23 August 2010

Sue's 1950s Liu Bao

A love of fine tea connects people across the globe. I recently met a friend online--Sue, from Malaysia--who sent me a munificent collection of tea samples. Primary amongst them was an aged liu bao purportedly from the 1950s or earlier.

I say munificent, because here in the USA, there are no vendors reliably selling liu bao tea, much less very old liu bao. Even in China, it suffers the rarity of teas popular only amongst a few. A ragtag "true black tea" (hei cha) from Guangxi province, few Chinese tea vendors I met had any experience with the tea. Many commented dismissively: "it's medicine for constipation" "it's difficult to drink" "shu pu'er is better".

50s liu bao tasting-3

Like most hei cha, liu bao yields earthy, old hay and mushroom flavors, but the best aged green liu bao stands apart from its brethren: earthier than qian liang cha, more delicate than aged sheng pu'er, sweeter than liu an, and cleaner than shu pu'er. It becomes more earthy over time but, if stored well, maintains a fresh, light flavor without becoming sharp.

50s liu bao tasting

My apologies to poor Sue, who has been waiting for months for me to drink this tea. When receiving such aged tea, I believe that drinking it with others is the best way to "pay it forward". So, after much delay, six of us gathered to share some good tea, and Sue's sample was enjoyed along with a 1980s traditional characters cake, a 2003 Xiaguan "blue mark" remake, a 1997/8 bulang, and a competition tasting of the 2010 offerings from Essence of Tea.

50s liu bao tasting-5

Sue's tea set a good example for liu bao. Earth and hay in the flavor, mushroom in the nose after two rinses. The tea made all of us gathered extroverted and gregarious, and the best infusion, as Sue predicted, was the 4th after the rinses. Like most liu bao, the flavors dropped after the 6th infusion. We compensated with longer steeps and were rewarded with sweeter, if weaker, flavors.

Our gratitude to Sue for the experience!

50s liu bao tasting-7


Anonymous said...

Can we expect details from the Nada competition tasting?

Jason Fasi said...

@pb2q: done competition style, none of the teas stood out too much. it's not the best way to taste sheng, but it's the best way to taste 7 sheng teas without drinking a week's worth of caffeine in one sitting.

Of the 7 we tried, the "Man Sai" seemed the most balanced and was my favorite. The Bulang was really bitter. Half Bulang and half Man Sai was a really nice combo.

The Nannuo was sweet and weak.

One, I think the Man Mai or Bang Wai, was bright and citrusy. I think the Ban Pen was a bit manure-y in smell and aftertaste. I might be confusing these three, tho! :)

I haven't looked up their prices, so I won't comment on value.

Zero the Hero said...

Green liu bao, eh? Can you elaborate on that at all? My understanding is that Liu Bao's processing prefigures that of shu pu-erh, which would mean it's definitely not green. All of the liu bao I've tried corroborate that description. Of course, I haven't tried any 60-year-old liu bao.

I've come to prefer liu bao to shu pu-erh (it wasn't too hard, considering I never really cared for shu pu-erh); the woodiness is more pleasant to my tastes, but it seems that the age-ability is similar insofar as it doesn't seem to dramatically change across the decades. If there's such a thing as green liu bao, though.....

Thanks for an intriguing review!

Sippity Sup said...


There is much I need to learn about tea. But I was recently invited to a tasting in San Fransisco where I got to enjoy it in a proper context in the traditional serving manner. We also discussed the multiple steeps and how it changed the character. It was all new information to me. But it has changed the way I enjoy my morning tea and I have never gone back to bags (well except for ice tea! I am from the south and a good ole Lipton sweet tea with lots of lemon makes me yearn for my youth!!) Thanks for visiting SippitySup I ppreciate your comments there. GREG

Anonymous said...

Jason: thanks. I've had a couple of sessions with most of these. I think you'd enjoy the Bulang brewed normally, though now I'm interested in how strong it will be competition style.

Kort said...

Glad to see a new blog entry from you Jason. You have me jonesing to try liu bao now, can you recommend any possible sources? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hey it's Sue here , of the Liu Bao tea. The tea I sent Jason , the one you guys sample is 4 gold coins tea. I don't know how to write it in hanyi pingyin.I bought a basket of it some time ago and there were 3 batch tickets in the basket. The guy I bought it from is a businessman whose family was in the sundry shop business in Malaysia in the japanese times ,about 1945s.The tea I bought according to him was leftover stock from that time.As to what Mr zero said, all you'll have to do , is look at the leaves after brewing and you'll realize that that this particular liu bao is definately not a shou tea.

Pu Erh Tee said...

Ohh, I want a Sue in my life too :-) Or be invited over to Jason's next tea session, haha. It sounds so wonderful. Even just reading the blog gave me a lot of pleasure, thank you.

Ceramic bisque said...

Wow. These sets look so amazing! Do you have an etsy.com shop? If not, you should get one!