Here at Batch we’re big fans of Liu Pao Tea, aka Liu Bao. But not many people in the UK have heard of it. So just what is it?
Allow us to explain…
What is Liu Pao Tea?
Liu Bao, or Liu Pao, tea is a fermented, aged black tea that originates from the town of Liu Pao, Guangxi Province, China.
This tea, as with other aged teas such as Pu’er, is well known for its many health benefits, said to include lowering blood pressure and preventing arteriosclerosis, reducing body fat, reducing internal heat, relieving fatigue and, importantly for the way that it helps with digestion.
This last one is the reason that, amongst Chinese, it is regularly drunk before, with or after meals.
Being an Aged tea, the tea is, you guessed it, aged. Not only that but it improves with age, like wine, or indeed like Pu’er tea, as the flavours mellow and complexity builds. So you will find a 30 year old Liu Pao tea considerably more expensive than a 5 or even 10 year old tea from the same producer.
What does Liu Pao Tea taste like?
Like any tea, it’s impossible to give a full classification of how Liu Pao tastes, as it really depends on the leaves used, the environment, the producer, the age and the storage of the tea after processing.
Broadly speaking though, aged teas have a distinct characteristic that many tea websites simply call “aged flavour” and this generally means woody, earthy notes that some might liken to forest floor, wet wood, mustiness or even “Dad’s shed”.
Not everyone’s taste
This isn’t to everyone’s taste by any means, which is why we’re always keen to highlight to new customers, as we do below, that aged teas can be an acquired taste. We also point out, as (again) we do below, that connoisseurs the world over will often rate aged teas as their preferred teas.
As the tea ages (if stored correctly), the strength of this characteristic will mellow and sweeten, leaving you with a super smooth, woody, complex tea with thick mouthfeel.
How is it made?
Liu Pao is made in the same way as a shu, or ripe, Pu’er tea. Mao cha (dried green tea leaves) is wet piled to aid the fermentation process for around 6 weeks before being dried, and often steamed and pressed into cakes, or “bing”. It is then stored until it mellows somewhat, otherwise it can be quite fusty!
This fermentation process is what gives rise to the healthy bacteria in the tea that give it its digestive aid, as well as the unique flavour.
Although sitting in the shadow of the more famous aged tea Pu’er, Liu Pao tea is making waves across China and beyond and is currently one of the most talked about teas on the market. Often less expensive than it’s more famous counterpart, it is also said to have even more health benefits; a combination really driving interest!
Another aspect of Liu Pao teas is a fairly recent phenomenon called “Golden Flower”. The fermentation process provides just the right environment for a special golden, lichen-like fungus to grow within the tea as it ages, which has a delightful, sweet flavour and has been causing a stir across China in recent years.
How is Liu Pao different to Pu’er?
The short answer is that, well, it really isn’t that different to ripe, or “cooked” Pu’er in terms of the tea itself. Pu’er tea must come from Yunnan Province, much as Champagne must come from the Champagne region of France. And Liu Pao tea comes from Guangxi Province – the next Province along from Yunnan, which has many cultural similarities to its neighbour.
In terms of flavour profiles, Liu Pao and Pu’er tea are rather similar, with the differences being down to the individual teas rather than the type. So the usual factors of tree age, soil & atmospheric conditions, environment, and the skills & technique of the processor are the main contributors to variations in quality and flavour of the finished product.
Aged Tea: An Acquired Taste?
Fermented and aged teas in general can be an acquired taste, but are ones that tea aficionados around the world clamour for, resulting in super high prices. Ask a tea master their favourite tea and it’s likely that an aged tea will be in their top 3, if not #1.
Woody, earthy sensations are the first thing you will experience. Tastes of wet wood, moss and bark with a thick mouth feel, followed by a lasting tobacco and brassy finish.
So what are the benefits of Liu Pao Tea?
Firstly, it tastes great!
Secondly, as mentioned above, there are myriad health benefits to drinking Liu Pao Tea, including improved digestion, reduced cholesterol and many more.
It’s easy to make and difficult to mess up! As many Chinese folk boil Liu Pao tea, we can guarantee that you cannot mess it up! Where many teas turn bitter, astringent and unpleasantly dry with over-steeping, Liu Pao mellows and only intensifies the earthy notes.
In addition to the above, because Liu Pao tea doesn’t carry the “brand” that Pu’er carries, it can generally be found cheaper – like-or-like – than its Yunnan neighbour. And because it doesn’t come with the inflated price tags, there isn’t the desire to counterfeit Liu Pao tea – so you can be sure that if you’re buying a Liu Pao, you’re getting a Liu Pao and not a counterfeit.
Thanks for reading!
Cheers for taking the time to read about Liu Pao tea.
If you like what you’ve read and would like to give it a whirl, we have 2 magnificent examples of fine Liu Pao tea from the master himself, Mr Han, of Guilin, Guangxi province. Mr Han Senior is a Guangxi tea legend and a good friend of Owen’s. In fact, he recently bequeathed the last of his 1990 Liu Pao Tea stocks to us, which we have available for purchase on site. We also have a stock of his outstanding 2008 Liu Pao Tea.
We’re pretty sure that you won’t find Liu Pao anywhere else in the UK. And we’re 100% sure that, if you do, it will not match the quality of ours from Mr Han.