Aged Liu Bao?


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Aged Liu Bao?

Postby needaTEAcher » Jul 3rd, '12, 11:43

I am starting to learn about Liu Bao (spelling?), also called Lok Bo or Lok Bo Leai, or something like that.

First, please correct my horrible spelling or if this shouldn't even be in the black/red tea section!

Second, I have only had the chance to drink between 50 and 80 years old (poor me!), but this leaves some gaps in my knowledge.

Well, I was wandering through some antique shops in Malaysia, and I found someone with a big bag of Liu Bao. About a half kilo. He said upfront he knows nothing of tea, and doesn't drink it. We agreed on a price that I think is reasonable even if it isn't very old, but it tastes and feels like the older ones I had, though not as smooth and not as complex. Again, I have only had old Liu Bao, so I don't know what young ones taste like!!!!

How can I determine age and quality for this tea? What are the things to look for? Help me please!

BTW, it is really tasty, and I really like it, so even if I got swindled, I am happy, cause it is a lot of tea and it tastes lovely (like snow, though the Malaysians here are perplexed by that observation!).

Thanks, as always, Teachatters!
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Re: Aged Liu Bao?

Postby Tead Off » Jul 3rd, '12, 23:54

Is Liu Bao a black tea?
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Re: Aged Liu Bao?

Postby needaTEAcher » Jul 4th, '12, 10:44

I think so, but I am not sure. Help!
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Re: Aged Liu Bao?

Postby Tead Off » Jul 8th, '12, 02:30

needaTEAcher wrote:I think so, but I am not sure. Help!

It's always mentioned as being close to Puerh, grown in neighboring Guanxi province. It seems to be a heavily oxidized tea but not sure it falls into the black tea category, i.e., Darjeeling, Keemun, Lobsang, Yunnan teas, etc. But, the Chinese usually refer to these as red teas, and, Puerh (shu) and maybe Liu Bao as black teas. A little confusing. Maybe someone like Gingko can answer this.
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Re: Aged Liu Bao?

Postby needaTEAcher » Jul 8th, '12, 02:49

I've since done some digging on my own in Singapore and Malaysia. What I learned is that the Chinese categorize Liu Bao as a dark tea or a black tea, not a red tea.

So I don't know how we would classify Puerh or Liu Bao in the West, but they should be in the same category. I always thought of it as Western Black Tea equals Chinese Red Tea; USA Puerh equals Chinese Black Tea. This is wrong, since Puerh is not the entire category! So much new information to assimilate!

I found a Liu Bao expert in KL, and I am taking the tea to her this afternoon. I will post what she teaches me!
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Re: Aged Liu Bao?

Postby needaTEAcher » Jul 8th, '12, 06:51

Just got back from a Liu Bao specialist. Found out that I did well!

Liu Bao.jpg
Liu Bao.jpg (61.9 KiB) Viewed 1280 times


This is the tea in question. Sorry, I forgot to shoot the brew itself. Very, very dark, almost black, with an easy-to-spot eun mu.

The expert said that it is at least 10 years old, but could be much older. The price I paid, he said, was a very, very good price.

He busted out two young Liu Baos for me to sample (5 yearsish). They tasted a lot like a young Shou Puerh. Deep, smooth flavors, but without that intricate and nuanced kick we love so much from aged sheng (or even some well-stored, aged shou). One had small leaves, and one big leaves. He explained that small leaves are more expensive and more sought after, though not necessarily better (like sheng is not exactly better than shou, just different, even though sheng ages to be more valuable). Both tasted great, but somewhat hollow at the end.

Then we tasted mine, and it had this flavor to it that I can only describe as tasting like snow, or rain, but with earthy, woody notes. This was why I bought it. It had a long and complicated aftertaste, as well as a deep, strong, bold flavor. He explained that this "rain-water-taste" is how he knows it is at least 10 years old, but could be much more. He said he doesn't know enough to say the outer range of how old it might be, but will have his teacher (the shop owner) taste a sample and get back to me (I doubt she will, but one can dream!).

Then we sampled a 1960 Liu Bao, and it was heavenly. Much smoother, seemingly from better quality leaves than mine. The leaves were big, and he explained that older Liu Baos didn't get divided into big and small leaves, and that mostly big-leaved Liu Baos are still around today. It was light and airy, super light-bodied but firm, with a flavor like where the water meets the root. (Side note: puerh comes from Camellia sinensis var. assamica, Liu Bao comes from Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, so the leaves are smaller, in general than puerh leaves.)

Finally, to sum up what I learned, he told me that we have to look for the aftertaste when determining age and quality, much like puerh, and to look for complex and intricate flavors. Same with the odor of the dry leaves. Also, that rain-water taste is an indication of good aging. He mentioned that older Liu Baos look different, and when he showed me a few what I noticed was an almost browner or seemingly dirtier color. He said the most important thing though is to feel the tea. Again, much like puerh, older teas produce a stronger "cha chi", or "tea energy". The young tea we drank felt like any other new tea in my body, generating energy and a feeling of calm, but the older ones gave me much more energy, more of a head rush. I drink a lot of puerh, and don't get "puer drunk" often anymore, but this hit me like I was brand new. I was walking down the street after feeling like bouncing, like I had too much (or just enough!) coffee. I can still feel the elevated energy now, about 2.5 hours later.

Sorry for such a long post, but I thought the tea chat folks interested in Liu Bao might enjoy the benefit of my experiences.

Thanks for reading! :D
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