Wuyi Rock teas have always been among our favorite ones, for their complex flavor and mineral aroma. Produced in northern Fujian province, they encompass a wide group of traditional oolongs. The Wuyi Mountains are one of the classic areas for tea growing. They probably have thousand of years of tea growing history, and the knowledge gets still passed on from generation to generation. Also known as Yan Cha—teas of the big rocks—these particular teas can be described as full-bodied, mineral and roasted. In this article we compare two different Wuyi Rock teas, the famous and roasted Da Hong Pao against the floral and light Huang Mei Gui. The floral taste of Huang Mei Gui has to do with the particular variety of tea plant and how the tea leaves are treated in the production, typically with high fire and vigorously swift handling of the leaves.
Steeped leaves: Huang Mei Gui on the left, the darker Da Hong Pao on the right.
We steep both Da Hong Pao and Huang Mei Gui teas four times using a 100ml gaiwan. We don't taste them side by side, but rather prefer to go deeper on details for each one. We first try starting off with the milder Huang Mei Gui before switching to the roasted Da Hong Pao. We use a pretty generous amount of leaves, approximately 6 grams.
Huang Mei Gui in the gaiwan.
Huang Mei Gui means Yellow Rose and it is characterized by appealing hints of fruits and flowers. The leaves are roasted at low temperature in order to avoid covering their excellent floral fragrance. As usual, we warm up the gaiwan, and put the leaves into the cup, we cover with the lid and shake it to let the essential oils emanate their fragrance. Smoked notes come out and the smell reminds us of mixed berries, with a preponderance of blueberry. The taste from the first steeping is quite strong and roasted, slightly bitter but with an outstanding hint of citrus flavor recalling fruits like orange, that slowly shifts towards a pleasant scent of jasmine. The second and third infusions keep expectations, though they are marked by a light sensation of astringency. The last one steep is the most delicate, still lightly fragrant and buttery, with a sensation of that white flower surfaced on the first steeping. Huang Mei Gui is an aromatic tea well suited for the end of winter. It gently shifts the mind towards the forthcoming spring.
Oolong teas are partially oxidited (dark areas on the leaves).
"Huang Mei Gui is an aromatic tea well suited for the end of winter. It gently shifts the mind towards the forthcoming spring"
Da Hong Pao shows its common prune-brown leaves. From its appearance, we know it is going to be an excellent tea. Da Hong Pao is a famous but often faked oolong tea, that many people know with its English name Big Red Robe. The Nannuoshan’s Da Hong Pao is a very high quality tea, with a distinguishing and complex long lasting taste, fragrant notes and warm properties. This Da Hong Pao is made from Qi Dan, one of the two famous varieties cuts from the original mother trees.
Smoked notes stand out, since it is baked three times over wood ashes for a total of 30 hours, so quite long! The smell reminds us of melon with sweet notes of lychee and chestnut on the background.The first steeping reveals all its solid structure in the body, with roasted notes of ripe fruits and a predominant and stimulating bitterness.
"The smell of Da Hong Pao reminds us of melon with sweet notes of lychee and chestnut on the background"
The second steep is more delicate, and the mouthfeel is clean and less astringent, with the typical raw honey sweetness balanced by the mineral texture. Structure and lingering aftertaste are still present in the third and fourth infusions, making the tasting of this Da Hong Pao an excellent tea for an outstanding experience.
Leaves of Da Hong Pao, very dark because of the heavy roasting.
Written by Fabio and Pierluigi