Liu Bao Tea vs Pu-erh Tea
Pu Erh tea belongs to the 'Hei Cha' or 'dark tea' category. But due to its popularity pu erh has pretty much become a synonym for Hei Cha. As a result, many other kinds of dark tea has often times don't receive as much attention as they deserve. As a pu erh drinker, you'll at some point start to explore other kinds of dark teas, and Liu Bao Cha (or 'Liu Bao Tea') is one of them.
While ripe pu erh tea and liu bao tea are both Hei Cha (dark tea), they do differ in many different ways. Below we discuss the difference in terms of origin, raw material, production and appearance. Before we start, it's important to note that Liu Bao is generally compared to a ripe pu erh tea as both of them are post-fermented. Raw pu erh tea is completely different, and is not within the scope of this article.
Liu Bao Cha is produced in the mountainous area of Liu Bao in the northwest of Cangwu (Wuzhou), Guangxi Province. It literally translates to 'Six Fort'. Thus you may also call it 'Six Fort Tea'.
On the other hand, pu erh owns its name after the city 'puer' in Yunnan, situated along the Ancient Tea Horse Road. However, nowadays it's made in many different regions in Yunnan province.
The raw material of Liu Bao tea is the Guangxi Big Leaf and Cangwu cultivars. They are grown in a mountainous area with low hours of sunshine, dense fog, and large temperature differences between night and day. These natural circumstances in combination with a different cultivar allows the tea leaves to have an unique chemical composition, and thus it also produces an unique flavour.
Puerh tea, on the other hand, is made from Yunnan large-leaf cultivar. As this cultivar is grown in many different places in Yunnan, with unique soil conditions, flavour will also differ from place to place.
Although Liu Bao tea and puerh tea are both dark teas, there are two key differences in the process of making them:
The steps in the production process of Liu Bao tea include withering, twisting, pile fermentation, re-twisting and drying. The special feature of the processing of Liu Bao is the "double-steaming and double-pressing" technique.
After pile fermentation, the leaves are steamed and pressed. After this, the tea leaves are broken up and again steamed for a second time. After the second steaming step, some of the tea is put into a special square-bottomed, round-shaped bamboo basket and put into a warehouse to cool naturally before being aged, and made into finished products depending on the quality. The other part of the tea goes through the second pressing, followed by aging.
Pu erh tea is only steamed and pressed into cakes, tuocha or bricks once. There's no double compression involved.
Liu Bao Cha is pile fermented during it's production process, while ripe pu erh tea is pile fermented after the leaves are first processed into raw pu erh tea. This is more convenient for factories that produce pu erh, as only 1 additional step is added to transform raw into ripe pu erh.
In fact, the post fermentation method developed for pu erh tea was derived from the original method applied for Liu Bao Cha. The Fohai Factory (Dayi) produced the first ripe pu erh in 1973.
For more information about pile fermentation you may read this article: What is 'Wet Piling' (Wo Dui)?
In theory, one could state that Liu Bao is a more 'true' pile fermented tea, as the factory will optimize its production for a pile-fermented tea only. For pu erh, the factory has to make sure both the raw and ripe version needs to taste good.
While Liu Bao Cha is a pile-fermented tea, it's actually not a 'post-fermented' tea as the fermentation happens during the production. On the other hand, for pu erh, it's fermented 'post' the production of raw pu erh.
Liu Bao tea leaves are thick in shape, black and brown in colour. Some teas may produce 'golden flowers' (yellow/orange fungal spores) while being aged. The infusion is red and thick, famously known as Liu Bao's unique 'Chinese Red' liquor color.
Like pu erh tea, the aroma of Liu Bao is mellow, sweet and rich. You rarely see golden flowers on ripe pu erh. What mainly distinguishes Liu Bao from most ripe pu erh teas is its unique betel nut aroma. With regards to the discussion of the flavour, please visit this article: The Taste of Liu Bao Tea.
We hope this article helped you distinguish ripe pu erh and liu bao in many different ways. If you've any thoughts to share, feel free to leave a compment!
Besides Liu Bao Cha, there's also another kind of popular dark tea known as Anhua Dark Tea, which may interest you!