Xiaguan is one of the most well-known brands of Puerh tea in the world. Xiaguan products have been sold abroad for decades, and their tuochas and jin cha have become classic representations of Puerh tea. Even in modern times Xiaguan tuochas and mushroom-shaped jin cha are still one of the most exported teas of Yunnan. Today the factory employs more than 400 people. They produce more than 6,000 tons of tea each year and more than sixty different products. Xiaguan aims to continue increasing production and reach around 10,000 tons per year. Many Xiaguan products have received both domestic and international awards. Owning a Xiaguan toucha from the 1970’s or 80’s, perhaps in its original box with the word “Yunnan” on the outside is a collector’s dream, and perhaps represents the past as well as any cake could.
Xiaguan was established in 1941 under the name Kang Cang Tea Factory. Part of the magic of Xiaguan lies in its location on the historic Tea-horse Caravan Route. Like the merchants of long ago, carrying tea by horse all over China and beyond, Xiaguan has always sold teas to remote areas like Tibet. jin cha (mushroom tea), produced under the brand name Bao Yan, has been especially famous among Tibetan people, so much so that it is sometimes also referred to as “Tibetan Puerh”. Being located up higher in the Western part of Yunnan, affords Xiaguan clearer views, cleaner air and water as well as the famous Xiaguan winds that they use to dry their tea. Xiaguan is surrounded by mountains and monsoons from the Indian Ocean blow through the passes along the Xi Er River, as well as cold-air currents coming down Mt. Cang along the Eighteen Streams. These two currents of wind create the famous “Xiaguan Winds”. The famous collision of these two winds usually takes place in the fall or winter, but the passes continue to be windy most days of the year.
In 1950 the factory changed its name to Xiaguan Tea Factory. In 1955 Xiaguan purchased several local tea factories and merged them into one company, vastly increasing production and access to more mao cha. The production of Xiaguan tea has changed little over the decades. While they have increased their product lines, they have also maintained the traditional ones and many experts agree that the recipes, flavors and quality have all maintained more consistency than any other Puerh factories.
In the 1990’s Xiaguan was labeled a “Second-grade”. enterprise by the Chinese government. They were producing more tea annually at that time than any other factory in Yunnan. In 1994, they continued their expansion by uniting with several other tea factories to form Xiaguan Tuo Tea Ltd. Since that time, they have more than doubled their product list, as well as increased production of the teas they have always been making.
Today, many Xiaguan tuochas use large-leaf tea harvested from nearby Mt. Gang and dried in the famous Xiaguan winds. They are usually compressed into 250 gram, bowl shaped tuos, and separated into several quality grades. These tuochas age very slowly due to their tight compression. They are famous for having a more gentle flavor with a slightly smoky aftertaste. Xiaguan has also done some medical research to show that Puerh tea is an antioxidant and reduces cholesterol.
The Xiaguan crane has always been an image that Puerh collectors adore. The consistency Xiaguan has achieved over the years, in their tuochas particularly, is amazing. Many of their bingchas from the 1970’s-80’s like the simplified text cakes, the tie bings, etc. are also on the list of great classic vintages that every collector desires. Almost everything about Xiaguan, from the box to the logo, the location at the center of the ancient caravan route to the majestic mountains – all inspire a kind of history and legacy that often represents Puerh tea itself.