Wuyi Rock Tea, also known as Yancha, is also called “Wuyi Tea“. It is a collective term for a group of oolong teas grown on the rocky cliffs of the Wuyi Mountains in northern Fujian province, China. The main varieties include Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe), Shui Xian (Water Sprite), Qi Zhong (Rare Species), Rou Gui (Cinnamon), and Ming Cong (Famous Bush). Among them, Da Hong Pao is the most famous and highly regarded. Wuyi Rock Tea’s benefits are numerous. Believers attribute regular consumption of this tea to helping lower cholesterol levels, aiding digestion, and providing a refreshing and invigorating effect when consumed late at night.
Mountain Terroir and Wuyi Rock Tea Quality
Tea enthusiasts often emphasize the significance of the tea gardens in the production of Wuyi Rock Tea. These gardens, nestled within the rocky cliffs and valleys of the Wuyi Mountains, cultivate exceptional tea leaves with distinct characteristics. Regions like Huixiankeng, Niulankeng, and Dakengkou, located within the Wuyi Mountain Scenic Area, are renowned for their contribution to the exquisite flavor and aroma of Wuyi Rock Tea. Skilled artisans play a vital role in the tea-making process, employing techniques such as picking, withering, oxidation, rolling, roasting, and packaging. The result is a globally recognized tea with a rich history and cultural significance, embodying the craftsmanship and natural beauty of the Wuyi Mountains.
Differentiating between various mountainous regions is a challenging task. The Wuyi Mountain Scenic Area covers 70 square kilometers and is divided into the authentic rock tea region and the semi-rock tea region. Generally, the closer a tea garden is to the scenic area, the better the quality of the tea leaves.
The core tea gardens within the authentic rock tea region are referred to as “San Keng Liang Jian.” This includes Hui Yuan Keng, Niu Lan Keng, Da Keng Kou, Liu Xiang Jian, and Wu Yuan Jian. However, the quantity of tea produced from these core gardens is limited. For example, Niu Lan Keng tea garden, owned by local tea farmers, yields only a few hundred kilograms each year, and most of it does not enter the market.
Unique “Yan Yun” Flavor
Wuyi Rock Tea is famous for its unique flavor known as “Yan Yun” or “Rock Rhyme.” The special geological and climatic conditions of the Wuyi Mountains give rise to this distinctive flavor profile. Those who are familiar with Wuyi Rock Tea often describe its taste as fragrant, clear, sweet, and lively, showcasing the remarkable “Yan Yun.”
Wuyi Rock Tea Produce Craftsmanship
The exquisite craftsmanship involved in producing Wuyi Rock Tea is another reason for its acclaim. The traditional manufacturing process, which originated in the late Ming Dynasty and developed in the early Qing Dynasty, has been passed down for over a thousand years. The intricate production process consists of ten essential steps, including withering, shaking, fixing, rolling, initial roasting, sorting, and final roasting.
The critical step of “shaking” in the production process of Wuyi Rock Tea creates its distinctive appearance, flavor, and aroma. It involves carefully rolling the tea leaves in a sieve to form a spiral shape, allowing the leaves to collide and rub against each other. This process initiates oxidation and fermentation, promoting the development of the tea’s color, aroma, and taste.
Below is a demonstration of each step.
采摘 (Cǎizhāi) – Picking/plucking
萎凋 (Wēidiāo) – Withering
做青 (Zuòqīng) – Fixation/kill-green
杀青 (Shāqīng) – De-enzyming/kill-green
揉捻 (Róuniǎn) – Rolling/twisting
初焙 (Chūbèi) – Initial roasting
簸扇、凉索、拣剐 (Bǒshàn, Liángsuǒ, Jiǎn’gǔ) – Shaking/fanning, cooling/air-drying, sorting/plucking
复焙 (Fùbèi) – Final roasting
分筛 (Fēnshāi) – Grading/screening
归堆 (Guīduī) – Piling/resting
炖火 (Dùnhuǒ) – Slow baking
装箱 (Zhuāngxiāng) – Packaging/boxing
Appearance and Characteristics
Wuyi Rock Tea is characterized by its plump and tightly rolled tea leaves, often referred to as “Qing Ting Tou” or “Dragonfly Head.” After brewing, the tea exhibits a bright orange-yellow liquor with a consistent, shiny leaf base. The edges of the leaves may appear reddish or dotted with red, while the center exhibits a yellow-green color. The tea leaves provide a lasting flavor and can withstand multiple infusions.
Wuyi Rock Tea Health Benefits
Different teas are suitable for different individuals based on their constitution. It is important to consider one’s individual preferences and reactions when choosing teas. For instance, green tea, rich in catechins and caffeine, may be less suitable for those with weaker digestive systems, particularly when consumed on an empty stomach. Such individuals may prefer the warming effects of black tea or the addition of milk and sugar to their tea. Floral teas, like Wuyi Rock Tea, are popular among women, especially during premenstrual and menopausal periods, as they can help alleviate discomfort. Pu-erh tea, after fermentation, has a milder nature and is suitable for those who prefer meat-heavy diets.
Wuyi Rock Tea is known to have positive effects on cholesterol levels and digestion. Contrary to the belief that might cause internal heat, it is important to note that well-roasted Wuyi Rock Tea loses its heat properties over time and becomes gentle and mild.
Wuyi Rock Tea, with its unique terroir, craftsmanship, and health benefits, stands out as a prized tea variety. Its rich history, distinctive flavor, and cultural significance make it a favorite among tea enthusiasts worldwide.