Wuyi Rock Teas – Wuyi “Yan Cha” 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 “yan cha” 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 Yan Cha 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 have 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, are referred to as the “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.
click map of Wuyishan to enlarge
Our Tie Luo Han Wuyi Yancha Oolong Tea
Like a number of other Wuyi teas, we also owe our Tie Luo Han to my good relationships with the Chen family, a Wuyi-local grower family. The tea is always picked in spring, in a tea garden of the family near the village of Da Shui Keng, in Wuyishan’s Banyan “area. The Tie Luo Han tea plants in this tea garden have celebrated their 80th birthday in 2018. Accordingly, they can already be considered as “old” tea bushes.
Tie Luo Han Tea Bush in Cindy Chen’s tea garden in Da Shui Keng, Wuyishan
The picking complies with a picking standard of 1 + 2. This means that only one bud at a time is picked with its two youngest leaves each. The ready processed leaves show a medium level of oxidation. To bring out the taste and aroma of this particular tea in a harmonious way, they have gone through 3 consecutive roasting stages.
Although Wuyi Yan Cha teas from different cultivars show similarities in taste, each variety boasts its own aroma and flavor profile. So does the Tie Luo Han… In terms of taste, it is the intense sweet dry fruit notes that make up this tea. These unfold especially in the posterior 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, our Tie Luo Han is 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.
As with any oolong tea, there are basically two different approaches to preparing our Tie Luo Han. 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 5 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 4g of Tie Luo Han 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 1-3 subsequent infusions. To these, first apply similar, then slightly longer infusion periods.
Find more information about the producer of this tea and the Chen family’s tea gardens in Wuyishan in my pertaining blog article: