The story of Liu An tea is not well known. For this reason the amazing quality of older Liu An vintages have largely gone unnoticed until recently. The pre1950s era remains the pinnacle for Liu An appreciation when this little basket of tea leaves weighing approx. 600g was enjoyed by the Chinese upper class and considered amongst the top teas in China.
This early 1950s Liu An Sun Yishun represents the last batches of Liu An tea from an old era that was almost permanently erased from history under the reforms of Communism. This tea is symbolic of the wealth, refinery and pursuit for excellence that the upper class in China enjoyed under the Nationalist Government and capitalism. The production of Liu An tea during this time period was catered mainly to the wealthy and as a result the quality of the tea was made to a very high standard. This resulted in a highly meticulous and labor intensive production that is evident today in the quality and elegance of the brew and the astonishing uniformity of the leaves in shape and size that are compressed in these baskets.
“Certainly, rich people living in Guangdong in the old days drank only Liu-an but not Puerh … scenes of brewing aged Liu-an basket tea was recorded in some Guangdong films in the 1930s. 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.”, excerpt from the article An Interactive Dialogue with Zhou Yu, Aged Liu-an Appreciation from The Art of Tea No.5. Zhou Yu is a well respected Teamaster and owner of Wisteria Tea House in Taiwan
To have an opportunity to enjoy such old teas is a great blessing. Such moments must be savored and be given due justice by allocating the time and ensuring peace and focus becomes a part of the tea session. It is about enjoying the moment and taking as much away from the experience as possible. Old and unique teas like this 1950s Liu An are unlikely to ever be reproduced in the same manner again such is the investment and time involved.
The brewing of old Liu An tea is done together with a small piece of bamboo leaf which adds a nice bamboo fragrance and is believed to be good for health.
The 1950s Liu An Sun Yishun is a shining example of elegance in a cup. The experience of drinking this tea wraps you in an ambiance of warmth, comfort and relaxation. The brew is magnificently bold, yet smooth and rounded, sliding silkily along the cavities of the mouth. There is a presence of sweetness that spreads throughout the mouth into the lower jaw and to the back of the throat. Letting the brew gently trickle alongside the tongue fills the senses with a range of complexities and nuances. Rich dark layers open to a symphony of vintage notes, captivating and mesmerizing the senses in a world of antiquity. This is a highly unique, dense, complex, and compelling tea that demands your attention and it will reward you for it. Amidst the dark swirling richness of age flavors and Chinese medicinal notes the classic fragrance of watermelon skin really shines through. This distinctive characteristic becomes the centerpiece of the orchestration of notes that really makes old Liu An stands out in the category of age tea. By the 4th to 5th steeps there is a pleasant feeling of being lightheaded like walking in the clouds. It is a tea that transports you away from the worries of the world and provides you with a sense of well-being.
List of articles from The Art of Tea No.5 1) Aged and Sweet Anhui Liu-an Basket by He Jing Cheng, 2) Discovery and Guesswork of Liu-an Tea by Yang Kai, 3) Appreciating Another Masterpiece Vintage, The Aged Liu-am Sun Yishun by Chan Kam Pong, 4) An Interactive Dialogue with Zhou Yu, Aged Liu-an Appreciation by Luo Ying Yin. For an online article please see Opening a Full Jian of Liu An, A Historical Day of Tea by Marshaln
Additional Note: The stories of old Liu An tea varies considerably from my encounters with senior tea collectors and references within tea articles. From understanding the great upheavals and turmoil that took place in China during this time period you will come to understand why so much knowledge and information had been lost. As a result there is a degree of vagueness and mystique to these old Liu An teas. Furthermore as with many antiques and old collectables the timelines and story is often blurred through retelling. A story is shaped by an individual’s interpretation and the more times a story is shared, retold, passed on the personal influence and inaccuracies mount. For this reason an astute tea drinker learns to enjoy the romance in a story but assess a tea based on the quality of the tea leaves in front of him.
An important reminder for old tea collectors is that storage is a key factor in shaping the quality of age tea. Tea taken from the same production batch and kept under 2 different conditions after multiple decades can easily become 2 very different teas. For those interested in procuring old teas, make sure the aging and storage for those teas have been beneficial towards their maturity and not detrimental and damaging in their effects. It is the reason why the same batch of teacakes (with the same raw materials and production date) after a time can be valued at very different price points.
Educational Series – The 3 Eras of Liu An Tea
Opening of the 1970s Liu An Sun Yishun Basket
A Comparative Pictorial of 3 Liu An Teas (from 1950s, 1970s, 2005)
Fake Liu An Tea Basket
Combining Age Liu An Tea and TCM – A Personal Experience
See more teas from the Tea List