Named after its legendary creator, a buddha with iron-coloured or perhaps rust-coloured skin, Tieluohan ('Iron Arhat') is one of the Si Da Ming Cong, or 'four famous (tea) bushes', and particularly known for its pear taste. But far from being simply fruity, the multiple roastings undergone by these leaves has given them an impressive array of flavours, emboldening the spiciness of black pepper, ginger, and a hint of herbal wintergreen, and mellowing the roasted flavour into gentle dulce de leche. All wrapped around a brothy body of blackberry or, yes, pear. But be warned! A strong steeping can bring out all the hidden intensity of its roasting—perhaps like the secret skill of a recluse monk.
Wuyi Yan Cha – the tea from the rocks
Wuyi Yan Cha, aka Wuyi Rock Tea or, more properly, Cliff Tea, is an ancient oolong tea (one of the six tea categories, halfway between green and black teas). Rock tea is produced in the northern Fujian province.
Wuyi Yan Cha are complex teas. The typical mineral savor shares the field with the strength from roasting and the delicate floral and fruity hints.
- ORIGIN: Dashuikeng, Wuyishan, Fujian, China
- MEANING: Iron wise man (tie luo han)
- CULTIVAR: Tieluohan
- HARVEST TIME: 1 May 2017
- TASTE: Pear, black pepper, dulce de leche
- ROASTING: Medium (baked four times)
Authentic Wuyi Yan Cha is produced in the Wuyi Mount region, a UNESCO natural heritage site. The dramatic gorges of the Nine Bend River are surrounded by a largely intact subtropical forest and smooth cliffs of black-brownish rocks. The tea plants grow in narrow valleys, next to the cliffs, in a mineral-rich soil.
Today Wuyi Yan Cha is one of the most valued teas in China. Because it has become a status symbol, many wealthy Chinese are willing to pay a fortune for it without even knowing how a proper Wuyi Yan Cha should taste. The result has been prices inflating to unjustified level and quality often sacrificed for quantity.
Unique to the Wuyi Yan Cha is a mineral savor coming from the soil and the surrounding cliffs. Being the oolong with the highest fire finish, fresh Yan Cha may as a result be strong and pungent. Sharpness and too-prominent astringency subside upon ageing. Premium high-fire Yan Cha tastes better after a few years of storage. Use a Yixing teapot to soften the tea, should it be too astringent for your palate.
The overall tasting profile is rich, complex, and deep. Depending on cultivar and environment, the mineral-roasted flavor is refined by floral, fruity, nutty or woody accents.