Opening a basket of Pu Tian Gong Qing Liu Bao

We took a short trip to Penang a couple of weekends ago for a tea event held there to celebrate the opening of a basket of Pu Tian Gong Qing Liu Bao. As probably the most sought after Liu Bao tea, steadily increasing prices and with a dwindling number of intact baskets left in the world, finding someone who wants to sell or open one at the moment is a bit of a rarity.

This basket was owned by a Penang based collector who has been storing it for a few years. He decided that he’d like to open it at the moment and hold a tea event to celebrate & witness it.

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Talks were given on Liu Bao by Chinese author, Peng Qing Zhong, author of the recently published ‘A glossary of Liu Bao Tea’, and Malaysian tea master Lim Ping Xiang. The basket was opened and subsequently divided into 360 jars of 125g, each one certified, numbered and sealed under supervision.

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These jars sold out almost immediately, with the collector wanting to keep 100 or so for friends and family, other collectors in Malaysia buying some and lot going to the Mainland Chinese tea lovers who had travelled to attend this event. We also bought a few and hope to make these available for sale in the coming weeks.

There’s been some debate about the actual age of Pu Tian Gong Qing. It was previously estimated conservatively by some collectors in Malaysia as being produced before the mid-1950’s, but Peng Qing Zhong mentioned in his speech that his research pointed to it more likely being pre-WW2, putting it sometime before the late-1930’s. He mentioned that the leaves, production method and packaging more similarly resemble teas produced and stockpiled before the beginning of the war.

I spoke to Master Lim about Pu Tian Gong Qing’s origins. He said that it had been discovered in the warehouse of a large Malaysian tea merchant. They had imported it, but it had never been sold and had been placed aside. The exact reasons aren’t known, but he surmised that perhaps that when it was produced it was too green to be sold and consumed at the time. Examining the fermentation of the leaves now would give some weight to that theory. Fortunately for us, it was put aside and rediscovered in more recent years. The light fermentation has stood it in good stead in the long term, giving us a tea now that is fully aged, but still retaining an unusual vibrancy and depth of flavour.

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