taste the different stages that the cakes will go through as the years compile. I just got blessed with the little sample from a friend overseas, and I am looking forward to the final dissipation of astringency that will occur over the next few years. I suspect those first years of 8582 will be as good or better than 70's Huang Yin, and may rival 50's Huan Yin, but never having tasted either at under 30 yrs old I have no reference to make any such observation. I must say that this tea was the perfect thing at the perfect time and that may cloud my interpretation of the cake, but then again any tea session that is so divinely transcendant must be brought about by tea that was loved into existance. Will this age into 1986 8582's shoes? God I hope so, since I actually have access to cakes of this stuff and do not have to be serendipitously gifted to enjoy this into the future.

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