So, where do we start? We start with a rather cheap 98 tea ($0.3-0.5 per gram, depending on how much you buy), purportedly from Xiaguan (it's their style indeed). Some people have told me how incredibly good this tea is. Some told me that it's nice. I'm with the second group. I think that if you accept that this is basically a young tea (which Jingteashop says too), then it is enjoyable - just don't expect an aged tea.
The leaves are brown and quite lovely (with occasional pretty rusty-looking pieces). Although this tea is aging slowly, it does age after all.
The aroma of dry leaves is pleasant, like lightly aged camhor with a touch of smoke.
The aroma of rinsed leaves, cups and pitcher is sweet, spicy and very lovely. It is also quite intense, filling the whole room (even more than the Mankouxiang I have).
The liquor is very light for a 98 tea. My rule of thumb for puerh from 90s is - if you stick a thumb in a deep cup and can easily see the fingertip, the liquor is light and it points to dry storage.
The taste is actually nice too, although it does not feel that interesting to me as the aroma does. The smoke is only very light in the taste and it is pleasant, rather than not. It is a good, natural smoke, at moments resembling Lapsang Souchong-style of smoke (when I did it gongfu-style; the smoke is more ordinary in a tester). Light candy fruitiness is also present, along with some camphor (these three tastes are both present in some Xiaguans, namely 8563 or Happy Tuo). When I pushed the tea a bit, there was some of that "red fruitiness" which I'm generally afraid of because dry storage makes it taste very sour. However, in this tea, it is ok, it lends a nice, although gentle taste. When the tea is pushed a bit, the sharp sourness (as if you chew sorrel) can appear, but it is not a tea-ruiner as in some drier stored teas.
Overall, it seems to me that the tea is a lighter one - it has several light taste components which work allright together, but there is nothing dominant, no obvious direction where the tea goes, maybe except "Xiaguan-style" indeed. When the tea is pushed, it is more definable, but then it suffers from the sourness.
Also, the taste does not last as long as I'd expect in a 98 tea (or, better said, it lasts long, but the amount of taste drops quite low quite quickly and then stays there for a longer time), not quite as thick as I would desire, but enjoyable anyway. At least there is a hint of pleasant long-term aftertaste which could work very well when the tea becomes more aged.
The tea offers a pleasant tingling which tends to last long. This tea seems to be at the right side of the blade of "this is too dry storage", i.e., it is dry, but not as dry as to ruin the tea. It is light, it is undeveloped, but it is still active.
Qi is, I'm afraid, in a slumber. The tea is not energy-less, but the energy is not released in me when I drink it.
I enjoyed this tea, although not nearly as much as some other people. It may have a good potential for further storage (if, and that is a critical if, you have a place with reasonable humidity); for immediate drinking, I'd take something else. It is funny to remember how, some years ago, I first read The leaf (the article mentioned in the previous post) where Mr. Fisher (Wu De) says he'd take mildly wet stored over a dry stored one. I thought "why, my god?" Now, after I became a tea drinker (instead of part-time drinker, part-time listener-to-vendors), I wholeheartedly agree (unless we're speaking of 30-40 years old teas).
However, when this tea is compared to dry stored teas from finepuer, e.g., 95 or 2001 7542s, it suits me better than these (and they are quite expensive at Finepuer too). This 98 Xiaguan seems quite comparable (a bit better, I'd say) to these 2003 Xiaguan "Marks" available at sampletea (they are slightly cheaper).
There is a small controversy, when it comes to the Longfeng announcing that the tea has arrived to their stock:
"...(list of teas that arrived) 1998 Xia Guan Pu-erh... So far, I have tasted only the puerh and despite all the delays and problems - this is an astonishing tea."
Positively attuned teachums thought "Hey, this will be really awesome, got to try that".
I, on the other hand, thought...wait...he's seriously admitting that he first bought the tea and then tasted it and says how great it is? Is that how you go through hundres of teas and source only the best for your customers?
Now, Longfeng generally does have good tea as it buys from Jingteashop and Teamasters which both carry good stuff - so, if Longfeng says that some of their teas is good, it is likely that it is. But to an unknowing person, the order of "first buy, then describe" sounds prone to the "have-to-praise-to-sell" approach. And the 10times more superlatives used than it is reasonable (imho) just supports the hypothesis.
I fail to see an astonishing tea in this Xiaguan 98 (and I'd be surprised to, given its rather low price). Sadly, the more tea I drink, the less astonishing teas I find. More and more often it's "like" or "dislike", but "Wow!" teas are becoming scarce. In that post which was deleted from Longfeng facebook (along with me), I replied to those (including the owner) who complained that Hobbes did not praise the Dragon of Bulang high enough. I pointed out that Hobbes has drank so much tea that if he says that a tea is good, it means it will be probably great for those who did not drink nearly as much, because he has so much more experience.
Btw., a small note to my Czech readers who have enjoyed this tea greatly - consider buying some aged (be prepared for a lot more aged) tea from Essence of tea - the shipping is rather low, the package comes quite fast and it may give you a lot. Except I'm afraid, that after drinking a couple of their teas (it may take a while to get used to), you may not find this 98 Xiaguan as exciting.
Btw2. Now I've read on Longfeng site (in the review of Vse o caji pro cajomily) that:
which translates as:
a) Puerh tea should not have "special earthy taste and smell", which is a sign of bad quality and processing mistake or very wet storage
b) The description of taste of aged puerh on page 123 is clearly of a fake or, at best, wet storage ("moss, fallen autumn leaves and forest after rain"-???).
Excuse me? Qing bing or that dry stored 8653 from EoT are dry stored, yet both sporting the features mentioned aboved. All the teas from 70s and 80s I had did too. Except that 84 Xiaguan tuo, which, however, is not particularly great, nor aged much, in my opinion.
I.e. - I did the mistake of believing too much to what some people said, instead of drinking a lot of tea and making my own opinions. If I may suggest a thing, at least think of doing the same.