TEA COLLECTION AND STUDY GROUP | Xiaguan Tuo Cha Pu Er, 01.24-06.24
Explore and study limited edition teas from one of the most iconic tea companies in the world: Xiaguan Tuo Cha (下关沱茶). Founded in 1902, Xiaguan is a company with a rich history, including caravans from Yunnan to Tibet and a leading part in the development of 'cooked' Pu Er in the 1970s.
Your journey starts with 600g of tea (including some extremely interesting limited editions, available only from private collectors in China) and monthly study group meetings. All sessions will be held on Zoom.
Should you like to join some of the sessions at our tea bar, please bring a phone or laptop and a BlueTooth microphone, so the whole group can participate in the discussion.
Over the past decade, the O5 team has primarily focused on micro-producers in remote corners of the world. Our dear friend, Mr. Zhang Tao, recently encouraged us to also delve into the world of this tea titan; it is an important part of a well rounded tea education! We are set to begin our journey by visiting Xiaguan in Dali in November 2024 and sharing this exploration with you over the following months.
1. An engraved pinewood chest.
2. 2014 Bao Yan Jin Cha (紧宝茶焰) 50g (broken): Inspired by the tea exported from Yunnan to Tibet in the 1940s and 1950s, shaped like butter lamps. Your parcel contains 50g of tea, cut from a 250g piece.
3. 2014 Xiao Fa Tuo (销法沱) 100g tuo: This recipe was developed in the 1980s and quickly became Xiaguan's major success in a Western market, particularly in France. Your parcel includes a 100g full piece.
4. 2014 Jia Ji Tuo (销法沱) 100g tuo: One of the best-selling premium material products from Xiaguan. The 2014 vintage will allow us to see what happens after a decade of aging.
5. 2013 T-8653 Iron Cake 90g (broken): A classic proprietary recipe from Xiaguan, pressed into their iconic 'iron cake'. Iron cakes are not stone-pressed in cloth (as traditional cakes); they are steamed and pressed directly in the steamer, creating an extremely tight disc with straight edges. This format is reported, by Xiaguan, to age very well. We will find out!
6. 2013 P-8653 Traditional Cake 90g (broken): A traditionally pressed tea cake from the same vintage as the above-mentioned iron cake. We will compare the two styles. Basket Conditioned, very limited edition
7. Ma Bei Tuo (马背驮茶) 110g, loose tea: Small lots of this tea were produced ONLY in 2005 and 2014. Both sold out almost immediately and remained with private collectors. The Ma Bei Tuo (HorseBack Tea) recipe was stored in 25kg bamboo baskets, instead of the usual 'tuo' shape.
8. 2014 Fu Lu Shou (Special Edition), 60g (broken): This special edition tea, pressed in 250g little bricks, sold out very quickly after its release. We will compare this premium recipe with the similarly aged, also tightly compressed 2014 Jia Ji Tuo (see above). Your package contains 60g of tea, broken from 250g bricks.
Monthly Study Group Sessions:
1. Introduction to Xiaguan Tuo Cha one exploration of the Tibetan style tea produced in its early days.
Date: Wednesday January 17, 2024, 6pm – 7pm PST
2. Pile fermentation. Xiaguan was a pioneer of cooked tea production in the 70's. Here, we will study its most iconic recipe, which gained Xiaguan a significant place in French teapots.
Date: Wednesday February 21, 2024, 6pm – 7pm PST
3. Classic 'high grade' Xiaguan. This month, we will taste one of the most popular 'premium' raw pu er offerings from Xiaguan. We will compare this with a similarly aged Tibetan style tea (see 1)).
Date: Friday Wednesday March 20, 2024, 6pm – 7pm PST
4. Traditional (Bao) Pressing vs. Iron Cakes. We will compare 2014 versions of a tea pressed in cloth traditionally vs. a very tight piece pressed directly in the steamer. We will compare the effect of age (10 years) in both formats.
Date: Wednesday April 17, 2024, 6pm – 7pm PST
5. Late Qing Dynasty Style 'Basket' Format. This will be fun! We are breaking open one of our 25kg baskets of Ma Bei Tuo. These really cool items sold out almost immediately after their release. We'll see what 10 years of aging does for loosely pressed tea. And we will compare this with other Xiaguan formats
Date: Wednesday May 15, 2024, 6pm – 7pm PST
6. Specialty Tea Blend.In our final session, we will explore a celebratory tea recipe released in very small lots in 2014. We will compare the taste, look, and feel of these leaves with the more widely available Jia Ji Tuo and 8653 recipes.
Tea Knife. Xiaguan produces some very tight tea; a reliable, sturdy tea knife is very useful to safely separate some leaves without breaking them too much. Please be careful when using this!
Yixing Teapot or Standard Gaiwan.We will be brewing both raw and cooked Pu Er; if you have a dedicated teapot for each style, you are set! If you want a single tool for both, a ceramic or titanium gaiwan are excellent tools. Ceramic is great because the leaves look beautiful in a white vessel; titanium is another excellent choice because it is virtually indestructible, extremely easy to wash (ensuring that no aroma remains in your vessel) and... they look cool.
A Glass Fair Cup or Beaker.
What is Pu Er?
Pu Er is a group of teas which fall under the ‘dark tea’ (嘿茶) category; this category encompasses several styles of fermented teas. Strictly speaking, the term Pu Er should only be used to describe tea that grows in China’s Yunnan Province.
The Name: The Chinese characters 普洱 are romanized as ‘Pu Er’ in Pinyin (China’s official system since 1958) or ‘Pu Erh’ in Wade-Giles (an older system). In Mandarin, the pronunciation of 普洱 is quite close to ‘Poo Arr’.
Pu Er is also the name of an ancient tea trading town in southern Yunnan; according to some sources, it was this town that gave the Pu Er name to all the tea grown in this region.
image: tea picker in Yiwu, Yunnan, within the traditional 'Pu Er' territory