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09Jul2021
Understanding More About Wuyi Oolong Tea

Understanding More About Wuyi Oolong Tea

By: Dan & Eileen DurandComments: 0
 UNDERSTANDING MORE ABOUT WUYI OOLONG TEA 

From time to time a customer in the teashop will ask about any ‘local tea’ or ‘Sedona tea’ that we have, or any teas from ‘this area’.  And more than once, I had to apologize ‘sorry, no’, it is much too dry in Arizona to grow tea.  I’m lucky to get some tea plants to grow in containers in our greenhouse.  Only a few days ago though, I’m realizing we have actually offered ‘desert teas’ for some time.

I consider our Wuyishan teas as resembling the desert.  A Desert Tea, tea of the desert.  Reminds you of the desert?  Terroir of the desert?  What would the desert taste like if you tasted it, sampled it?  Fragrant, rocky, floral, earthy, clean, flinty, mineral, muted. What would the desert taste like, you say?  It would taste like our roasted oolong teas.

Wuyishan oolong teas are medium body, when-rain-falls-on-dry-soil, aromatic, complex, high in minerality.  Wuyi teas are also called ‘Rock Teas’ or Yan Cha because they grow in and amongst the rocks (and even on cliffs) of the Wuyi Mountains of China, and the rocks are overriding in the personality and perception of the tea.  The Wuyi Mountains, in the north of Fujian Province, have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999 for cultural, scenic and biodiversity values.  But the dark roasted flavor is not the only taste component.  The floral notes should also be present in the background and a sense of stone fruit.

What is the taste sensation of Wuyi rock tea?  The poet Yuan Mei (or Yuan Zicai, as repeated to us by Master Ip) is credited with this description: “Your arrogance is eliminated, your impatience is removed, your mood is elevated, your temper is softened.”  I think this tea works in the same way.  Once you drink this tea, all the negative feelings are gone, and you just feel very peaceful.

There are five famous tea plant varietals that define Wuyi oolong tea. The folowing are the five famous tea varietals from the Wuyi Mountain Scenic Preserve of far north Fujian Province (bordering Jiangxi Province) of southeastern China, where the most desirable “Wu Long, Wu Yi Yan Cha” rock oolong teas are produced. The picturesque mountain cliffs, fertile Nine-Bend River, and mineral-rich rocky terrain are the most critical contributions to the character of the tea. These oolongs are famous for their floral and “rock, bone, stone” signature minerality taste and mouth feel. The leaves are usually heavily roasted to produce the renown aroma.  Like all historically famous teas in China, the specifics of the growing locations are meticulously detailed, for quality, rarity, and price.  Unlike many other tea-producing areas in China, the tea trees here are not cultivated in the plantation style. They are allowed to grow naturally wild in spacious groves (making them more difficult to pick), ranging in age from a few years old to well more than 100 years old, and elevations around 1000-1700 feet.  Although not necessarily certified organic, this area is strictly protected by the government, so absolutely no chemicals or pesticides are used.

Our aged TIE LUO HAN (aka Iron Monk) is a low production/small batch oolong acquired direct from the Xueying farming family, located in the Zheng Yan Circle Mountain area (which translates to “True Cliff”, and is the most core location in Wuyishan) that extends only about 18 square miles. Harvested 5/1/2011 from the most famous Wuyi garden known as Jiu Long Ke or the Nine Dragon Nest, the former personal tea garden of the emperor, within the Zheng Yan Circle. This aged Tie Luo Han has been roasted four times (approx. 12+ hours each), is best known for being strong and bold, having nutty minerality, malty, very light fruit notes, and with a very long-lasting after taste.  Some Chinese say that this tea may be too strong for the American palate - We enjoy it often to prove them wrong.

Our first ROUGUI type (aka Cassia or Cinnamon) is a low production/small batch oolong acquired direct from the Xueying farming family, located in the Zheng Yan Circle Mountain area (which translates to “True Cliff”, and is the most core location in Wuyishan) that extends only about 18 square miles. Harvested 4/8/2014 from the Wuyi garden known as Ma Tou Yan or the Horse Head Rock, within the Zheng Yan Circle. This Rougui has been medium roasted three times (approx. 8 hours each), is best known for some sweet cinnamon notes, woodiness, slight fruitiness, very light florals, chocolate hint, minerality, and with a very long-lasting aftertaste.

We have a second very special and rare ROUGUI oolong.  Like all historically famous teas in China, the specifics of the growing locations are meticulously detailed, for quality, rarity, and price. This ROUGUI from 'Zhu Ke' is a low production/small batch OOLONG acquired direct from the tea maker located in the Zheng Yan Circle Mountain area (which translates to “True Cliff”, and is the most core location in Wuyishan) that extends only about 18 square miles. Harvested 5/7/2018 from the  Wuyi garden known as Zhu Ke or Bamboo Dwelling, within the Zheng Yan Circle. The Rougui leaves were roasted three times over three months by tea maker Wu Jian. Usually, Rougui is best known for some sweet cinnamon notes, woodiness, and very light florals.  In this case, ROUGUI from Zhu Ke has long twisted leaves that have a rich baked aroma, a very unique sweet peach note and taste, with hints of nuts and cooked fruit. Full bodied, the traditional mineral rich rock flavor is complemented by the complex fruity sweetness and a desirable creamy smooth finish and a very long-lasting aftertaste.

Our QUE SHE (aka Sparrow Tongue) is a low production/small batch oolong acquired direct from the Xueying farming family, located in the Zheng Yan Circle Mountain area (which translates to “True Cliff”, and is the most core location in Wuyishan) that extends only about 18 square miles. Harvested 4/20/2015 from the Wuyi garden known as Shui Lian Dong or the Waterfall Cave within the Zheng Yan Circle. Our Sparrow Tongue has been lightly roasted only twice (approx. 8 hours each), is best known for its light, almost creamy floral, hint of vanilla, minerality, and with a very long-lasting aftertaste. Sparrow Tongue's name comes from the slender size and shape of the leaves from its own original slow-growing, low-yield varietal and is therefore rather rare to be offered.

And finally our DA HONG PAO (aka Big Red Robe) is a fairly low production/small batch oolong acquired direct from farmer located in the Zheng Yan Circle Mountain area (which translates to “True Cliff”, and is the most core location in Wuyishan) that extends only about 18 square miles. Harvested May 2019 from within the Zheng Yan Circle. Our Da Hong Pao has been medium roasted three times (approx. 8 hours each), is best known for a brown sugar & dark molasses richness, woodiness, slight nectarine fruit, very light florals, the famous Wuyi-minerality, and has a very long-lasting aftertaste. It’s one of those teas, that if a novice tries it just a few times, they will easily remember forever. The uniqueness stands out from the rest of oolongs. It is considered one of China's most famous teas (accompanied by a famous legend), and the original six mother-bushes, over 400 years old, still grow on a cliff that is always protected and well visited. Today's authentic Da Hong Pao is harvested from cloned descendants of these bushes.

We are standing under the very Da Hong Pao mother-bushes in this photo from October 2016.  This tea was last harvested in 2002 and auctioned for $28,000 for only 20 grams (less than an ounce). Under current law, it can no longer be picked.

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