Wuyi rock tea belongs to the category of Oolong tea, regarded as semi-fermented green tea. Its green leaves have reddish edges in an alluring form: dark orange with yellow brightness; the colour of the tea liquor is like agate, smooth and mellow with a delicious smoky fragrance that bring about a sweet lingering aftertaste. Possessing the mellowness of red tea as well as the fragrance of green tea, Wuyi rock tea contains the `vibrancy, sweetness, clearness and fragrance' of the treasures of tea.

Wuyi rock tea is only produced in Wuyi mountain, located in the northern mountainous region of Fujian province. The valleys are deep with many adjoining peaks surrounding streams. The weather is moderate, with warm winters, cool summers and sufficient rainfall. Such a blessed natural environment has provided a superior condition for the nurturing and growth of the extraordinary quality of Wuyi rock tea. Wuyi mountain's geology is made up of red rock layers, steep mountain walls and deep giant valleys, with tea growing on the entire mountain area. Tea farmers use the gaps in the rocks and the cracks between the stones, to create a `bonsai' style tea garden, resulting in a very unique landscape.

There are many varieties of Wuyi rock tea. From the olden days until now, there are about 1,000 more varieties of rock teas - thus quite complex. Over time, the types of Wuyi rock tea have been categorized according to the place of origin, the strain and quality. The strains are classified into `Mingcong', `Pinzhong'and `Chizhong'. The top-graded and high-quality `Mingcong' is the best of rock teas. Within the `Mingcong' category, are other teas whose names are derived from their respective unique characteristics. The top four teas are: `Mingcong', namely DaHongPao (Emperoro Tea), Baijiguan (White Rooster), Tielohan (Iron Monk) and Suijingui (Golden Turtle) - all of which are the finest of Wuyi rock teas.

The most well known among them has to be DaHongPao. DaHongPao originated from Jiulongzai of Wuyi mountain. According to legend, Qing's Emperor Kangxi fell ill while making a trip to the South because he was unaccustomed to the local environment. Unable to get out of bed, his illness could not be cured even after ingesting medical prescriptions from top doctors and physicians. Then, someone gave a packet of Wuyi mountain's tea leaves to the emperor. After drinking it, he recovered unexpectedly. When Emperor Kangxi found out that this tea with miraculous healing properties came from Wuyi mountain, he immediately took off his red robe, sent someone to take the robe to Wuyi mountain and put it on a tea tree, as a mark of thanks and appreciation. The name `DaHongPao' (Great Red Robe) thus came from such. Another legend says that since this tea plant grows on tall and steep cliffs and could not be picked, some monks trained monkeys to wear red robes while harvesting them. The quality of `DaHongPao' is exceptional - mellow, sweet, clear and orange in colour - and its leaves can be made into a bucket of tea liquor. Even after seven infusions, the tea retains its distinctive fragrance. No wonder it is shrouded in mystery.

In terms of physical outlook, Wuyi rock tea is elongated in shape. It belongs to the darker fermented type in the family of semi-fermented tea. The rock tea tastes mellow and rich. Its outstanding characteristic is its rock-like floral fragrance. The original taste of Wuyi rock tea is 'rock-like', while the smell is like floral fragrance. These characteristics offer the tea drinker an extraordinarily 'fragrant, clear, sweet and vivid' experience. Combining the green tea's 'fresh fragrance' with the 'ripe fragrance' of red tea, its aroma is rich like an orchid - fresh, serene and lasting. Its clearness refers to the deep orange yellow hue of the tea liquor, bright and transparent. The taste is smooth and clear, rich and mellow and without any overwhelming odour. Sweetness refers to the delicious lingering aftermath; even when the tea liquor is concentrated it leaves no bitter aftertaste. Vibrancy is the spiritual connection of drinking Wuyi rock tea. The ritual stimulates the senses of sight, smell, taste and touch and stirs the spiritual feelings of the drinker, a marvelous experience indeed.

Wuyi rock tea is judged on two factors: fragrance and taste. Superior rock tea must fulfill the following criteria:
1) Shape: quality and weighty, the tea leaves must be average in length and elongated, compact and fine.
2) Colour: must be bright brownish-green in colour, commonly known as `bao' (treasure) colour. On the veins of the leaves, there should be small white spots on the surface; this trait indicates that the rolled tea leaves will be suitable for fire-drying.
3) Fragrance: Wuyi rock tea is a semi-fermented tea, and to release a superior aroma, it must possess the fresh fragrance of green tea as well as the mature fragrance of red tea. Without this lasting fragrance, it cannot be considered a superior product.
4) Tea liquor colour: Rock tea liquor is usually deep orange-yellow, clear and bright. Even after the third and fourth infusion, the colour of the drink should not fade.
5) Taste: when drunk, the best rock tea should emit a deep flavour, giving a smooth, vibrant feeling. Initially it may have the plain tea's bitterness, but after a while it gives way to a sweet and delicious taste. The quality of rock tea depends almost entirely on the fragrance and the mellowness of its taste.
6) Number of infusions: The tea is only considered good when the fragrance is retained even after the tea leaves have been steeped five or more times. With the best tea, the fragrance is still discernible even after eight infusions.
7) Residual leaves: Good tea leaves should easily open up when steeped in boiling water, they should be soft and the residue should have a tint of silvery red. The center of the leaf is green in colour; the leaves are clear light green, with slight yellowish shade. They are therefore known as `green leaves with red edges'.





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