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Aged Liu-an Appreciation - Interactive Dialogue with Zhou Yu

There are not many well aged Liu-an baskets left in the world. Some connoisseurs treat these well aged Liu-an baskets, which have the same great tastes and aromas as the Antique Puerh Vintages, as precious collectible items. Today, we are honored to invite one of the tea celebrities of Taiwan, Zhou Yu, to witness the historical moment of unveiling a sealed large basket of well aged antique Liu-an baskets. Inside this large basket, we could find 10 stacks of bundled up Liu-an baskets. Within a stack, every 2 little Liu-an baskets were packed face to face to form a longer stack with 6 Liu-an baskets being bundled up by bamboo stripes.

Therefore, with the 10 stacks in the large basket, there were all together 60 little antique Liu-an baskets in front of us. After taking one of that randomly from these 60 little Liu-an baskets, we started our relaxing appreciation journey. In order to let readers have more ideas about this well aged vintage,the simple dialogue was recorded in this issue so that more tea lovers would know more about this tea.

Appreciation of the 1940's Sun Yishun Aged Liu-an with 3 Trademark Tickets
The First Appreciation (Justunsealed)
30 October 2007 (Dry weather)

Zhou Yu:

This infusion was much better. Before the 4th and the 5th infusions, there were some unwanted aromas and tastes. However, these unwanted performances disappeared in this infusion.

Luo Ying Yin:

The Liu-an baskets and the Yunnan seven-son tea cakes were both compressed tea. However, as their places and processes of manufacture were different, what were the differences in taste between them after aging?

Zhou Yu:

There would be differentiation between them and that very much depended on the conditions of aging.

Luo Ying Yin:

The few infusions at the beginning carried a little bit astringency and I could feet that on my tongue.

Zhou Yu:

This might be due to the water we used. If good water such as water from a mountain spring had been used, the tea broth could have been not too astringent. Besides, such water would give better tea performances.

Luo Ying Yin:

This was the 8th infusion. The astringency faded out a lot. Was this astringent taste in my mouth related to today's weather and climate?

Zhou Yu:

For the 8th and 9th infusions, the tea broth became finer. Because of its long aging time, there would be substantial differences in its performance if you drank it immediately right after just unsealed and drank it sometime later. After the revitalization, the tea broth would be sweeter and more vivid than that of the first rime you drank. It would be very different if you drank it several weeks later. This infusion reminded me that one of my customers who had never drunk any Liu-an tea commented that the tea broth of Liu-an was very similar to those soft melody with its elegancy when he drank his first Liu-an tea with me.

In general, the elegant tea could not be compared directly with the great and strong aftertastes of arbor tree tea. Even though the aged Puerh vintages and the aged Liu-an vintages migh be from the same production year, the performance of Liu-an was elegant while the performance of Puerh was strong and distinct. The tea Qi of Liu-an was very deep which was good to body's internal organs. That's why people in the old days would adopt Liu-an tea as medicine.

Luo Ying Yin:

Somebody said that buying Liu-an tea was for the purpose of using it as medicine trigger.

Zhou Yu:

As I remembered when I went to Hong Kong 20 years ago, some Liu-an baskets could be found in Chinese medicine shops. They used Liu-an as one of the Chinese medicines. There was also another interesting story about Liu-an. Somebody suggested that Liu-an tea was good for rich people who always had cigars because Liu-an had its cool nature so that Liu-an could remove the hot nature of cigars. However, I dared not say this story was true because I did not smoke cigars. It was also heard that Liu-an had some other good aspects.

Luo Ying Yin:

I did not have any experience of appreciating aged Liu-an. I had no idea whether my feelings to these infusions matched with the sensations of aged Liu-an.

Zhou Yu:

Perhaps, because of lacking of revitalization (just unsealed), these infusions did not completely represent a very good and well aged Liu-an tea. I could just say the performance this time was only the runner-up.

Luo Ying Yin:

Could you tell me about the great sensations of aged Liu-an?

Zhou Yu:

Elegancy, fineness, sweetness and special aroma (similar to ginseng) giving you a relaxation after sipping several cups of well aged Liu-an were the answers. When you drank such a good tea, you would be feeling good. Unfortunately, I could not find any of these marks in the present brew. As I said,this might be due to lacking of revitalization (just unsealed). The same basket of tea would give you improved feelings if we brewed it again several weeks later. From the observations in the brewed tea leaves, this Liu-an basket was a good tea with its bright and clear tea broth.

Luo Ying Yin:

What kinds of tea cup fitted for drinking such as good tea?

Zhou Yu:

If you wanted to have the best performance of this tea, you should consider to use little white cups with thin walls made by fine porcelain. This kind of Chinese tea cups could also let you appreciate the beauty of the tea broth.

Luo Ying Yin:

Now, I could feel the sweet aftertaste with some cooling effect in my mouth. The tastes and aftertastes had been changing.

Zhou Yu:

Agreed. It did have some cooling sensations. However, a little bit cool feeling was not enough. (A sound of belching) At the present moment, I could feel the strong aftertaste. However, the tea Qi was moving quite slow. The taste became more and more apparent after several minutes.

Luo Ying Yin:

It was amazing that it had been brewed for nearly 20 infusions. It was really long-lasting. The bamboo leaves was yellowish with its crispy nature. I felt that the bamboo leaves had been aged for long time.

Zhou Yu:

Yes, the bamboo leaves did age for a long period of time. However, it would be wrong and misleading if one concluded the years of production by way of judging the color of bamboo leaves. The tea broth of the last infusion became cool, let's try it together.Zhou Yu & Luo Ying Yin (spoke out at the same time):

Herbal taste! Finally.
The Second Appreciation (After 2 days revitalization)
1 November 2007 (Rainy Day)

Zhou Yu:

(Smelling the aroma) What we had got this time was a very clear and distinctive tea broth without any unpleasant aroma. The weather we brewed this tea 2 days ago had been hot and dry while it was a little bit cool and wet this time. In fact, the cool and wet weather was very suitable for brewing aged Puerh or aged Liu-an tea. (After sipping a cup of Liu-an) You could feel the ginseng taste.

Luo Ying Yin:

I could also feel the fantastic body feeling after drinking this tea at the present moment. I remembered that there was unwanted taste in the first 3 infusions when we brewed the same tea 2 days ago. After the revitalization, the aged Liu-an tea became fresher and gave an obvious ginseng taste.

Zhou Yu:

It seemed that the unwanted taste was not exactly the unpleasant taste from the tea itself. That might be due to the hot and dry weather 2 days ago. The water we used this time was not the same as that we used last time. I used the spring water from Wulai . A good tea must be brewed with good water.

Luo Ying Yin:

Perhaps, spring water could trigger the true taste of tea which gave a very smooth and sweet taste. The taste very dissimilar from the dry taste 2 days ago. In the old days, apart from purchasing Liu-an basket from Chinese medicine shops for the purpose of being medicine trigger, would people buy Liu-an tea for their own consumption and appreciation?

Zhou Yu:

Certainly, rich people living in Guangdong in the old days drank only Liu-an but not Puerh. It was heard that the scene of brewing aged Liu-an basket tea was recorded in some Guangdong films produced in the 1930's.In those days, the rich disliked the roughness of Puerh but they were very keen on the elegant and silky tea broth of Liu-an. It was because the Antique Puerh Vintages and Masterpiece Puerh Vintages we now had were only very young raw Puerh teas at that time.

Luo Ying Yin:

I noticed that the Liu-an tea in the basket was a very fine tea with fine tea leaves. After the revitalization, it was a little bit redder of its appearance.

Zhou Yu:

It was true that the raw materials of Liu-an tea were finer than that of Puerh tea. The fine tea leaves of Liu-an were gorgeous. Although the tea leaves of Liu-an were not as large as the Puerh leaves, it still had its vividness. These fine Liu-an tea leaves should be brewed with good water so as to release its greatest potential tea tastes.

Zhou Yu:

Even though this was the 8th infusion, the tea broth was still thick and rich. This indicated that the Liu-an tea we were brewing was an extremely good Liu-an with its superb grade. I must say that the tea broth had its "elasticity ".

Luo Ying Yin:

Fortunately, the weather changed into the cool and wet of winter and we could brew this great tea at the present moment. Although we were brewing the same tea, the performance was completely different from what we had 2 days ago in the normal weather of autumn. At least we knew that Liu-an tea was very suitable for brewing and appreciating in winter's time.

Zhou Yu:

It was so nice to have, such a good tea in such a cool and wet weather. When you called me to have another brew of die same tea tonight because of die deadline of the magazine, I knew that we would have a great time when I talked to you in the rainy weather. By my experience, I was certain that the tea had changed, changed better. As expected, all the good elements of aged Liu-an I mentioned last time brewed into the tea broth.

Luo Ying Yin:

What were the good elements of aged Liu-an?

Zhou Yu:

As I mentioned before, the tea broth must be elegant, fine and sweet. Besides, it should have slight herbal taste with a cool sensation. This was a cool and comfortable feeling, but not a cold feeling. Finally, the tea Qi would go though your body and gave you a higher level of meditation. Although I had brewed so many infusions, it was still great and gave good tea broth with its beautiful and clear red color. Really, it was a gorgeous tea.

Luo Ying Yin:

Was it the little white cup with thin wall made by fine porcelain you mentioned last time for drinking this kind of silky Liu-an?

Zhou Yu:

Oh…Yes…Yes, You did not have to drink large quantity of this tea. Both Liu-an and Wuyi Mountain Tea should be brewed for fine appreciation with small quantity. The best cup would be the white, thin and small one. The small cup contained the rich, concentrated and fine tea broth together with the herbal taste. Having a sip of such would be the utmost enjoyment in the world.