Xia Guan Puerh Tea

2005 XiaGuan 8653

Waiting for Red Soup

Puer drinkers share a common goal of wanting aged tea. There are outliers who love fresh young sheng, but the smoothness and intrigue of an aged cake are tough to beat. Every so often my hands reach for a young cake, but left to my druthers I prefer something with some age. The problem is that old tea costs. But, lately, young tea costs too. Often is disproportionate ways.

Xiaguan Factory is not glamorous. Many turn up their noses at the crane, dismissing it as rubbish. But if you want a tea with age and value, it is a fine place to begin. This year Dayi 7542 was listed at a selling price of around $30 or so from Taobao wholesalers. If that is the price for a new 7542, then I am befuddled. I need someone to clarify how in the world still makes sense. Especially when the tea I am about to discuss is the same price, and 8 years older.

Puer Tea Venn Diagram
Who buys new 7542?

Granted, that Xiaguan 8653 is not the best tea. Maybe not even good tea. But, the likelihood of getting good quality 8 year old cake for $40 is low anyway, so we let’s not split hairs of an 8653’s flaws. Not to mention that for most people, especially people who are new to puer, this Xiaguan is more than enough to hold ones attention.

So, not good. Maybe not even average. But, not bad. Here is a litmus test of whether or not you got a good deal on puer tea in 2013 – can you check the following boxes?

  • Nearly a decade old
  • Under $50
  • Could be described as “Not bad”

If you can say those three things about a puer tea purchased in 2013, then congratulations, you won. This is not an easy thing to do. Let’s look at the red soup.

Dry Leaves from Xiaguan 8653
Dry Leaves from Xiaguan 8653

The tea is medium dark, and even smelling the dry leaves screams Xiaguan. Mildly smokey, umber smells.

The tea is still a little bit astringent, but it is noticeably smoother than a 5 year or younger Xiaguan tea. Plenty of smells and depth come off of the gaiwan lid and leaves.

Tea Steeping Tips
The steep

Some thickness; which, when you consider the price, is something nearing a puer miracle. A brief huigan [sweet aftertaste] and plenty of finish. In the back of my throat there is a nice coating and a slight molasses aftertaste. My tongue tingles a bit from the astringency, but it is not aggravating, just there.

Xiaguan Puer Tea
Soup and the spent chop

Overall, a tea I would be totally comfortable drinking.

When you look at the color of the soup, and a tea that is for most peoples’ purposes good and ready, I don’t understand who would opt for the new 7542. I put the two teas in roughly the same category – big factory blends, which is what they are. Where the price discrepancy comes in is a debate for Dayi fans. I’d rather save 8 years of time and $10 and just drink the 8653 – and this isn’t even my favorite of the Xiaguan teas from 2004-2006, it’s just the one that happened to be in my cup today. Long live the crane.


  • Yeah–not to mention the idea of spending $180 on a DaYi bing that is 10 years old and merely in the decent-good range. WTF? Why would I do that when I can spend $100 for something great?

    • TwoDog2

      I have to admit, some of those $180 Dayi cakes (or $300….or $500) are a lot better than their Xiaguan counterparts. But, at the end of the day most people have a budget. If you are millionaire you can chug down amazing old tea and ignore the value teas. For most people, the cost of Xiaguan is just more manageable – not to mention a lot of it is decent/good.

  • Hobbes

    I am very comfortable with The Guan. Is your cake this 2005 8653? If yes, I liked it too – especially at $20 in 2010!


    • TwoDog2

      That’s the one, although just based on the photo, seems my paper wrapper is a bit different. (The sample I photographed for the post was from a different cake, I have some of my own though) The tea looks the same, only darker. Mess of stems and general riffraff. $20 is a fine price for a cake like that.

  • Jakub

    Hmm, I think that 8653 is usually quite decent actually (2003 version from Finepuer is only $55, a good bargain). I think that the smoothness and pleasantness is due to less Wuliang/Baoshan material in there (actually, it tastes like pure or almost pure Mengku to me).

    Good post!


    • TwoDog2

      Right on. I don’t think there is much point in buying brand new factory cakes for $50 if you can get 8 year old cakes, but it comes down to personal preference.

      If you double the budget to around $100, you can pick up some really excellent Xiaguan cakes with 8-10 years of age.

  • MarshalN

    8653 is a great, great tea – provided it’s from earlier times.

    • TwoDog2

      I am not sure exactly when the cut off for good/bad happened at Xiaguan. The 2005 is not an all-star, but it is comparatively less expensive than most teas in its quality range