The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Oolong - China's Most Revered Tea
Wulong Cha, the original name given to oolong tea has been highly prized in
China for centuries (China's oolong teas also go by Blue Teas, and Ching Cha).
Wulong translates to Dark or Black Dragon, once the title given to the large,
bulky tea leaves from the Wuyi Shan region of China located in
Fujian Province.
Wuyi Shan is the original
home of Chinese oolongs.
Each of the famous teas are named after the
subspecies of bush from which the leaf is
plucked, and unlike
green teas that begin
production in early March,
oolong teas start
in May, giving the larger leaves time for
sufficient growth.

The Wuyi Shan in northwestern Fujian is a
rocky area with winding rivers, lush vegeta-
tion and steep roads hugging the mountain-
side.  Found high atop the rocky limestone
peaks and sheer cliffs are "rock" or "cliff"
teas, named so because of the thin layer of
rocky soil in which they grow.  Heavily shaded
atop the peaks by clouds and mist, the tea
bushes grow with only a few hours of sunlight each day.

Although the conditions are harsh, the rock teas thrive, growing amid  rocks
and crumbling limestone cliffs that provide the tea plants with plenty of vital
nutrients and minerals, forming the basis of the unique flavor profile rock or
cliff oolongs are famous for, and why they are considered to be some of the
healthiest teas to drink, associated with health and vitality for a thousand
years or more.
                    
Together with clean, healthy air, and crisp, cool, pure mountain water, Wuyi
Shan provides a unique growing condition, producing tea virtually impossible
to copy or duplicate anywhere else in the world.

The Wuyi Shan region has gone untouched for
centuries, and because the area is small - 35
to 40 square miles, tea production can't in-
crease, making the tea produced there pre-
cious and rare.  Indeed, demand far exceeds
supply for the spectacular Wuyi Shan rock or
cliff oolong teas.

The rock teas grown within the Wuyi Shan
origin-specific region are called Ming Yan teas,
while those teas grown outside the designat-
ed region are called Dan Yan teas.

Oolong teas are partially oxidized, anywhere
from 10% to 80%, depending on the style and
preferences of the region where it's produced.
With such a broad range of oxidation, the number of styles and flavors is vast, which is one of
the draws of oolongs.   

                                               The lighter, less oxidized oolongs are more contemporary in style
                                               and tend toward the sweeter and fruitier flavors, while the more
                                               traditional method of roasting is more heavily oxidized, richer and
                                               toastier, bringing out the deeper flavor profile.

                                               Fujian Province is divided into a northern and southern region.
                                               Northern Fujian or Min Bei produces oolongs which can be flat leaf
                                               styles, open leaf, twisted leaf, or slightly folded leaf styles, and Si
                                               Da Ming Cong - Wuyi Shan rock cliff oolongs.  

          These Si Da Ming Cong oolong teas are made from the four most famous Camellia sinen-
          sis bush varietals in the Wuyi Shan.  The bushes are single-trunk oolongs with one cen
          tral trunk with just a few branches that bear a smaller quantity of leaves, versus the
          smaller, many branched bushes bearing a large quantity of smaller leaves.  Some
          examples are:

                        Bai Ji Guan (White Cockscomb)
                        Da Hong Pao (Royal Red Robe)
                        Shui Jin Gui (Golden Water Turtle)
                        and Tie Luo Han (Iron Arhat)

          From southern Fujian Province or Min Nan, comes Anxi Se Zhong and
          Anxi Tieguanyin, two very different types of oolong teas produced in
          the Anxi region, each with its own unique style.

          Se Zhong refers to teas which are
blended using the leaves of various types of local tea
          bushes.  Some of the popular Se Zhong oolongs are Se Zhong Mao Xie (or Hairy Crab),
          so named because of the fine hairs that grow on the backside of the leaves, which look   
          like the stiff white hairs on the local freshwater crabs, known as "hairy crabs."  Coinci-
          dentally, the last fall plucking of Hairy Crab oolong tea, coincides with the beloved Chin-    
          ese hairy crabs, coming to market.

                                                             Tou Tian Xiang (or Imperial Gold) is a ball-shaped, rolled
                                                             oolong, a bit more oxidized than Hairy Crab, but still light
                                                             and floral.  Its name means "fragrance throughout the
                                                             sky," and its fragrance of ripe melon, lilies, and honey
                                                             rings true to its name.

                                                             Some other Se Zhong oolongs are:  Huang Jing Gui (or
                                                             Golden Osmanthus), Qi Lan (or Orchid Oolong), and Se
                                                             Zhong Shui Xian or Shui Xian (also called Water Sprite).
Anxi Tieguanyin is one of China's most famous teas and a perfect example of what a Chinese
oolong should be.  Tieguanyin is made from tea bush cultivars that are local to Anxi.  There are
three main styles of Tieguanyin oolong:

1.   Clear and fragrant Tieguanyin - fired at a lower temperature for less time, resulting in a mild
flavored, fragrant tea reminiscent of orchids (lan).

2.  Traditional Tieguanyin - darker, richer, and toasty with what the Chinese call gan - sweetness,
with no bitterness or astringency.

3.  Wild Tieguanyin - plucked from wild tea plants growing on rocky hillsides in and near the village
of Xiping, it is fruity and aromatic.

                               Tieguanyin or Tea of the Iron Goddess of Mercy (also known as Red Heart Goddess) is a
                               Chinese named after Kuan Yin or Guan Yin, the only female deity, known as the Goddess of
                               Mercy and believed to be the female incarnation of the many-armed compassion Buddha,
                               Avalokitesvara.

                               Guandong Province, the modern day name for Canton, is home to Fenghuang Dan Cong
                               (Phoenix Oolong), also known as Fonghuang Tan-Chung.  This oolong is made from large
                               single leaves and classified as a single trunk oolong.  Once an imperial tribute tea, it is now
                               classified as one of China's Famous Teas.

                               It's a refreshingly sweet and complex oolong, with tiny white Yulan blossoms sometimes used to
scent the tea.  Some other rock oolongs you might enjoy if you run across them are:

  • Roi Gui (Cinnamon Tea) subtly sweet and spicy, with the aroma of cassia, a cinnamon-like bark.
  • Shi Ru Xiang (Melted Minerals)
  • Golden Xuan
  • and Gingseng Oolong - a flavored oolong, lightly oxidized, and blended with powdered ginseng.  
  Aromatic and sweet, it's refreshing, revitalizing, and an uplifting tea that stimulates the mind and body.

Don't forget to stop by and visit our page on the
processing of oolong tea and how it is made.  And to learn more
about teas from China, visit our
Teas of China, and Black Teas of China, and Green Teas of China.  Enjoy.
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