Thursday, March 24, 2011

2004 (A) Xiao Bing From Camellia Sinensis

Much has been said about the famous Canadian tea company Camellia Sinensis from other tea bloggers. Something Smuggled In has claimed that that their aged oolong selection is worth checking out while Marshal'N reeled about the exorbitant prices they charge for their puerh. So it was nice to receive a sample from a fellow tea friend in town, to see what their puerh is all about. This sample comes from a shang xiao bing and is one of their more pricey offerings.

The small dry leaves offers of a wonderful aroma of very sweet creamy apricot in a soft tobacco base. These leaves are rinsed in the very early hours of the morning and the tea session commences.

The first infusion contains juicy creamy slight tobacco that evolves into apricot and mushrooms in the mouth all over top a very malty sweet caramel base. The aftertaste produces a fruity sweetness.

The second infusion initially presents a cool menthol start that quickly transforms into juicy mushroom and creamy pasty sweetness. These flavours evolve into a creamy, slightly sour, mushroom taste. The mouthfeel is such that the whole mouth is a dry tart which plays more at the front but still hits the back and the upper throat nicely. The qi flows into the lower abdomen these first infusions.

In the third infusion sweet malty wood notes present up front before stretching into a slightly soapy floral taste. The aftertaste is dry and woody after a while it has a faint tobacco feel to it.

The fourth infusion has a lively spiciness in its profile of light malty apricot. That malty sweetness returns in the aftertaste.

The fifth infusion looses most of that lively spiciness but is still packed full of juicy malty sweetness. The chaqi of this tea is very energizing and shows little signs of any harshness. There is a slight warm feeling even in its youth.

In the sixth and seventh infusions a wood and peach flavour emerges and is quite noticeable and enjoyable. It presents upfront with the previous notes of malted sweetness. The aftertaste finishes with a fruity, woody, and almost tobacco taste on the breath. The chaqi is warming, friendly, and slightly drying.

In the eighth, infusion woody tastes now seem to overtake the fruity notes with the sweetness still quite apparent. In the ninth infusion wood predominates.

This tea is taken for a few very long steeps and somewhat flat fruity tastes are revealed. The mouthfeel still nicely stimulates the mouth and throat.



A Student Of Tea said...

As always, a beautiful review! I love to read the detailed descriptions, and it inspires me to pay careful, fresh attention to each single infusion of my tea.

Something struck me - after the nineth infusion you mention going into very long steeps. This seems to tell me that the tea does not have much endurance, is that true?


Matt said...


This tea was pretty nice through the first handful of infusions. Around the eight/ninth it lost much of its vibrancy and carried mainly a generic "wood" taste. But, when pushed hard there was still some juice left in these leaves.

Would still say that this tea had moderate or average stamina as it recovered somewhat from the blasé wood taste. During other sessions this tea held its ground for at least 12 sessions.

Good tea.


MarshalN said...

The fact that they have occasional good teas does not absolve them of the crime of selling a laochatou (a by-product of producing cooked pu, not really puerh at all) brick (cost - $4 in China) for $150. That's not what knowledgeable/ethical tea vendors do.

Matt said...


No doubt, the price is quite inflated on all of their teas, so is true for most brick and mortar tea shops in North America.

This tea is priced at 10$ for 25 g (that's 4X 25g= full xiao bing, $40.00, this is not even a full size bing). Much too expensive if you consider, 1; the quality of the tea (which to be fair is good) and 2; availability of better quality tea for much less (much less if you by online from say Taobao).

Thanks as always for stopping by with your thoughts.


MarshalN said...

I think I am quite ok with people marking up their tea -- they have to pay the bills, after all. It's one thing though to sell something at, say, 4-5x markup, and quite another to be selling such an inferior thing (Laochatou) at what is basically 20-30x markup. Doing so, I think, calls into question everything else they're selling.

Matt said...


Went to the site and found the tea you are talking about:

That IS crazy expensive!

But perhaps it may not be right to compare shops that just sell tea, to actual teahouses that allow you to sit down and enjoy tea. Just as we can't really compare Taobao to online shops that carter to a western audience. Not saying that we can't compare them but rather that we should perhaps qualify our comparisons.

Think when it comes to local teahouses you ought to support them, less you won't have the luxury of sitting down for a nice pot of tea just a few minutes from home, like in so many other cities in North America that are without. Often these teahouses sell their tea online (or to take home) for basically the same price as you would be paying for a sit down tea in their store which isn't cheap!

Think that Camellia Sinensis is primarily a teahouse and secondly a tea shop. Check out what their sit down shop looks like:

Not bad... one would definitely go for a cup if in Quebec.

Think the reason why Camellia Sinensis actually sells tea for so much is because of their loyal customer base. Like most consumers of tea in the West, they probably are bit clueless when it comes to what good tea is and the reasonable market price for such teas. But likely they also appreciate having such a wonderful place to sit down for a cup in their neighborhood.

Thanks for bringing this up, and commenting.