Liu Bao 六寶
[caption id="attachment_230" align="alignleft" width="288" caption="Liu Bao tea that has been aging in the 1kg basket."][/caption]
Lets talk about Liu Bao 六寶. It is a tea grown in Guangxi 廣西 in Guangdong province 廣東省. Looking at the spent leaves you will notice that they are bigger than oolong or green tea leaves. They come from a large leaf varietal of camellia sinensis.
The basic processing steps are that tea leaves are picked in the spring as green tea leaves and withered. The next step is the kill green process; the farmer will use a steam process or a wok process similar to the Dragonwell kill green processing. The tea is bruised by crushing the leaves; then the leaves are set aside to rest and reabsorb the juices from their crushing. This is the oxidation step in the processing of this tea. A second crushing of the leaves is executed after the resting period for further oxidation. The next step is the roasting of the tea until it is 90% dry and only 10% of the moisture remains. It is not roasted for flavor, or color, rather to dehydrate the leaves. Then the tea is stuffed into a big basket and simultaneously it is steamed to soften the leaves, so that the processor can stuff in as much tea into the basket as possible: up to a volume of approximately 25 kilos. The basket is then turned upside down to dry for about two years in protected storage conditions.
The end product weighs about 40-50 Chinese jin ( 20-25 kilograms). The basket can be kept in storage for longer than two years until there is an interested buyer which would necessitate breaking the basket open. When there is a buyer, the farmer will open the basket and transfer the tea to 20 smaller one kilogram baskets. This tea is then transferred to the market in this 1 kilo baskets. In the past, this tea was sold in only one kilogram baskets, but now we see Liu Bao tea in tuo cha shape, cake shape, and loose. Some of these teas have grades specified on it; they will range between grade one though four. Grade one are the smallest leaves, grade 4 are the largest.
[caption id="attachment_228" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Liu Bao Tea printed on the one side of the basket"][/caption]
There are a lot of brands of Liu Bao in China but the one many people know is called Three Cranes Brand. Here is a picture of the logo. Liu Bao is a delicious tea to brew, and can brew as many times as a good aged Puerh. It is silkier than Puerh, a bit more refined, and because of it's growing area and the surrounding pine trees, it has a pine-y taste that develops as the tea ages. Liu Bao also has an "old taste" - meaning of camphor to it, but it is a more delicate camphor note than in Puerh. Our 1994 Liu Bao has notes of camphor and is very sweet, our 1996 Liu Bao is more pine-y and has higher drier notes. Our 1980's Liu Bao is breathtaking, and a tea to savor. It has notes of mahogany, woodsmoke and cocoa nibs. It is exquisitely smooth and an extremely limited edition, truly an ethereal experience.