Shui Xian Yancha (Rock) Oolong Tea
Shui Xian Oolong Tea is one of the 5 most popular ‘Rock’ Oolong Teas (chin.: 岩茶青 ‘Yancha’ Oolong Tea). The tradition of this particular processing type applied to some of the Oolong tea cultivars native to a defined core region of Wuyi-Shan (Wuyi Mountains), located in the Chinese province of Fujian, reaches back to the times of the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911). The Wuyi region is generally considered as the ‘cradle of Oolong teas’, a title that is also claimed by the Anxi region for its Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea. The decision, which of the two regions is the rightful claimant of the title might be left to historians. Nonetheless, there is evidence that both lines of Oolong teas have spread from their respective place of origin to other parts of China, most notably Taiwan, as well as to other South East Asian Countries, such as Thailand.
Shui Xian (also ‘Shui Hsien’, chin.: 水仙) verbally translated means ‘narcissus’ or ‘water sprite’ in English. Besides its unique mellowness and smoothness, Shui Xian Oolong Tea is also known for its light narcissus aroma, hinting that the tea might indeed have been named after the flower.
Wuyi Rock (Yancha) Oolong Teas
This group of Oolong teas, among them also the worldwide famous Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) as well as the slowly catching up Rou Gui Oolong Tea is referred to as ‘Yancha‘ or ‘Rock‘ Oolong teas because of the rocky soil conditions in Wuyi Shan, which are often also quoted as being responsible for these teas’ typical mineral character. Yancha Oolong teas are further defined by the basic processing method and the medium to strong oxidation level common for all types of rock Oolong tea. This is also the reason why only very experienced Oolong tea drinkers might be able to tell the individual types of Yancha Oolong teas from each other when trying blind. Still, every rock tea type has its own cultivar it is yielded from and that is responsible for each type’s individual taste pattern and characteristics.
Premium Banyan Shui Xian – Place of Origin
Our Premium Banyan Shui Xian Wuyi Yancha Oolong Tea comes from Wuyi Shan’s Banyan area. This particular area, which is adjacent to the actual core area of Yancha Oolong tea cultivation and processing, caught our attention with the sourcing activities for our Banyan Imperial Grade Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) Oolong Tea, which had been emerging from comprehensive degustations of this rock Oolong type as a lonely winner within a not so low, but still affordable price class. And indeed, the Shui Xian Yancha Oolong of the same producer did not disappoint us either: the short distance to the traditional core area translates to an excellent cost-benefit ration – a top class tea at a quite affordable price.
Everything about this tea is handiwork, beginning with its picking across all stages of the complex processing sequence for Wuyi Yancha Oolong tea: just like with other Oolong teas, also for Shui Xian Wuyi Oolong Tea the freshly picked tea leaves are initially withered under repeated shifting and manually breaking up the leaf surfaces – first outdoor in the sun, then in the half-shade of the production hall (please see hereto our Video on Oolong Tea Processing). After reaching the desired (medium) degree of oxidation – with only a master of this particular art being able to determine the optimal point – the tea leaves are heated to high temperatures in a wok pan in order to stop the oxidation process. Subsequently, the so fixated tea leaves are in small badges subjected to a series of roasting runs over charcoal fire, a highly sensible and time-consuming procedure, whose most evident result is the typical roast aroma and flavor of the freshly roasted tea. While the former will vanish within a few months of storage with exposure to air, the latter will marry harmoniously into the overall taste pattern as a permanent roast note, another characteristic shared by Yancha Oolong teas. During roasting, the quite large leaves of the Shui Xian tea bush are manually rolled into their characteristic long, slightly curled shape.
Appearance, Fragrance and Taste
The ready processed tea leaves are dark brown to black. The dry leaf material exudes a heavy sweet honey fragrance. The same fragrance is radiated by the clear, dark amber colored infusion capturing with pleasant smoothness and a soft and complex malty taste, united in perfect harmony with this tea’s sweetness and mineral note, both characteristic for Wuyi Rock Oolong teas. It is especially the sweetness that will linger on one’s palate and please one’s senses long beyond the actual sipping.
Cheaper (or ‘fake’) versions of Shui Xian and other prestigious Wuyi Yancha Oolong teas often have a strong smoky or burnt taste. Just like with lower quality Lapsang Souchong, an excessive roast and/or smoke note is often used in such cases to camouflage the absence of finer components and properties.
Using a clay teapot is always a best recommendation for the preparation of any Oolong tea. The optimal water temperature for the infusion of stronger roasted Oolong teas with a medium to high degree of oxidation is ca. 85°C (leave water to cool down for a short period after boiling). Regarding infusion time and number of infusions, two different basic standards can be applied to the preparation of Oolong tea, one of which is the ‘Gong Fu Cha’ method commonly practiced in China (see Tea Preparation / Tea Ceremony, including video footage) and the other is the so-called western approach:
In the Chinese Tea Ceremony (Gong Fu Cha), Oolong teas are prepared with relatively high dosing (up to 10g / 250-350ml teapot) with very short infusion periods of up to max. 1 minute per infusion in a sequence of infusions, whose exact number will depend on the quality and potential of the used Oolong tea. This way, up to 15 infusions are possible, for particularly high quality Oolong teas. Typically, the infusion period of a first infusion will last ca. 1 minute or less, with an even shorter 2 (and possibly 3rd and 4th infusion). However, at some point, the infusion time will be increased again and reach periods of even up to 3 minutes, before the tea will hit the limits of its potential.
According to the western preparation method, taking orientation rather on practical than on philosophical aspects, and being related to a completely different time concept and level of complexity, we recommend an infusion period of 2 minutes with a dosing of 3-5g on 250-350ml water for a worthy and delicious first infusion, and 1-2 minutes for a second and third infusion each, adding another minute for each further infusion. This way, our Spring Zheng Shan Imperial Rou Gui will produce four to five full value infusions.
Storability: With exposure to air, medium to strong roasted Oolong teas can be stored at dry conditions for at least 2-3 years without any significant loss of taste or quality. After that, they will gradually lose taste with time. However, always provided dry storage conditions, they won’t become unpalatable even after longer storage periods of 5 years and beyond.
Please note: you might also try our other Wuyi ‘Yancha’ Oolong teas at Siam Tea Shop:
- Banyan Imperial Grade Da Hong Pao Oolong Tea and
- Spring Zheng Shan Imperial Rou Gui (Cinnamon) Rock Oolong Tea.