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2012 Jay's HK Storage Xiaguan Baoyan / Holy Flame Raw Pu Erh Heart / Mushroom (100g)

2012 Jay's HK Storage Xiaguan Baoyan / Holy Flame Raw Pu Erh Heart / Mushroom (100g)

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October 8th, 2020

I purchased a single tong of seven 250g tuos of this tea in December 2017 through a (very) large volume Xiaguan dealer in Kunming. I have another Xiaguan Baoyan offering here on the site and those little cakes aged very well indeed in two years, although they are due for a retest! I expected these larger tuos to need more time, but I am very happy with how this tea brewed up for me yesterday.

These 'bull hearts' were first produced in the 1940s to meet demand in Tibet, and were originally made by hand. Xiaguan were the only factory to produce these. In the 1950s, Xiaguan then started using molds to speed up the process. During PRC rule, production stopped, but started again in the 1980s. This form was made for Buddhist temples in Tibet as a tribute of sorts, according to the wholesaler who provided these. A pu erh aficionado indicated there are certain batches of these 'bull hearts' that are considered superior and trade for quite a bit of money. I never took these too seriously and considered the Holy Flame line to just be budget tea for the people of Tibet, but I've been wrong. Yes, these are inexpensive when first pressed and the smoke from the Baoyan productions is staggering when they arrive, but this is the second Baoyan production that has truly astonished me after I've aged them here in Hong Kong.

The dry heart (or mushroom, if you prefer) has a whisper of aged out smoke to it. The compression has loosened up nicely, at least on the stalk, and I was able to break some off with my fingers. It's likely the stalk would have aged a bit quicker and more completely due to the tighter compression at the top, so I'd suggest attacking these from the bottom and working your way up to give the rest of the tea more time to catch up. 

In the cup, I get aged smoke and classic Dali plantation character. The material for these is hand processed, as is traditional, and the aged smoke and wildflower-like character is distinctively Xiaguan's own. This tea is smooth and pleasurable to drink in the cup. There is light and pleasant bitterness which transforms into excellent balanced huigan after the swallow. This huigan spreads across my entire mouth and palate and is very full in that sense. The Baoyan productions tend to be mellower to me than the Teji and Jiaji tuos, but this also makes them quite pleasant in a more relaxed way that I really enjoy. 

As the liquor cools, I get date-like flavors, as well as some tobacco notes. This expands into a flavor I associate with American chewing tobacco, which is sweet and pleasant to me. I get aged citrus and barley notes in the aftertaste, as well, which are very much flavors I associate with Xiaguan plantation material that I age myself. The tea has a pleasant calming effect, which is always welcome, and I feel much better after the session. 

I am now wholeheartedly a fan of the Baoyan teas, which I never expected to be considering their low price point right after pressing and the incredibly intense smoke that comes from them. I may actually prefer these to Xiaguan's more mainstream plantation products since I find these milder and more pleasant to drink, but with plenty of interesting character. I definitely see more of these in my future!

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