This large brick, pressed in 2019, is made of grade 5 material produced in 2017. As you can see in the photos, grade 5 material means lots or larger mature leaves, leaf stems and occasional twigs. What makes this tea special is the presence of the fruit bodies of Aspergillus cristatus (formerly known under the now-deprecated binomial, *Eurotium cristatum), also known as 金花 or "golden flowers", which only grows on certain kinds of teas – most famously Fu tea from Hunan province – but also grows on pu'er and liu bao teas when conditions are right. In the closeup leaf photo, you can see the yellow cleistothecia that give the fungus its name. The presence of A. cristatus is considered desirable by those who believe it has health benefits (We, however, do not make any such claims about our tea as a rule).
This is a shu/ripe liu bao tea from the most well-known brand, 3 Cranes, of the largest liu bao tea processor, Wuzhou Tea Factory.
Purchase a sample, small quantity, or a whole 1kg brick!
The steam rising from the rinsed leaf of this tea smells of wet bark. Its flavors feel akin to shu pu'er: earthy flavors like bark, hay, and the ground after it rains. Its large mature leaves and presence of stems and twigs gives it an oily texture, a salivatory effect and a mellow lasting sweetness after swallowing.
I find it brews best with slightly more leaf. I typically use 7g in a 100ml gaiwan, but this one does notably better with 8g. As with most teas that use more mature leaves, flavors begin to drop off around the 6th steep brewed gongfu style. I usually brew this tea for over a minute around steep 7 or 8.
Storage is clean, with no moldy flavor or aroma. It was stored in Wuzhou until 2020, when it arrived in Seattle, Washington. Wuzhou has a humid subtropical climate with an average relative humidity of 60-80%.
More about this tea
Large, mature leaves, stems and twigs, golden flower fungus: you'd think this was a Fu tea from Hunan province from its appearance, but it has only a little of the grassiness of Fu tea and tastes more like classic large-leaf shu pu'er recipes like Dayi's 8592. It doesn't easily fall into the usual flavor categories of liu bao: betelnut, wine, osmanthus. It's kind of its own animal.
Again, we make no health claims about golden flowers, but if you would like to look into it and avoid snake oil marketing, we suggest you start with a search for "Aspergillus cristatus" (current name) or "Eurotium cristatum" (former name still used by some researchers) on Google Scholar, which gives results of studies published in scientific journals around the world. Note Aspergillus cristatus does not produce mycotoxins. Another commonly consumed and commercially vital species in this genus is Aspergillus oryzae, aka koji mold, which is used to make sake, soy sauce, and miso. It's also a fad ingredient in the west, with chefs using koji-inoculated rice in recipes for its umami flavor, even using it to fast dry-age beef!