Liu Bao ‘Ye Sheng’ Hei Cha (六堡野生黑茶) is a traditional semi-wild 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 profile and an easy, drinkable character with a nice medicinal edge. This particular Liu Bao is from 2019 and was produced in Cangwu County of Guangxi Province.
Liu Bao Wild 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 (红茶), 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 a 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.
When compared to our standard version of Liu Bao Hei Cha, this tea is semi-wild, being picked from trees found on abandoned tea plantations. Hence our classification of this as a semi-wild tea – while the original plants have been planted by humans rather than the type you find growing in the wild, they have since been left to grow without human interference. This can often be referred to by the general Ye Sheng (野生) term in China that encompasses both completely wild and semi-wild teas. Also this version has undergone slightly less fermentation compared to our standard Liu Bao, resulting in a changed character and great potential for further ageing of this tea.
Liu Bao 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 Wild Hei Cha has mixed dark leaves that have quite a mild woody and earthy aroma. The dark red liquor produced has a complex flavour with a thick mouthfeel. The taste starts on a woody and earthy note, giving way to a cooling menthol sensation. This progresses onto a more medicinal note of earthy root spices (such as turmeric) finally leading to a lasting sweet aftertaste. This is a complex dark tea that is excellent now but can also be aged further.
We suggest brewing parameters of 95-98°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!
This Liu Bao Wild Hei Cha dark tea was first featured in our February 2021 Curious Tea Subscription Boxes.