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 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 tea’. However, this title is also claimed by the Anxi region for its Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea. Now, which of the two regions is the rightful claimant of the title is a topic of ongoing discussion between scholars. Nonetheless, there is evidence that both lines of Oolong teas have spread from their respective place of origin to other parts of China. Besides Wuyishan and Anxi, most authentic Oolong teas come from Taiwan and Guangdong province.
Verbally, Shui Xian (also ‘Shui Hsien’, chin.: 水仙) 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. This suggests that the tea might indeed have been named after the flower.
Wuyi Rock (Yancha) Oolong Teas
“Yancha” or “rock oolong” refers to a group of Oolong teas coming from a delimited core region comes. Among them are, for example, the worldwide famous Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) and Rou Gui oolong teas. At this, the ‘Yancha‘ or ‘rock‘ properties come from the specific rocky soil Wuyishan, which is also responsible for these teas’ characteristic mineral character. Also defining Yancha Oolong teas is their specific processing method and the medium to high oxidation level. The latter is common for all types of rock Oolong tea. 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.
Our Spring Zhengyan Shui Xian
As the name already tells, our Spring Zhengyan Shui Xian Yancha Oolong Tea comes from Wuyishan’s core area for authentic Wuyi rock teas. There, the Chen family tends a range of tea gardens that have been in the family’s possession for 3 generations. Accordingly, our Shui Xian comes from a tea garden near Shui Lian Dong (水帘洞) that is known to tourists as “Water Curtain Cave“. For more information about the producer and their tea gardens, please also read our pertinent article in Siam Tee Blog:
Picking and Processing
In the Chen family’s tea factory, everything is hand work to the present day. At this, the artisan process stretches fro picking to all stages of the complex processing method for authentic Wuyi rock teas. At first, just like for any oolong tea, the fresh-picked tea leaves are left to wither for a while. During the wilting process, the leaves are manually shifted time and again. This takes place with some level of force, in order to break up the leaf surface. Part of the wilting and shifting takes place outdoor in the sun, another part in the half-shade of the factory hall.
After reaching the desired degree of oxidation – with only a master of this particular art being able to determine the optimal point – the tea leaves udnergo heating at high temperature for a short while in a wok pan. This serves to stop the oxidation process. Subsequently, the so fixated tea leaves are in small badges undergo a series of roasting runs over charcoal fire.
This is 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 Shui Xian tea leaves undergo manual rolling, bringing them into their characteristic long, slightly curled shape.
Appearance, Fragrance and Taste
The ready processed tea leaves are dark brown to black and exude a deeply sweet honey fragrance. The same fragrance comes from by the clear, dark amber colored infusion. In terms of taste, our Shui Xian captures with pleasant smoothness and a soft and complex malty taste. At this, sweetness and mineral taste unite in perfect harmony with the the name-giving high narcissus note. 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. Here, just like with lower quality Lapsang Souchong, an excessive roast and/or smoke note is to camouflage the low leaf quality.
As for preparing oolong teas in general, using a clay teapot is always a best recommendation. The optimal water temperature for the infusion of stronger roasted Oolong teas with a medium to high degree of oxidation is ca. 85°C. Accordingly, leave water to cool down for a short period after boiling. Regarding infusion time and number of infusions, there are two different basic standards for the preparation of oolong tea. One of these is the Chinese ‘Gong Fu Cha’ method, while the other one is the so-called western approach.
Gong Fu Cha
The Chinese Tea Ceremony (Gong Fu Cha) usually applies relatively high dosing (up to 10g / 250-350ml teapot) to oolong tea preparation. At this, very short infusion periods enable a sequence of infusions, whose exact number will depend on the potential of the used Oolong tea. This way, up to 10 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). Then, increase the infusion period again to up to 3 minutes and more, until the tea hits its limit.
The western preparation approach works with significantly lower dosing and longer infusion periods. Mostly, this approach goes for one single infusion only. For this, ca. 1g tea leaves / 100ml water infuse for 2-5 minutes, depending on the desired taste result.
Our preparation recommendation
Our preparation recommendation is a mix of both approaches. Accordingly, we recommend an infusion period of 2 minutes at a dosing of 2g tea leaves / 100ml water. This approach yields a full value first steep. Then, let initial follow-up steeps infuse some shorter, about 1 minute each for a second and third infusion. After that, increase infusion period to 2, respectively 3 minutes for a forth and fifth infusion. Only then, the taste potential of our Shui Xian Wuyi Yancha Oolong tea reaches its point of exhaustion.
With exposure to air, high oxidized Oolong teas stores well at dry conditions for at least 2-3 years without any significant loss of taste or quality. After that, their taste with time will gradually lose some of its edge. However, they won’t become unpalatable even after longer storage periods of 5 years and beyond.
Please note: for more information about Wuyishan and rock teas in general, please refer to our pertinent article at Siam Tea Blog:
Also, you might wanna try more Wuyi Rock Oolong Teas from Siam Tea Shop: