Strong, Burly, and not too Expensive. Semi-Aged Xiaguan, MX-Tea Report [Feat. Garrett]

Sorry to all the people who like the drinking reports. 2017 has been sparse. This tasting is composed of a few teas that piqued my interest, affordable, semi-aged teas from Guangdong based Taobao Vendor MX-Tea. For this group of teas, I invited my local tea friend Garrett to join in. Garrett has a similar tea diet to myself, principally drinking traditionally stored pu’erh, semi-aged pu’erh as well as the occasional aged oolong. I’ve ordered tea from MX Tea a few times over the past few years and enjoy their naturally stored (Guangdong) factory tea.

Tips:

  • This report is being released before the 11/11 sales (big Chinese shopping holiday), where you should be able to obtain savings for some teas.
  • A previous report on a bunch of teas from MX from last year.
  • Be sure to check for samples on MX. They’re prorated very favorably and are usually just a couple dollars for 10g.

How to Order Tea from Taobao

MX Tea

MX Tea. Taobao Store.

Tea Notes

2006 FT Xiao Ma Qizi Yuan Cha

James

Not bad, but on the lighter, softer side. Early on it had soft woody tones and was fairly sweet. Eventually I started to push the tea a bit and the liquor changed to more of a reddish color and it developed some herbal funk. There’s a light bitterness and a light mouthcoat. Most of the interesting parts of the tea (mouthfeel, depth) didn’t come out, until I hit it harder, so my respect for the tea grew a bit as the session went on. Very light astringency as well.

Garrett

Mild gasoline flavors early on. Mostly chopped leaf I think provided a bitter brew first few steeps, later on it morphed into some medicinal herbaceousness, light cooling. A forgetful tea that tapped off too quick, needs more potency in later steeps.

2005 Xiao Ma Qizi Yuan Cha

James

Somewhat similar to the 2006 FT Xiao Ma, but it seems differently/drier stored. More of your typical sheng aroma. It is soft, a bit thin and has a sticky, syrup mouthfeel. Like the 2006 needs to be pushed and even then isn’t anything to write home about. Some bitterness but not as much mouthfeel or depth to it. Doesn’t really elicit strong feelings.

Garrett

Light, sweet, camphorated aroma reflected also in taste with initial steeps. Small dense chunks with chopped dust used for brew. Generic melon fruit sweetness when pushed, watery when not. Light astringency in later pushed steeps.

2005 March Jiaji

James

Further along than the February Iron and more of my style of tea. Minty and soft throughout. Wood, some menthol, minerals, a darker profile and it has a nice mouthfeel. Still lightish viscosity and a light bitterness. Brews light red. Nothing great, but OK.

Garrett

Easier to drink than February but also not as much “POWER” -as Jeremy Clarkson might yell …as the February. Again a forgetful tea, light viscosity, light camphor, no smoke. Drink this to forget -cause I am certainly not going to remember it. Nothing unpleasant though.

2005 FT 8653-5

James

I sampled this a while ago and thought highly enough of it to grab a cake to see if I’d want more. Alas I enjoy it but not enough to buy more.

Probably the most immediately enjoyable of those consumed. It starts out very sweet. Woody, menthol, creamy, sticky fruit. The major change I’ve noted is that there’s some mushroom/fungal nature to about half of the session. I don’t recall anything like that before. It can also be pushed quite a bit more than most of the other teas. The major flaw is that it’s thin and I’m not convinced this is the tea with enough substance to drink into the long-term.

Garrett

Rough gasoline taste initial couple steeps, tapers into an enjoyable sweetness similar to tutti-fruity Jelly Bean, light camphor mixed with traditional sweet date aroma. Very light cooling throughout entire session. Some viscosity. Mild calming somatic response. Smooth sweetness tapers off into a traditional minerally-ness in later steeps. No smoke. Could use more strength and sweetness could last longer (7-8th steep sweetness went pretty mild) but a pleasant enough tea to drink now.

2005 February Traditional Thick Paper Jiaji Iron

James

Fits into my image of more classic Xiaguan moreso than the Xiao Ma series. Taste profile early on is pine, sweet. The smoke is partially gone but there’s still enough smoke that I don’t find too pleasant. The other major flaw is it fell off very fast. Even though they’re OK at best, the two Xiao Ma’s lasted for several more steeps beyond this. The viscosity is also on the thinner side. Light to moderate bitterness throughout. There’s also some creaminess in the middle steeps which is nice and pleasant.

Garrett

Bitter with some traditional XG barbeque early on. Forgetful for the most part. Strong uncomfortable somatic off middle steeps (caffeinated + tea drunkenness) –like a co-worker who you find interesting to talk initially and then a middle way upon your conversation you start to feel a little vomity. Dark yellow liquor throughout.

2004 Thick Paper Songhe

James

Smoke, fruit, grain in aroma. Fairly perfume and powdery throughout. Brews a dark orange. Wood, herb taste, with quite a bit of dryness. This is a decently pleasant brew and despite being oily it is on the weaker end. Not a ton of depth either.

Garrett

Mostly smokey. Mouth puckering astringency which is accommodated by a weak brew in other avenues, difficult for me to continue after 4th steep. More oily and luscious XG’s out there.

MX Factory Teas.

2004 Xiaguan Jinsi & 2004 Xiaguan FT T004.

2004 FT T004

James

Half tuo sample. Light to moderate body. Softish. Fruit, smoke, wood combination. Fairly aromatic, slick mouthfeel. Smokiness is light and of the pleasant sort. The fruit dissipates and it becomes more woody, menthol,  medicinal. Quick sweetness. Lasts 10 or 11 infusions. Second session is a bit different and emphasizes the strength and astringency. It is a thicker than the Jinsi, but without as much mouthfeel or depth. Subsequent sessions confirm, this is mainly just a solid, above average, burly tuo with bits of smoke, and a solid body.

Garrett

Sweet woody and sticky flavors in the first few steeps, pretty firm compression so easy to get lots of chopped leaf with it’s accompanying like the sessions I had with it. No smoke. Some fruit and light lasting honey-like sweetness, a pleasant Xiaguan. Could be stronger with overall taste and somatic which makes me hesistant to age. Reasonable longevity at 8+ steeps of interest.

2004 Jinsi Tuocha (Gold)

James

Half tuo sample. Woodier, darker, deeper base than the T004. It is soft, with a moderate body. More pine and more aromatic earlier on. More substance, also a very quick huigan. Thickness it is actually a bit weaker than the FT T004 but makes up for it in mouthfeel and a quicker sweetness. I went back and forth on what I prefer and decided I like the Gold a little better for being the more interesting tea.

Garrett

Brash bold with strong woody flavors early on, lavender/herbal flavors later. Minimal somatic. Not as sweet initially as the FT T004. Some mouth-puckering astringency and cooling. Mild to no somatic reaction.

2003 Xiao Fei Tiebing

James

This is a pretty nice tea and reminds me a bit of some of the teas in the five diamonds series, perhaps the Grade B. Menthol, camphor, very woody taste. There’s a bit of syrupy mouthfeel and the sweetness extends to the back of the mouth and coats the mouth and top of throat. Pushed it gets an herbal, mineral, grainy taste with some pill-like bitterness. Softens up and becomes a bit sweeter as it brews out. Not great longevity but solid.

Garrett

Light smoke off the aroma, light camphor/cooling in the mouth, watery initial steeps. Light mushroomieness and ginseng/medicinal taste off middle steeps with pleasant cooling. A mild tea even when pushed because of this not somethig I would necessarily want to age. Dark golden liquor. No somatic.

2006 Xiaguan FT4 Pink

James

I bought a bunch of these, bought after the previous MX report on 11/11 sale. It’s no longer available there but comes up in TW auctions. Grains, fruits, quick sweetness and decent depth. This is soft, dense tea and not the easiest to drink now. It can especially get strong in steeps 3-5, with some pretty heavy sourness and bitterness. After that it softens up into a basic woody, fruit taste before falling off. It is probably most similar to the Songhe as it has a bit of powderiness to it too, but is much stronger and lacks the perfumey herbiness of that tea.

I have a couple friends (Garrett being one) that are less enthusiastic about this tea, and I think a lot is dependent on brewing it so it doesn’t hit too hard. I have also changed my tune to be a bit more negative. It’s not something I’d personally choose to drink very often and is probably more like a C in terms of drinkability but offers a lot of punch and substance within its core that I’d like to think will make it a decent prospect for the future. Revisit in 2020 or something.

Garrett

Heavier traditional Xaiguan smoke early on melding into a mild astringency as things progressed into mid-steeps. Similar to 2005 February Traditional Thick Paper Jiaji Iron in terms of brute strength and traditional Xiaguan flavors but more pleasant and a thicker ‘sticky’ liquor. Medicinal and floral sweetness throughout entire session. Awkward somatic response, which just makes me feel more ‘buzzed’ and less calm/mellow probably caffeine + tea drunkness.  Not something I’d reach for often. An alright tea but not as woody/fruity as the 2004 FT T004 or 2004 Jinsi tuos.

Tea $ Quantity $/g J Rating G Rating
2006 FT Xiao Ma Qizi Yuan Cha $45.00 357 $0.13 C C
2005 Xiao Ma Qizi Yuan Cha $60.00 357 $0.17 C- C-
2005 March Jiaji $40.00 357 $0.11 C C
2005 FT 8653-5 $58.00 357 $0.16 C+ B-
2005 February Traditional Thick Paper Jiaji Iron $58.00 357 $0.16 C- C
2004 Thick Paper Songhe $55.00 357 $0.15 C+ C-
2004 FT T004 $13.50 100 $0.14 C+ B
2004 Jinsi Tuocha (Gold) $22.00 100 $0.22 B- B-
2003 Xiao Fei Tiebing $225.00 357 $0.63 B- C
2006 Xiaguan FT4 Pink 400 C+ C+

Why Ratings are Clustered

Drinking through a ton of factory teas from a place like Xiaguan can be a bit of a slog. Most all of these teas were priced similarly and just a bit over the cheaper Xiaguans from 2005-2007. It’s not surprising that a lot of them while not terrible are also a bit uninspiring.

Final Thoughts

James

It’s tough to say if I would or will buy anything. There’s not a runaway slam dunk. I do think things like the 2005 Xiaguan FT8653-5, 2004 Xiaguan Gold Tuo, 2004 Xiaguan FT T004, and 2006 Xiaguan FT4 Pink are worth trying and I’ll check their prices for 11/11. The 2003 Xiaguan FT Fangcha is also worth trying (featured in previous report). None of these are dirt cheap, but are reasonable especially when put against the prices young tea draw these days. They’ll also age, even if they’re not destined to be anything totally amazing. For those willing to put in the effort, these teas help to fill in areas that westerner vendors are not covering.

Garrett

No standouts. I did enjoy the T004 but it was very similar to other experiences I had throughout the tastings. It does make me lean towards tuos when collecting in the early to mid 2000 XGs for aging. You can get a small package of tuos and have some nice diversification of early plantation Xiaguan. Less pomp and circumstance than the full cakes where you are paying a premium for teas that aren’t better.

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