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Index of Wuyi Oolong Tea

wuyi oolong teaWu Yi oolong tea is the world’s most sought after oolong tea. The priceless Da Hong Pao is widely regarded as the King of Oolong.

Wu Yi Yan Cha or "Rock Tea","Cliff Tea" is a special subcategory of oolong tea grown in the nearby region of Wu Yi Shan City in northern Fujian Province. Wu Yi tea not a single tea variety, but refers collectively to the teas .

Wu Yi Shan is a UNSECO World Heritage site, internationally recognized and protected for its biological diversity and significance as an ancient cultural site.

A long time center of tea production, farmers in Wu Yi Shan developed the methods for making oolong tea around 1650. To the present, Wu Yi Shan’s oolong tea, known as “Yan Cha” or “Rock Tea” is considered by many to be the preeminent style of oolong tea.

History

Wu Yi Shan(Mt. Wuyi) has a long and glorious history of producing famous tea.

Song dynasty's poets Fan Zhongyan and Su Shi both alluded to its fame and tribute tea status as early as the 11th century.

Northern Fujian ascended to fame as the foremost tribute tea producing region during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) when the fields and factories of  the region were recognized as the producer of the nation’s best quality tea and hosted the epicenter of the government controlled tea industry. During the Song, all tea was essentially green tea that was compressed into cakes during its manufacture. The compressed tea from Wu Yi Shan was so sought after that it was renowned to be worth more than its weight in gold.

When the Mongolian Calvary lorded over China in the 14th century, an imperial tea garden was set up on Wu Yi Mountain to cater for the emperors.

The arrival of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD) forced Wu Yi’s craftsmen to change the way they made tea from the compressed form to the loose-leaf form we recognize today. With much difficulty in adapting to this new standard of production, Wu Yi Shan slowly retooled its infrastructure and began to make loose-leaf green tea, in an attempt to copy the technique from successful tea producers in Anhui. The producers of Wu Yi Shan, being unfamiliar with making pan fired green tea, inadvertently allowed their tea leaves oxidize. Their imperfect efforts at making loose leaf green tea sired the creation of partially oxidized oolong tea and fully oxidized black tea in Wu Yi Shan at the end of the Ming. Wu Yi Shan continues to produce the world most sought after oolong in the form of its famous Yan Cha.

According to William Ukers, who wrote All About Tea in 1935, Wuyi oolong tea was one of the first teas to be exported to Europe in the early 17th century.

Producing Area

More than any other famous tea, understanding Wu Yi Yan Cha is inextricable from examining the intricacies of its growing region.

Wu Yi Tea is called the Rock Tea because Wuyi Mountain is a large volcanic fault structure that consists mainly of vertical cliffs, deep gorges and cave systems.

The secret of Wuyi tea lies in its geographical position-Wuyi Mountain

Situated in the Fujian Province of Southern China, it has an average elevation of 650 metes above sea level.

The landscape is characterized by winding river valleys flanked by dome-shaped cliffs and cave systems.

The nine-bend river (Jiuqu Xi) meanders in a deep gorge among these hills.

It is famous for its 36 peaks and 99 crags, with tea being cultivated in each crag.

Wuyi Mountain is a mecca for biologists.

Scientists have been busy conducting field research there since 1873. They have identified nearly 4,000 plant species and 5,000 animal species. Even when the Scottish Spy, Robert Fortune, smuggled the first tea bushes out China, he traveled to Wu Yi Shan to take his samples.

Wuyi tea plants even have their own name - Var Bohea. It is widely regarded as the richest depository of tea varieties in the world.

Its biodiversity and rich history received recognitions in 1999 when it entered the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites.

Throughout its history spanning dynasties, tea scholars have been attracted to the biologically diverse and unique climate of Wu Yi Shan.Wu Yi Shan’s climate offers a number of unique benefits to growing tea, most notably its mineral soil eroded from the volcanic rock faces. A layer of soft red soil lies about 10-40 cm thick on the ground of Wu Yi’s interior. This is the rich terrior that endows the characteristic flavor of Wu Yi’s tea. In Chinese, this distinctive flavor is expressed as “Yan Yun,” lit. “rock rhyme.”

The temperature averages 18C though the year, with a short frost time that won’t kill tea plants. Precipitation is abundant and the region is almost always in a shroud of fog. The humid conditions (80% humidity on average) keeps the soil moist and the bushes healthy. Besides the humidity, the cliffs are continually weeping its minerals into the soil.

Even though Wu Yi Shan’s elevation averages lower (650M) than other high quality tea growing regions, its ideal temperature, soil and weather more than compensates. Hundreds of big rocks, some the size of a small mountain, are spread though the area. There are ninety-nine large rock faces in the center of Wu Yi mountain, the Zheng Yan Cha growing area, alone. The Zheng Yan Cha growing region  itself is defined by two rivers encircling the heart of the region.

Manufacturing Process

A standard pick is one bud with 3 or 4 leaves, when the buds at the top of a bush reach half the size of a mature leaf.

Harvesting can take place 3 times a year in spring, summer and autumn.

Leaf selection is the most important determinant of quality. Another 5 steps follow:

Withering (Weidiao)

Freshly picked leaves are left in the sun to dry from 0.5 to 2 hours to remove moisture, then moved indoors to cool.

Bruising (Zhuoqing or Yaoqing)

Shake and rub using hands or machines to bruise the surface of the leaves. This exposes tea juices to air and enhances the oxidation process.

Fixation (Shaqing)

Pan-fry leaves at high heat for a short period of time to kill enzymes and stop the oxidation process.

Rolling (Rounian)

Roll the leaves to shape them into the desired form. The roasting-rolling process is then repeated a second time to further stimulate the flavors.

Baking (Hongbei)

Apply initial high heat for 10 to 15 minutes to dry. Then apply low heat for 1 to 2 hours to increase the floral aroma and mellow taste.

More information about oolong tea manufacturing click here.

Grading

Wuyi oolong tea can be graded according to where it is grown:

Zheng Yan-"Center rock tea."

The soil consists solely of weathered rock soil. The soil composition changes out side of this region creating a noticeably different flavor from tea grown inside of it.

Ban Yan-"Half rock tea."

On the edge and in the surrounding foot hills of the Zheng Yan area. The essential qualities of  yan cha flavor are less apparent than tea grown in Zheng Yan but are still recognizable. Besides growing the famous cultivers, this is the place where many not so famous teas, but still mysterious and special in their own right are grown, like Shui Xian and Ba Xian.

Zhou Cha-"River bank tea."

Tea grown near the banks of Zhou and Huangbo Rivers. The quality is considered to be half that of Zheng Yan teas.

Outside the Mountain

The highest quality tea is Zhengyan Cha. It grows in the middle of Crags in what's called the "Three Valleys and Two Ravines".

Only Zhengyan Cha has the famous Rock-like flavors (Yanyun). The next grade Banyan Cha has much weaker Yanyun.

Varieties

In the last 1000 years, hundreds of varieties of tea bushes have been identified as growing in Wu Yi Shan. Out of these hundreds of bushes, Da Hong Pao, Tie Luo Han, Bai Ji Guan, Shui Jin Gui are considered the Four Famous Wu Yi oolongs or “The Four Great Bushes”. Of the four, Da Hong Pao is unquestionably the most famous. They will never be truly common products, at least the tea grown inside the mountain range; there are a lot of areas in the surrounding mountains that are producing large quantities of these cultivars. Certainly the most common of the rock oolongs is Rou Gui, a cultivar that some locals rank as better than the more famous teas.

Wuyi tea plant varieties is a complicated topic.

It was said that one crag (Huiwan Yan) has as many as 830 named varieties.

Imagine, there are 99 famous crags in the whole of Wuyi Mountain, how many varieties are there in total?

For a thousand or more years, hundreds and thousands of tea plants were selected from the middle of the Mountain for cultivation. These tea bushes are known as Dancong Qizhong.

The best among them are known as Mingcong Qizhong or Famous Tea Bush, Special Cultivar.

Da Hong Pao, Tie Luo Han, Bai Ji Guan, Shui Jin Gui are considered the Four Famous Wu Yi oolongs,“The Four Great Bushes”..

The most renowned of the Famous Tea Bush is the Dahongpao (Big Red Robe). What are considered to be the mother bushes of Da Hong Pao still live in the cliffs of Wu Yi Shan, and are now over 350 years old. Since Wu Yi shan has so many bush types, the famous teas are always produced in small quantities.

Next come the Famous Four,“The Four Great Bushes”:

Dà Hóng Páo (大红袍)

Literally: Big Red Robe, a highly prized tea and a Sì Dà Míng Cōng (四大名樅, literally: The Four Great Bushes). This tea is also one of the two oolongs that make it to the list of Chinese famous teas.

Shuǐ Jīn Guī (水金亀)

Literally: Golden Water Turtle, Golden Turtle, a Si Da Ming Cong.

Tiě Luóhàn (鉄羅漢)

Literally: Iron Arhat, Iron Monk, a Si Da Ming Cong tea

Bái Jī Guān (白鸡冠)

Literally: White Cockscomb,White Rooster, a Si Da Ming Cong tea. A light tea with light, yellowish leaves.

Ban Tian Yao (半天鹞,半天腰)

Literally: The Hawk in the Sky, Middle Sky, this cultivar was once belong to the famous bushes but gradually  faded out of sight.

The other two major families of Wuyi tea are the Rougui and Shuixian.

Ròu Guì (肉桂)

Literally: Cinnamon, a dark tea with a spicy aroma.

Shuǐ Xiān (水仙)

Literally: Water Sprite or Narcissus, a very dark tea, often grown elsewhere.

These two types of tea, together with the Dahongpao, make up the bulk of the production of modern Wuyi tea.

Characteristics

Wuyi tea is one of China's 10 famous teas. It belongs to a family of teas from northern Fujian Province called Mingbei Oolong.

The tea leaves in this family are long and curly rather than ball-shaped, and are more oxidized and roasted than their southern cousin Tieguanyin.

It has an unique taste called Rock Rhyme (Yanyun), so called because of the high mineral content of Wuyi Mountain.

In China, the unique flavor is often described as "crag bone floral fragrance".

The body is mellow with an outstanding orchid fragrance. The aftertaste is said to be long lasting and rock-like.

Yan Yun-  “Rock Rhyme” – The signature character of Wu Yi rock oolong. A combination of not only a tea’s flavor but its fragrance, color, and quality of liquor. This characteristic is a product of the special environment and mineral soil of Wu Yi Shan. The fundamental understanding of a Rock oolong tea’s quality is the degree to which it exhibits “Yan Yun.” The qualities of Yan Yun are further rarefied into five terms:

* Huo 活 - “activity, vibrancy.”

* Gan 甘 - “sweetness” – Emerging in the back of your throat and sides of your mouth, esp. a sweet aftertaste.

* Qing 清 - “purity” - Clean clear translucent liquor.

* Xiang 香 - Fragrance. Gentle, muted, arrives slowly, not sharp, deep. Not overwhelming, not mawkish, or too perfumed.

* Yan Gu – “rock bones” -The tea has such depth of flavor it’s like you’re eating some kind of meat.

 

Health Benefits

The benefits of drinking Wu-Yi Tea has been known to help with:

Weight Loss

Cholesterol

Energy and Metabolism

Prevention of heart disease and strokes

Fighting the aging process

Preventing Cancer and help with infections

Promoting healthy bones and skin

Reducing the effects stress has on the body

Reduce the effects of hypertension

Reduce the effects of Type II Diabetes.

Wu Yi Tea's Natural Anti-Aging Process

Oolong tea has a substance called Polyphenol, which is a natural antioxidant that comes in the tea. Many signs of aging include dark spots, wrinkled skin, roughness and related blemishes-people have reported a decrease of these symptoms with regular drinking of wu long tea. Polyphenols are powerful compounds that have antioxidant abilities that have been reported to reversed environmental effects of aging. While it won't literally make you stop aging, it can reverse it's toll or slow the process. A polyphenal that aids in this process is called Catechins. It destroys free radicals in your body that increases aging.

Free radicals are caused by things like pollution, smoke, eating, drugs, and even sunlight exposure. Drinking wu yi tea regularly can help reverse the effect from these environmental factors.

Another Polyphenol in Oolong tea is called EGCG, which stands fro Epigallocatenchin gallete. It's like vitamin C or E but much more strong. This also aids in destroying free radicals throughout the entire body. Other antioxidants in the tea include thearubigin and theaflavin that aid in the oxidization process.

Typically, a cup of authentic wu yi tea hs between 20 and 40 mg of polyphenols. This is more than most vegitabls that are considered high on antioxidants. There are a few varieties of Oolong tea, but most of them have the same health and weight loss benefits that aid in preventing or reversing aiging.

Wu Yi Tea Weight Loss

If you're looking for a completely natural, safe way to lose weight, you should consider drinking Wu-Yi tea. Many people from China and other Asian countries have been using the tea for weight management and other health benefits for centuries. Drinking the tea rarely does little to help, but drinking it regularly throughout the day can have a dramatic effect on your health and weight.

How it works is this: a substance called Polyphenol is in wu yi tea. What this substance does it activate an enzyme that dissolves triglycerides. All oolong tea has this, as well as green and black tea. However, Oolong tea has a higher dose of it to increase weight loss more than green tea. The result is weight loss and a boosted metabolism.

A 2003 study was published in the Journal of Medical investigation. it was titled "Oolong Tea Increases Energy Metabolism in Japanese Females." The study showed that women who drank wu yi tea had a higher rate of weight loss. In the study there was a group of 120 Japanese woman who drank oolong tea for six weeks. Another group drank green tea and another group drank water. The study found that women who drank wu yi tea directly after a meal had 10% more energy. Green tea increases energy by 4% and water did not increase energy at all.

Steeping

The most common way to make wu long tea (also spelled oolong tea or oolong tea) is Gong Fu style. Making wu long tea this way requires a small earthenware teapot. The wu long is served in small cups, and the same oolong tea leaves can be brewed many times.

Making tea gong fu style is ideal for Taiwan wu long tea. The short brewing time allows the sweet flavor of the wu long tea to come out without excess caffeine or tannin. Even those who are sensitive to caffeine can drink this type of tea all evening and still get a good nightos sleep.

Water

When making tea of any sort high quality water is essential. This is especially true for Taiwan wu long tea because of the subtle flavors that are revealed through proper brewing techniques.

The best water for making wu long tea is spring water. If you donot have access to spring water, you can improve tap water by letting the chlorine escape before making the tea. This is done by letting the water sit uncovered for 24 hours. Chlorine can also be removed by boiling the water for 5 minutes in an uncovered pot, but this method is not recommended for wu long tea because it makes the water flat.

Temperature

Water for making wu long tea should be just below the boiling point about 85-95 degrees Celsius or 185-205 degrees Fahrenheit. Rather than measuring the temperature, try removing it from the heat when the large bubbles are just starting to form.

Utensils

A typical Taiwanese wu long tea set consists of an unglazed clay teapot, a serving pitcher, a strainer, several small ceramic tea cups, a scoop for putting the wu long leaves in the pot, and a tray to capture water. Tea towels can be useful for drying the bottom of cups before they are served, and prongs are used to remove used wu long tea leaves from the teapot.

Almost every household in Taiwan has this type of wu long tea set. The tray can be a simple round design made from stainless steel or an ornate decorative object made from carved wood or stone. Decorative trays have a drainpipe which leads to a small bucket underneath. Decorative trays for making oolong tea are prominently displayed and may even be integrated into a table top.

Steps

When the water has reached the correct temperature, a small amount is used to rinse the teapot and cups. wu long tea is then measured into the teapot usually to about 1/4 or 1/3 of the volume of the teapot. The wu long tea leaves are not handled a scoop is used to put the tea into the teapot.

The teapot is filled about half-way with hot water. This first infusion is not for drinking it allows the wu long leaves to pawakenq and start to unfurl. It also removes excess dust from the tea leaves.

The teapot is swirled around to distribute the water evenly through the tea leaves and then poured out into the serving pitcher after about 10 seconds. The pot is immediately filled again for the first drinking infusion.

As the tea is steeping the liquid from the serving pitcher is poured into the cups to heat them up. This water is then poured over the tea pot to draw steam through the hole.

The first steep is quite short 30 to 50 seconds depending on the type and quality of the oolong. Making wu long tea is a delicate art and finding the appropriate balance between volume, temperature, and steeping time requires knowledge of the tea leaves. If the first steep is too strong or too weak, you can adjust the brewing time for subsequent steeps.

The wu long is poured through the strainer from the teapot to the serving pitcher and then to the individual cups. The cups are arranged next to each other and the pouring is done in a continuous circular motion. This allows each cup to receive wu long tea which is identical in taste and color.

The bottom of the cups are wet from the tray and the spillage so they should be briefly placed on the tea towel before serving.

After pouring the wu long tea the teapot can be immediately filled with hot water for the subsequent brew. Each brewing time can be slightly longer than the previous.

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