Xizi Hao is a boutique Taiwanese pu’erh brand. With Xizi Hao coming available from Taiwan, I’ve decided to release a few of my notes from my google spreadsheets of tea notes. Unlike other reports these teas were not sessioned in close succession of each other. Thank you to Emmett for sending me a few of these recently.
- Sanhetang is the parent brand for Xizi Hao. You’ll sometimes see Sanhetang and Xizi Hao used interchangeably.
- Emmett coordinates XZH buys and helps with cake splits. There’s a markup involved, but it’s a good way to dip in for those that want to try out the brand.
A Bit More About XZH
Like Yangqing Hao, Xizi Hao is Tainan, Taiwan based and really started to hit their stride in the mid 2000s. It should also be emphasized that there are many, many small-scale producers both in Taiwan and east Asia. The vast majority of these have never been heard of in the west. Xizi Hao has become more known and (in)famous than many of them. Most of these cakes are available significantly beneath their price direct from Xizi Hao but would rest at the upper-end of what the vast majority of people would pay for a cake ($/g+).
Xizi Hao also was an early producer of premium tea north of Xishuangbanna and their catalog of productions represents considerably more variety in region and taste than some other boutique producers from that period. There are greater Yiwu teas, Menghai County, Simao, and Lincang teas.
Xizihao in the West
Houde gave this brand their initial exposure to the west. Unlike YQH where just three of the teas were sold (2004 Zhencang Chawang, 2005 Yiwu Chawang, and 2006 Qixiang), XZH has had several of their productions sold by Houde including more recent ones up to 2013. Since their conception, most of these productions have risen significantly in price. If you ever want to feel the pains of regret, take a look at Houde on the Way Back Machine. These productions were at the upper end of what pu’erh cost back then hovering between $50-100.
- A few old reviews of these teas can be found by Hobbes, Marshaln, and Jakub on their respective blogs. Shah has also extensively reviewed these teas throughout the years on B&B.
2006 Black Wrapper Lao Banzhang
A tea that has been on and off available at Houde for a while. Review is from the Houston stored version. Light bitter/sharpness, than a full smooth round body in iniital steeps. Taste is mainly wood, with a secondary taste of fruit, herbal notes and cream/flowers. There’s a bit of mouth-cool/menthol in the third and fourth steep. Chesty qi. Lightly throaty, before the returning throat sweetness comes. The viscosity drops off fairly fast. Overall the qi is fairly front-heavy giving a relaxing effect.
2006 White Wrapper Lao Banzhang
TW stored. A bit more standard than the Black Wrapper. Medium thick. Aroma of raisins, stone fruits, floral. There’s some returning sweetness to the throat and a mild qi. By far the most interesting/pleasant thing is a sweet/balling effect that returns to the top of the throat where it slowly descends to give sweetness to the rest of the throat.
Storage is TW and definitely not totally dry. This particular production holds up well to the more humid storage as it is clearly robust and strong material. The tea s thick with some throatiness and consistent bite. There’s some immediate qi felt in the upper diaphragm. As the tea moves into the second round of steepings (4-7) it improves quite a bit. Sweet feelings in the throat and the back and front of mouth. Gets a bit softer but not dry. Not juicy but not drying/astringent as I’ve gotten from other Youle teas. The qi also deepens and can be felt in the core. Very enjoyable. There’s some fruits, but less stone fruits as noted in my previous session. More of darker, camphorated Asian fruits.
2007 Guhua Daxueshan (Loose)
US dry stored. Huge leaves! Chilling. Coagulates mid-mouth. Returning throat huigan. Leaves a thick sweetness on mouth. Gets nutty/bitter. Qi is odd. Gets more bitter, nutty, tingly. Takes a while to open up. Qi in back of head. Very difficult tea to rate because it has a lot of unique characteristics but isn’t terribly pleasant.
TW stored and also not particularly dry. Taste is predominantly darkish stone fruits, leather, and florals. The tea begins tart for the first couple infusions and then becomes astringent. Overall soft throughout and a steady amount of sweetness. Good feelings in the throat and good consistent thickness + feelings in the back of the mouth. There’s a light mouthcool and a silky texture to it. The qi is quite good, and is uplifting. About moderate strength, building throughout the session.
Starts out with a light bitter sweetness. It has a fluffy, cottonish texture. Overall the first few infusions are pretty no frills. The aftertaste comes a bit later and the qi sneaks up. Eventually there’s some throat coating and plenty of sweet aftertastes in the mouth. The qi also hit around steep 4 peaking around steep 6 or so. The middle infusions have a pine, fern, dry wood taste before moving into more dry fruits and creamy tones. The taste throughout is thinnish, which is I suspect why the tea isn’t beloved. Still am enjoyable brew.
Thick, dense grains, not particularly sweet. Good throatiness and lasting huigan in the throat. Moves to more darker fruits later, like longan. There’s pretty fast and noticeable qi in the chest. Not sedating, and pretty energetic. Decent longevity. On the back half of the session it loosens up a bit and becomes a bit easier to push and get pleasant, sweet brews out of it for a while. This is not as dynamic, energetic or as good as the Puzhen but pretty solid.
TW stored but not as wet as the Youle or Xishangmeishao. There’s earlier productions of this tea that are supposedly better. Vibrant, rich, foresty, sweet aroma. Starts out very basic with fluffy, soft, honey tones and I initially find it to be just good but the session progressively richer and more astringent. Body picks up, more fruit tones and is consistently oily. Qi starts to hit harder in the 3rd or 4th. On the fifth infusion onwards it really hits its place becoming more up front juicy, floral, leathery and bitterness. Qi in the diaphgram and chest, some throat coat. It’s a touch dry from the astringency and can definitely still bite. Qi continues to be good.
TW stored. There’s also earlier productions of this. Very unique tea. Really rich, strong, sweet, very tropical fruity aroma. Creamy, oily, early with pineapple and other tropical fruits in the taste. it starts out lightly astringent which builds. The sort of tea that leaves very sweet feelings in the mouth. There’s a bit of activity in the throat. Around steep 5-9 I find the qi really starts to hit me pretty hard. The energy is almost intoxicating, flushing my cheeks and makes them feel very warm. This is allegedly from Fengqing, it’s interesting because it’s very warming as opposed to the cooling I usually get from northern teas. This second phase it transitions from the very rich fruits to more woods and eventually florals. Good qi throughout. As the tea dies, it becomes more basic but remains drinkable and enjoyable. Sweet, honeyish qi.
Straightforward, robust tea that should store well. Not particularly sweet in the immediate taste. Lots of the good bitter and decent depth. Quick huigan. There’s a moderate qi that mainly gets me in the upper diaphragm. I personally rank this a notch above the Wistaria Lanyin. As it moves into the mid steeps (4-7) gets more florals and hay. Good longevity.
Very complex tea. Decent thickness throughout. Good mix of soft elegance and strength. Storage is dry and good. Very rich, candy wood aromatics. Decent back of mouth and very good throat coating. Some mild chestiness that isn’t overpowering. In steeps 4-7 moves into more of a soft, vanilla, creamy. There’s some bitterness and a very light drying astringency that leave strong sweet flavors in the mouth. I’d rank it above Xishangmeihao and half a step behind Diangu.
2009 Jinxuan (Yiwu/Banzhang Brick)
Houston stored. Inconsistent and weird tea. Some odd bitterness. Everything eventually becomes sweet.Viscosity is a bit thin. Some back of the mouth sweetness and ephemeral qi feelings. Leaves somewhat of an anesthetic on the front of the mouth. Subsequent sessions have been more enjoyable. Solid qi.
2010 Manning Gucha
Houston stored. Nice back of the mouth sweetness. Slight astringency to it. Smooth, pretty light body. Light bitterness that runs through. Very light throatiness.
2012 Chawang Bohetang
Foresty, minty, sweet aroma. Despite a tweener age, this really isn’t too awkward. Thickness is generally good, although it doesn’t approach the thickness of the 2013 Chawang. Plenty of minty/mouthcooling. Decent throatiness. It’s overall sharper, more foresty, and a bit more bitter (especially on the finish) than the XZH Chawang which is a rounder, more viscous brew. Fairly different altogether. The bitterness is productive and the aftertaste left in the throat and mouth is entirely sweet. There’s also fairly immediate qi/frisson in the body. The qi isn’t as strong as the 2013, but is very decent and predominantly uplifting. Overall, I’d take the 2013 Yiwu Chawang over this.
Nose is nice and complex. Deep and floral. Body is medium. Some light throat feeling. Leather and nutty notes. I could see this being Jinggu, exemplified by nutty light bitterness comes in around steep three or four that really builds. A little watery. Becomes rather straightforward after the initial five infusions.
Piney, aroma is similar to YS Jinggus. Body really thickens and gets slightly bitter. More pine notes. Maybe Fengqing? Some nutty sweetness. Medium thickness.
2005 Chenyuan Hao Shan Zhong Chuan Qi
Not the same brand, but I suspect this tea appeals to the same crowd.
Dark grains, bready tones. Dark fruits, soft buttery. Good thickness throughout. Moves into dry stone fruits and darker fruits (lychees). Qi is mild and builds slowly. Eventually steeps into basic sweet, dark, florals and leather. I find this to be a bit suspect in value and a lot of it has been muted in the storage.
|2006 Black Wrapper||Xizihao||400||B+.|
|2006 White Wrapper (TW Stored)||Xizihao||400||B.|
|2007 Guhua Daxueshan||Xizihao||–||C+.|
|2009 Jinxuan Golden Brick||Xizihao||500||B/B-.|
|2010 Manning Gucha||Xizihao||400||C+.|
|2012 Chawang Bohetang||Xizihao||400||B.|
|2013 Yiwu Chawang||Xizihao||400||A-.|
|2005 Shan Zhong Chuanqi||Chenyuanhao||400||B-.|
Whether these teas are worth it or not largely depends on the consumer. I suspect people in the west hunting for premium tea will be satisfied with the quality of some of these. If you prefer to buy semi-aged pu’erh, there’s a few options depending on where you think your own tastes in tea are. Unlike YQH, where I ended up buying quite a bit, I’ve bought just a few of these. I’ll also note I’m personally not as enthusiastic about the Banzhang teas as some others are.
My own preferences would lead me to consider these the most:
- Diangu (premium Northern)