This Liubao from 2015 shows a slight sprinkling of elusive golden flowers; however, as you undoubtedly are aware, not all Liubao shows its golden ‘flower’ particles. Due to its having been compressed, a brick often shows more golden particles than its loose leaf ‘brother’, but not always. This tea is from several large (45kg!) baskets of loose leaf Liubao that was aged nicely for three years in a warehouse in eastern China. The original baskets were opened, compressed into ‘bricks’ in 2018, and the tea was made available for curing. Fortunately, we knew of it, so some came our way in 2019.
Everything about this Liubao is delightful – the color and the aroma of the leaf promises good flavor in the cup, and the tea liquor does not disappoint. To be honest, we have never been able to really tell what effect any visible golden flowers have had on any Liubao that we have ever tasted over the years. When they form in the tea during the post-fermentation time in storage it is fun and interesting, but it is far more usual that they do not, or, as with this tea, that you really need to look to find them! Regardless, this is a happy, well-stored tea.
Perhaps in a similar manner to the the un-seen but vital work that bacterial fermentation brings to Pu-erh, the fungal fermentation that entices the formation of golden flowers in Luibao adds richness and depth of flavor and a character that is similar to, but different than, Pu-erh. Without having a direct taste comparison of a batch of tea with the golden flowers to some of the same batch that did not form them, it is impossible to know how they affect the taste.
Nevertheless, the liquor is juicy and full-in-the-mouth without being heavy; and this tea is very smooth. The taste has the delicate suggestion of sweet dark plums, sugar-cane, cacao nibs and caramelized flavors that appear and disappear with each sip.
This tea has some well-balanced fermented taste, that did, in fact, remind us of a nice shou Pu-erh; but without any hint of the often off-putting ‘wo dui’ flavor. Full and intense but clear and clean – each sip lingered nicely on the palate. This aged tea has more aroma and aftertaste than our younger Liubao cakes or our other loose-leaf Liubao, and is quite a treat.
The color of the liquor is a lovely deep amber/ruby -brown, which fades a bit with the flavor after about the 4th infusion. The wet leaf glistens in the teapot and the condition of the leaf is very nice.
A delicious tea for drinking now with our tea friends or for sipping slowly on a lazy afternoon. This tea will continue to age at home under proper storage and will gain even more mature depth of flavor with that further aging.
NOTE: Eurotium cristatum or ‘golden flowers’ are often found in Fu Zhuan and Liu Bao tea, but rarely in Pu-erh. Such is the unique nature of different Hei Cha – the raw tea bush materials, the climate and the unique steps of the production and post-fermentation of each tea. When the conditions all line up in harmony, golden flowers can develop within the tea. They are also known to appear, disappear, and re-appear, etc…so ‘here today / gone tomorrow / repeat’ should be your reasonable expectation!
Taxonomy = (Fungi> >Ascomycota>Eurotiomycetes>Eurotiales>Trichocomaceae>Eurotium> Eurotium cristatum)
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