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Shujian Tea has made a name for themselves crafting “Free and Easy Pills” (xiaoyao dan) from classic puer terrior. Their prices are stunning, but the quality and effect speak for themselves. The 2014 Yibang is fabulous. The 2014 productions didn’t come in the snazzy boxes as they do today. The box upgrade, however, hasn’t led to a changing of the high-quality paper wrapping the “pill” itself. Each pearl is made of only the most carefully selected material originating exclusively from a single tea garden. They are somehow hand rolled into what will settle into an eight gram jewel. Quantities from a single terrior are between 500-1000 pieces, sometimes less.
A little about “Free and Easy” in the Chinese context, which is a reference to the ancient Daoist sage Zhuang-zi (Chuang-tsu). There is a famous passage, “Xiao Yao You”, in the eponymous classic Zhuang-zi, describing a freedom from constraint. Xiao Yao San is a classica Chinese medicinel formula for liver constraint from a compendium introduced in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), The Prescriptions of the Bureau of Taiping People’s Welfare Pharmacy, Taiping Huimin Heji Jufang. “Constraint” usually means impeded that which is relieved by tending to the softness and vascular efficiency of the liver, but it also connotes one’s disposition. It is this aspect that Shujian evokes. The “dan” character 丹 stands for a special type of pill. It carries Daoist and alchemical overtones.
A little too much information I know, but it is a classy literary and medicinal reference that screams style. Wu Dang (Wu Tang) type stuff, misty mountains and flowing robes. Thing you can tell about these Xiaoyao Dan is that they cater toward more dedicated tastes in Mainland where there is much greater demand and appreciation. Bricks and cakes are very different creatures from the dragon pearl. The Yi Bang at twice the price of Shujian’s Bang Dong is more than twice as good. The Bang Dong possesses a green bean quality, whereas the Yi Bang is floral and uplifting. At 14 infusions it never grew bitter but even with color it seemed to be cashed. Yiwu tea, to which Yibang belongs, is said to grow sweeter with age. I can’t see tea of this type getting much better because much of the beauty is in its freshness, contrary to most bricks and cakes.