What do you get a tea lover, especially one who craves great oolongs, and who supposedly already has everything? This is a very rare and quite unique oolong from WuyiShan, Fujian Province, China called Drunken Begonia. The Chinese name is Zui Hai Tang (醉 海 棠). Zui means drunken, and Hai Tang is actually not a begonia, but "malus spectabilis", a kind of especially beautiful flowering crab apple. Drunken Begonia unique in that unlike other WuyiShan Yan Cha ("rock teas" like the famous Dahongpao, TieLoHuan, Rogui), it does not really taste "rocky", in fact very far from it. There is documentation of teas produced in Fujian in 1935 with production volumes by type. It lists 28 "Yan Cha", and lists Zui Hai Tang among the 28. Another document, dating from 1943, of the tea tree varietals/cultivars in WuyiShan. It names 280 different varietals and among them is Zui Hai Tang, and this cultivar must have been around for quite a while before then, to be included in these lists.
How was this tea acquired? Part of our visit to mainland China Oct 2016 included instruction in the making of Yan Cha by the tea master at a prominent WuyiShan tea factory. The tea factory has ties to the ancient Royal Tea Garden (known as Jiu Long Ke, the former personal tea garden of the emperor). Our tour moderator and mentor took us on a side trip off the beaten path to Jiu Long Ke, where we witnessed the resurgence of this living museum of tea (a few photos are included here). We later learned there are two patches of Zui Hai Tang bushes in the Royal Tea Garden area. The amount of raw leaf in both is so small the two patches are combined. They were processed by hand, overseen by the tea master who taught us at the factory. Through chance events, we were given a rare opportunity to purchase the very small amount that was available.