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08 Dec 2015
Teas from the region of Wuyi is one of the most well known in history, hailing back to 479 AD and probably earlier, recorded as highly regarded in the Tang Dynasty era of ancient China, and throughout the next 1500 years, continued to flourish. Today, these teas are not only a tribute to the Chinese government, commanding some of the highest auction prices in the country- they are also teas of status for the consumer. As a result, knock-offs and inauthentic ‘Wuyi’ teas flood the market. Understanding the characteristics and taste of the teas unique to Wuyi will help you spot the difference between authentic teas and imposters.
Wuyi Shan (Mountain) is today a UNESCO World Heritage site, its environment is pristine and its natural resources, like its rivers, water falls, hills and trees, animal and flora collections, are not only intact, but given priority in this region. It is a remarkable departure from many of the tourist areas or even other tea mountains, because the locals are extremely conscientious about any manner of pollution. I can personally say, Wuyi Shan area is the cleanest region for tea in the entire country. The 4 surviving mother bushes, called Big Red Robe, or ‘Dahongpao’, are not available to the general public of course, but its second to 5th generation progeny trees can be harvested and purchased at relatively high prices. We usually get in a limited, connoisseur grade 2nd generation Big Red Robe each year.
The uniqueness of the oolong teas from this region are manyfold, but one big difference is that varietal type: Wuyi tea plants are arbor (tree) type, with deep, strong roots, and very large leaves. In addition to varietal, the trees grow on 10 cm of soil that cover the soft white rocks ubiquitous to the topography of Wuyi, The oolongs require high heat to wither and dry, but must be handled with careful attention to breakage during processing- any leaf breakage is not acceptable for such high quality oolongs. The result is a labor intensive, time consuming, careful use of charcoal heat, particularly at the final, one month long stage of baking. Wuyi oolongs are dark, with twist leaves, and that deep, caramel honey and savory biscuit body, full of nuts and hints of heat.
This year, our prized selection include the less expensive old trees we call the Old Grove Shuixian, grown at the mountain base, to the limited quantity, top of the mountain varietals like Half Way Sky and Water Golden Turtle. On the bucket list of must try teas, all three of them top the list. Click the links below to order and taste them for yourself!