This is a shu/ripe liu bao tea produced in 2008 from Grade 1 material from trees aged 30-50 years. It has a heavier level of fermentation on the leaf, and a small growth of golden flowers (金花), aka Aspergillus cristatus. (see “More about this tea” below for additional information).
Immediately after rinsing, the warm leaves carry wet wood fragrance. Its scent and flavors are reminiscent of traditional Hong Kong-stored sheng pu’er, sweet and woody and a little mushroomy. It brews thick and has a slight natural sweetness.
It falls into the betelnut flavor profile of liu bao, and betelnut appears strongest in the first few infusions, after which it becomes more of a background note to the developing flavors of wet wood, straw, and occasionally camphor, though this is more apparent in longer and later infusions.
The aftertaste is average length, and bright and crisp for a tea that brews so dark.
Brewing tips (gongfu)
A standard ratio of 7g of leaf in a 100ml makes this tea brew thinner but sweeter. 8g in 100ml makes a thicker and more savory tea. Whatever ratio you normally use, as with most liu bao teas, this makes a more delicious tea when you push your infusion times a little longer than you would for something like pu’er or oolong.
Storage is clean, with no moldy flavor or aroma. It was aged naturally in Wuzhou until 2020, then in Seattle, Washington. Wuzhou has a humid subtropical climate with an average relative humidity of 60-80%.
More about this tea
One of the traits that make 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.”
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 beneficial fungus 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.
if you would like to look into golden flower fungus 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 that 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!