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The Legend of Hong Kong Style Liubao Tea

Updated: Jan 9

Traditionally, Chinese teas are often named after their place of origin, and Liubao tea is no exception. The term "Liu Bao" translates to the sixth town. In reality, there was tea production in many areas of Cangwu County (in Wuzhou City, Guangxi Province), including Yi Bao, Er Bao, San Bao, Si Bao, Wu Bao, and Liu Bao (respectively the first town, the second town, etc.); and Liubao tea was named due to the highest quality that the sixth town (Liu Bao) produced in history. Then it may seem illogical when it comes to a "Liubao tea" produced in Hong Kong instead of in Cangwu County, but this is due to a historical circumstance.

 

In history, Liubao tea was exported in significant quantities to Hong Kong, Macau, and Southeast Asia. Many Hong Kong companies, including the Shen Chang Tea Company, now well-known for its Si Jin Qian brand Liubao tea, had branch offices in Liu Bao town responsible for tea acquisition since the Qing Dynasty. However, some of these companies later started their own production in Guangzhou city and Jiangmeng city using local raw materials from Guangdong Province to seek higher profits and to avoid long-distance transportation. Subsequently, they discovered that big-leaf raw materials from neighboring countries like Vietnam, Myanmar, and Indonesia had a stronger flavor and were even cheaper. They began producing “Liubao tea” with these materials. These so-called “Liu Bao teas” were exclusively marketed to Southeast Asian countries, especially Malaysia and Singapore, very unfamiliar to Hong Kong local drinkers, and even less so to those in mainland China. Even today in Malaysia, this type of Hong Kong-style Liubao tea is sometimes referred to as Da Ye (literally large leaves) to distinguish it from the authentic Liubao tea from Cangwu County.

 

These forgeries started before World War II and were widespread at that time, even involving major tea companies like Chen Chun Lan (trademark Bao Lan) and Liang Rui Sheng (trademark Si Rui). They distributed these products, blending them with real Liubao tea from Cangwu County or selling them directly. After World War II, the “Liubao tea” production in Hong Kong saw a rapid increase due to the gradual recovery in demand in Southeast Asian countries, while production in the original place in Cangwu County did not fully recover. Shen Chang Tea Company also relocated to Hong Kong and continued production under the name Tong Chang Hang Company; and over time, its Si Jin Qian brand gained recognition.

 

Before the early 1990s, there was an insufficient supply of Liubao tea exported from mainland China, creating an opportunity for Hong Kong Liubao tea production. The unique flavor of Hong Kong-style Liubao, derived from the Assamica tea tree species and aged under favorable conditions in Malaysia, has gained popularity among many overseas consumers.

 

Nowadays, Si Jin Qian brand has earned recognition as one of the finest Liubao teas; as for the existing scarce stocks of Bao Lan brand and Si Rui brand Liubao teas, they are considered antique-level treasures, extremely precious.



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