This tea is an aged "farmer style" raw/sheng/liu bao supposedly made from material picked from "wild" trees aged 120-140 years on Cang Mountain, Guangxi.
"Wild" is a confusing term with tea that is often misused; for this tea, from our conversations with our source, we understand it to mean older tea bushes that were left relatively untended and unharvested and allowed to grow into tree form over time. We don't take the "wild" claim too seriously, but we do love this tea and find it in line with other old tree liu bao teas we have tasted.
This tea has a strong, sweet fragrance just opening the bag. Our source named this an incense fragrance, and there is a woody sweet scent something akin to sandalwood that appears when brewing (see brewing tips below). The flavor profile also skews toward the woody and piney side, making a thick, sweet brew that is salivatory and slippery in the mouth. It has a long, deep, sweet aftertaste that makes it a pleasure to sip slowly.
Brewing tips (gongfu)
To get the best of this tea's incense aroma, we suggest using a lighter water, i.e., one with lower total dissolved solids (TDS). A heavier water brings out the strength of the deep woodiness of this tea, which is also enjoyable. For choice of vessel, we like higher fired yixing and porcelain to highlight the aroma. Thicker porcelain, stoneware or celadon would be good choices to balance the aroma with the flavor. This is a tea you'll want to smell the pitcher or your empty cup after.
We prefer 7.5g/100ml water for this one, finding it most forgiving and easiest to brew at that ratio. 8g/100ml can cause this tea to brew a bit heavy, though not bitter, even with shorter steeps. 7g/100ml using slightly longer steeps also works well.
Storage is clean, with no moldy flavor or aroma. This tea was aged on Cang Shan for several years in natural conditions (no wet warehousing) before being purchased by a small tea factory in Wuzhou in 2017. It was not "wood warehoused" in order to preserve its delicate qualities. It's been in Seattle, Washington since 2021.
Cang Mountain and Wuzhou have a humid subtropical climate with an average relative humidity of 60-80%. Cang Mountain is slightly more temperate than Wuzhou because of its elevation.
What is "farmer style" liu bao?
Farmer style liu bao comes from a more traditional or old school process compared to how liu bao teas are typically created and graded today.
To understand farmer style liu bao, you need to know a little about how liu bao is produced and graded.
Liu bao tea is graded using a standard system, where "top grade" (特级) and "grade 1" (一级) include only bud tips. As grade numbers increase, leaves from farther down the bud stem are included. Grade 2 includes very little stem. Grade 3 includes larger leaves and tender stems. Grade 4 can include stems that aren't tender, i.e., small woody sticks. I have seen some labeled grade 5 and 7, where 7 was mostly mature leaves (called 黄片, huangpian, "yellow pieces", based on the color these leaves turn when dry, compared to the rich green of more tender bud leaves) and sticks.
Farmer style liu bao is produced with the entire bud stem and doesn't fall easily into the grading system, but averages about grade 3, with tender stems and large bud leaves, but few to no sticks or fully matured leaves. This is the household tea of small farmstead owners, often stored and aged in the family's own wood board sheds.
In addition, farmer style tea typically does not undergo wet piling, and is instead kept "raw" (生). Wet piling is the controlled fermentation process used to produce most factory liu bao teas nowadays, and is similar to the process for how "cooked" pu'er (aka shu pu'er, 熟普洱) is made.