Wuyi Rock Teas – Wuyi “Yancha” Oolong Tees
Wuyishan is a mountainous region in the north of the eastern Chinese province of Fujian. For once, it is famous for its black (Lapsang) teas from the local “Bohea” tea plant variety. On the other hand, the mountain region derives its big name from a specific type of Oolong teas. These are the Wuyi “rock teas” or “yancha” oolong teas thriving here. At this, the special mineral composition of Wuyishan’s rocky soil is the main criterion for a Wuyi rock tea. Accordingly, Wuyi Yancha Oolong teas are bound to their place of origin. Thus, they are Chinese “origin teas” in the classical sense.
There is no attachment to just one specific tea plant variety or cultivar for Wuyi rock oolong teas. Much rather, there are several tea bush varieties providing for different sub-types of Wuyi rock teas. While some of these are native to Wuyishan, others were been brought into Wuyishan from other places in China. For example, the Rou Gui or Shui Xian tea bush varieties thrive here since the 20th century only. The 4 native Wuyi Yancha oolong tea cultivars, on the other hand, represent the so-called “Si Da Ming Cong” (四大名欉).
The „Si Da Ming Cong“
As for the „Si Da Ming Kong“, these are the following 4 tea bush varieties:
- Da Hong Pao (大红袍, Big Red Robe)
- Tie Luo Han (铁罗汉, Iron Arhat)
- Shui Jin Gui (水金龜, Golden Turtle)
- Bai Ji Guan (白鸡冠, White Cockscomb)
They are the “4 great ancient ones” among Wuyi’s rock tea cultivars.
Shui Jin Gui Wuyi Yancha Oolong
The Shui Jin Gui tea plant variety originally comes from the Du Ge Zhao Mountain in the inner Wuyi Mountains. Through vegetative propagation (cuttings) the tea bushes have been cultivated mainly in the center of the region since the 1980s. Their mother bushes today enjoy a status of protection and preservation.
As a native Wuyi tea plant variety, the Shui Jin Gui looks back to the time of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), when the method of partial oxidation of the tea leaves in processing was used to produce “Black Dragon” (“Wu-Liong” = “Black Dragon”) tea for the first time.
Zhengyan Shui Jin Gui Wuyi Yancha Oolong Tea @ Siam Tea Shop
Like a number of other Wuyi teas, we also owe this Shui Jin Gui to my good relationships with the Chen family, a Wuyi-local grower family. Accordingly, the tea comes from one of the family’s tea gardens at Liang Hua Peak (= “Lotus Peak”, Chinese 莲花 峰). This is within Wuyi’s “zhengyan” area, the core area for authentic Wuyi rock teas. Because only here is the rocky soil, from which tea not only has its name, but also its characteristic taste.
The common picking standard for the tea from these 40+ years old bushes is the 2+1 “royal standard”. This means that only one bud at a time with its two youngest leaves each qualify for picking. The ready-processed leaves show a medium level of oxidation. In order to bring out the taste and aroma of this special tea in the most harmonious way, they have gone through 3 consecutive roasting stages.
Shui Jin Gui tea bushes in Cindy Chen’s tea garden
Although Wuyi Yancha teas from different cultivars show similarities in taste, each variety boasts its own aroma and flavor profile. So does the Shui Jin Gui… In terms of taste, it is the intense sweet fruity notes that make up this tea. These unfold over the entire palate to a complex variety of tantalizing flavors. And reward the connoisseur with an exceptionally long lingering and intense finish on the taste buds.
Hand-picked and processed by the Chen family according to ancient Wuyi traditions, this Shui Jin Gui is not only an authentique Wuyi rock tea, but also a true artisan tea. This elevates it from the mass of alleged Wuyi rock oolong teas calling for attention with big names, whose criteria they fail to live up to.
Shui Jin Gui – Preparation
As with any oolong tea, there are basically two different approaches to preparing our Shui Jin Gui. On the one hand, this would be the preparation over a series of short infusions (<1 minute per infusion). This approach is often referred to as “Chinese” or “Gong Fu Cha“. In regard to dosing, this approach tends to use comparatively “generous” dosaging of up to 8 grams tea leaves on 100ml water.
As opposed to this, the “western” approach tends to condense the taste potential of a tea in just one single infusion. This, however, may steep longer (> 2 minutes) and gets on with a dosaging of 1-2g tea leaves per 100ml water.
At Siam Tea Shop, I like to suggest a combination of both approaches as a starting point for preparing an oolong tea. To this end, pour 200ml water of 85-90°C temperature over 5g of Shui Jin Gui tea leaves. Then let infuse for 2 minutes for a first infusion with rich taste and aroma. Ensuingly, explore this tea’s further potential and facetted flavor nuances in 2-3 subsequent infusions. To these, first apply similar, then slightly longer infusion periods.