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Update: April 22nd, 2021
This tea has been airing out in the warehouse for several months now. A buyer from Germany remarked that this tea doesn’t smell of much at all now. Several months in the warehouse has really driven off the traditional storage taste, and the tea is now extremely clean tasting with light betelnut aftertaste when brewing in a large Factory 1 zini shuiping from the Green Label era. It’s possible this tea will need some time in the bag to rebound and get more aromatically complex again due to how active conditions are in the warehouse, but the lack of storage taste in this tea after aging in my warehouse for a while is a hallmark of a traditionally stored tea done right and aired out correctly.
The liquor is very smooth in clay and this tea has excellent calming energy. I strongly recommend long steeps with this tea due to the large leaf grade. This type of large leaf liubao tea was and is often brewed in a large porcelain pot. This tea would go great with a meal!
November 7th, 2020
This recipe has been produced several times over the last decade. These are special editions that commemorate HK and Macau dealers’ importance to the liubao trade from the 1960s onwards. Hong Kong dealers were responsible for almost all of the liubao headed overseas from Guangxi, since HK was a free port and one of the largest container ports in the world (incidentally, my warehouse is a stone’s throw from the container terminal). This is a Grade III liubao, which I believe was produced for HK dealers to reexport to Malaysia’s Cantonese population. Liubao has a long history among Southeast Asia’s Cantonese migrant population, and was most famously consumed by Cantonese tin miners.
Back in the 60s, Hong Kong dealers wanted a more aged product, so Hong Kong-style liubao was born. The liubao was ripened in very large baskets, then repacked into smaller bags for resale. Through the 90s, thousands of tons of liubao passed through Hong Kong’s ports every year. Some of this tea was consumed locally, and I suspect it was passed off as shou pu erh or blended with shou for the restaurant trade.
Hong Kong is still a major export point for liubao tea, apparently, even though I don’t see much of it on the local market. In my experience, liubao is only ever sold here as a curiosity alongside more popular and widely consumed teas. I first tried liubao around seven years ago out of sheer curiosity, and have enjoyed drinking liubao ever since, although I much prefer the liubao I drink nowadays than the very first bag I purchased!
The dry leaf smells much like a HK traditional storage tea, and liubao of this type is referred to as ‘HK storage’ in Malaysia, even if the storage is done in Guangxi itself. This tea went into basement storage in November 2018, and only hit the market in September 2020. Zhongcha have really dialed in their traditional storage process, however, and this tea is surprisingly easy to drink already, although it will only get better with age.
After the rinse, much of the storage aroma had dissipated. There is no fermentation aroma here like you’d find in ripe pu erh, since the aging process for this liubao is different. There are visibly greener leaves in the blend here. The aging process used for this basket has moved the tea along very quickly, but the traditional storage was done by true experts. There is only the lightest frosting of mold visible on the tea, and the tea is already very easy to drink and clean tasting. I do notice the liquor catching in the throat slightly, but I believe this effect will pass in the next few months as the tea airs out and mellows in my warehouse.
The liquor has pleasant bitterness and excellent huigan. The calming effect from this tea is powerful, and hits me immediately. There is betelnut and date flavor in the liquor, and an almost chenpi-like note in the aftertaste. The larger leaf grade and stems used for this production need quite a bit of time to steep, so this tea is well suited to large teapots or mugs, but it should brew up very nicely in a gaiwan or clay pot of 150ml or larger as well. I would start steeping at 60-90 seconds after a 20-30 second rinse or two.
The cha qi from this liubao is very powerful, and I get a much more pronounced calming effect than I get with most pu erh. As I progress through the session, the betelnut, date and chenpi notes become increasingly dominant as the light storage flavor dissipates.
This is a lovely tea at a great price point, and I look forward to watching this tea develop as it ages!
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