Xiaguan Tea Factory
(Chinese: 云南下关沱茶集团; pinyin: yúnnán xiàguān túochá jítuán) is a tea factory producing pu’erh tea. Xiaguan Tea Factory was founded in 1941 and is located in Dali, Yunnan, China.
Xiaguan Tea Factory is a major producer of compressed pu’erh tea, most notably túochá (沱茶, “Bowl-shaped Tea”(?)) and bĭngchá (饼茶, “Disc Tea”). Aged túochá and bĭngchá, particularly those produced in the 1970s and 1980s, are highly valued by collectors. However, while Xiaguan Tea Factory’s productions enjoy popularity today, higher production temperatures for their túochá are prompting some concern over the “ageability” of new Xiaguan tuocha.
Xiaguan produces both raw (生茶 shēngchá) and cooked (熟茶, shúchá) varieties of pu’erh.
Like many other pu’erh factories, the factory produces a series of cakes by recipe number. While these cakes have been produced since 1986, numbers began to be included on cake wrappers in 2005. Recipe numbers are usually in the form of four digits, sometimes with an optional initial letter. The first two digits represent the year the recipe was first produced, the third digit the grade of leaves used in the recipe, and the last digit represents the factory (“3” for the Xiaguan Tea Factory). The optional initial letter, usually T, marks the use of tight machine compression. T8613, then would be a recipe from 1986 using first-grade tea made by Xiaguan Factory, compressed by machine.
Raw: 8603, 8613, 8633, 8653, 8673, and “T” series of these same teas (T8613, etc.)
2004 Xiaguan Jin Si (Gold Ribbon) Tuocha
Both raw and cooked varieties of túochá are graded thus, except other Xiaguan brand-specific labels such as (“Horseback”, “Nan Zhao”, etc.):
Jin Si – “Gold Ribbon”, highest grade túochá produced by Xiaguan. However, it was only produced in 2004.
Te Ji (特级) – “Superior Grade”
Jia Ji (甲级) – “A-Grade”
Yi Ji (一级) – “First Grade”
Cang Er (沧洱) – a special grade of túochá first produced in 2001.
“FT” (Fei Tai) Productions
Fei Tai company of Taiwan orders a special batch of higher grade Xiaguan products to their specifications. These products are marked with an FT seal, and are regarded as more highly collectable, because their production is limited and of higher quality than normal Xiaguan Tea Factory offerings.
Xiaguan Tea Factory produces pu’er tea under a number of brands:
Song He (English – White Crane) label (松鹤) : domestic products including túochá and bĭngchá. Most bĭngchá is produced under this label.
Bao Yan (Holy Flame) label (宝焰) : products aimed at the Tibetan market, often used in tsampa. Xiaguan “mushroom-shaped” (紧茶, jĭnchá) and mini-Bĭngchá are produced under this brand.
Nan Zhao (Southern Edict) label (南诏) : high end products including túochá and bĭngchá, perhaps aimed toward Taiwan. Xiaguan’s fúlùshòuxĭ (福禄寿禧) four-brick set is produced under this label.
Big G (Factory) label : A large letter “G”, used on some smaller, often “collector’s series” type productions. The first cake to bear this logo was a limited production of the 8653 cake. This “G” symbol is also stamped into some productions.
Măbéi (Horseback) label (马背) : A new Xiaguan brand in 2005, currently only túochá are produced with this label.