Liu Bao Hei Cha (六堡黑茶) is a traditional aged dark tea from Guangxi Province in China. This tea undergoes a fermentation process that is similar to that of ripe (shu) pu-erh from Yunnan. After being fermented it was aged in large bamboo caskets. The resulting tea has a distinctive woody and mossy flavour profile and a very easy, drinkable character. This particular Liu Bao is from 2018 and was produced in Cangwu County of Guangxi Province.
Liu Bao Hei Cha, similarly to pu-erh tea, falls within the dark tea category known as Hei Cha (黑茶). In China the tea nomenclature differs from that of the West. Hong Cha (紅茶), literally ‘red tea’, is used to describe what in the West is known as ‘black tea’. Hei Cha (黑茶), literally ‘black tea’, is used to describe what in the West is known as ‘dark tea’ or ‘post-fermented’ tea. For ease of reference and to avoid unnecessary confusion we always refer to Hei Cha as ‘dark tea’. Liu Bao translates as ‘Six Forts’ and most likely refers to ancient fortifications in this tea-producing area of Guangxi Province.
While Liu Bao has an ancient history dating back over 1,000 years, the processing techniques have much evolved. Liu Bao Hei Cha, like shu pu-erh, undergoes an accelerated fermentation process during which the tea leaves are exposed to a high level of humidity in a warm environment. Raw harvested leaves are piled, covered by blankets and are exposed to high level of moisture until the desired level of fermentation is achieved. The environment is controlled by addition of water when necessary. This controlled process is known as Wo Dui (渥堆) in Chinese. This process uses heat and moisture to speed up the chemical changes within the leaves, reducing astringency and deepening the flavours. There is evidence that this particular modern processing was in use as early as 1957 in Guangxi Province and the ripening process developed in Yunnan Province in 1970’s for shu pu-erh was influenced by Liu Bao processing techniques.
Liu Bao Hei Cha also has a particularly important place in Traditional Chinese Medicine as having a rare dual quality: both cooling and warming. It is said to eliminate excess dampness while having a warming quality when necessary. Like most dark teas, it is a particularly excellent digestion aid, suitable for consumption before, after and during meals.
This Liu Bao Hei Cha has mixed dark leaves that have a woody, mossy aroma of autumnal forest undergrowth. The dark red liquor produced has a light aroma that is similar to that of the dry leaves. The taste is woody, mossy, and somewhat damp. There are notes of buckwheat, making it reminiscent of barley tea. The flavours start woody, tasting of bark, autumn and moss, becoming fresher and brisker. The aftertaste is lingering, yet clean and stony. It is a very drinkable, smooth tea that is pleasurable on its own or would be a great companion to a meal.
We suggest brewing parameters of 90°C for 3-4 minutes according to your taste, brewing multiple times. This tea is forgiving when it comes to brewing so can brewed for longer or with boiling water for a fuller taste. When brewed Gong Fu style we suggest briefly washing the leaves. Traditionally this type of tea is prepared by boiling the tea leaves in a pot of water!