This is a shu/ripe liu bao tea produced in 2009 from Grade 1 material from trees aged 30-50 years. It has a heavier level of "wet piling"/fermentation, and represents the material from the bottom of the wet pile that has experienced the most heat and compression. These circumstances during processing force the tea leaves at the bottom of the pile into tight balls, called lao cha tou, literally "old tea heads" but more like "old tea nuggets."
What you're getting is a mix of mostly nuggets with some loose leaves/pieces.
The dry leaf has a briny smell with a little sulphur, smelling a lot like typical 3 Cranes brand shu liu bao teas, although this one is from a smaller factory. The wet leaf has a sweet, rich smell with some of that same brininess/3 Cranes-ness.
The texture is very silky, with a kind of oiliness that coats the throat. Flavors start out malty, peppery, mineral and bright, becoming richer, woodier and earthier as infusions progress, with the spice and mineral persisting. With longer infusions, it often presents a kind of pumpkin/sweet potato note and scents of very aged lumber.
Brewing tips (gongfu)
Lao cha tou are some of our favorite teas to brew, because it's nearly impossible to make them taste bad. There are two main factors in getting them to taste great: using more weight, like 10g/100ml or more, and infusing longer than you might normally feel comfortable doing. This tea is no exception. It takes to vessels of any material and size, and does really well simmered and grandpa style.
This tea was cleanly stored and aged naturally in Wuzhou until 2021, then in Seattle, Washington. Wuzhou has a humid subtropical climate with an average relative humidity of 60-80%.
More about this tea
Shu/ripe liu bao tea is not wet piled as high as shu pu'er is, nor usually fermented as long, so the formation of lao cha tou when piling liu bao is far less common.