Oh yeah, arriving home to a box from Chawangshop turns around a rough work day real quick for Old Cwyn. Especially when I’ve been looking forward to my recent ordering binge which included this 1992 CNNP Guangxi Liu Bao Malaysian storage which is new on Chawangshop, and likely to sell out. Yes, I bought it for the storage, but also I’m a fan of Guangxi Liu Bao so double win for me. Triple win when I couldn’t believe the low price of $14 for 50g of these large leaves, I thought something must be wrong with this tea, but at this price I can buy 150g and not feel the slightest bit guilty if I love it or not after all. I ordered some other things in the same box and forgot all the others because this is the tea I really wanted.
Fortunately, this tea has a beautiful dry storage and needed no airing when it arrived. I detected no storage odor at all on the dry tea which is rather unusual. Normally I plan to air out a Liu Bao for at least a couple of months before trying it, this one doesn’t need it and in fact the storage is so perfect I’d hate to lose any of the storage quality it has right now. Goody goody!
I should have weighed out my leaves, but like a pig I just scooped out a big dish full.
Two rinses and it could have perhaps benefitted from three, but with Liu Bao you need to be quick on those rinses because the tea gives itself in the first 4-5 steeps and you can end up wasting a drinkable cup with overzealous rinsing. Some funk goes with heicha territory which is part of the charm and if you’re a shou lover you won’t mind.
This type of heicha is partly oxidized tea, and then the heicha is pile fermented like shou giving the best of both black tea and shou puerh. It’s a nice break from shou. I’m not a fan of some of the very old 30 year+ heicha mainly because the ones I’ve sampled are so degraded and dirt/dust like. While Liu Bao may indeed be fantastic 30 years on, keeping that leaf quality is the challenge (don’t touch that basket). A lot of the older basket heicha can be faked too, as Varat recently pointed out when he evaluated an old basket Liu An. That faking is because everyone wants the leaf quality as well as the aging, so discovering an old basket with intact leaves is quite a find.
However, Malaysian dry storage can’t really be faked, while one might dispute age by a couple years, this flavor is either real or it isn’t present at all. This tea has it in spades and if you enjoy Malaysian stored sheng, then the same flavor is here at a fraction of the price.
So where’s the catch? Compared to other Guangxi Liu Bao I’ve had, the tea boasts some caffeine lift but is rather light overall. It’s not the heavy creamy brown thickness found in Three Cranes. Maybe this Liu Bao is autumn leaf. It doesn’t have the kick in the ass and heavy warming of something like the 1994 Sichuan Ya'an Kang Zuan Tibetan brick I reviewed last spring. This is Liu Bao I can serve my newbie friends, if I had any, and not worry they will run from my house screaming and never come back. I’m not sure my fictitious newbie friends would appreciate Malaysian storage flavor but I don’t have real friends, this tea is really all for me. I don’t see any point in storing this for another 10 years, I’m gonna drink it up right now.
Today I also got my December white2tea club, and surprisingly found a 2009 Anhua Hunan heicha bamboo log, which looks suspiciously similar to the 2011 Zhu Xiang Ji (“Yu Lei Zhu Xiang Cha”). Except that my 2011 had the paper wrapping with the old lady on it and a plastic old style “wax” seal which I don’t think can be removed without untying the string, which on mine was white string and not hemp as this one is. Now, Anhua style heicha stored in small bamboo logs is a process used in Anhua County, so I don’t know for sure if the white2tea log is really the same farm as my 2011 but I’m tempted to think that it is. In any case, since I bought my 2011 for $21 and considered that a nice price for 200g, at the very least we know for sure that we got our club fee worth and perhaps more for an extra two years of age. Especially because white2tea isn't currently listing the log for sale for people who aren't in the tea club.
But I’m not going to try the new 2009 hemp-tied tea right now. I compared my own 2011 after the 2009 arrived with a natural bamboo smell, so the latter has some recent properly humid storage which makes me happy. However, I notice that my 2011 smells sweeter by comparison, and less like bamboo, because I’ve had it airing for more than six months. I don’t even have the best storage for my 2011, right now I’m using only a vintage 1950s aluminum kitchen canister which I feel guilty using, but since the tea is protected in the bamboo I’m not worried about the metal too much. So I’m going to add this log into the same canister.
I expect that social media will be full of tasters for the 2009 log, and I’ll warn you now to take any opinions in stride by people who haven’t aired it. I can’t blame anybody for diving in, but patient waiting means a sweeter and more fragrant cup!