Wuyi Yancha – The Cliff Teas of Mt Wuyi


If you stumbled across this article hoping to read more about the miracle weight-loss drug, you should give this article a miss. This is about the ‘REAL’ Wuyi Yancha, the teas that are grown on the cliffs of Mt Wuyi, not some over-hyped miracle drug- not that Wuyi Teas are not deserving of all the hype in the world.

Wuyi Cliff Teas are basically Oolong teas grown in the area of Mt Wuyi or Wuyishan, located in the North of Fujian province.

By far the most famous of all Wuyi Cliff Teas is Da Hong Pao- the Big Red Robe or Big Scarlet Robe. So much so that its status was elevated from being one of the Four Famous Trees to the Foremost of the Famous Trees. In fact, Da Hong Pao became a phrase to describe Wuyi Cliff Teas- i.e. you could refer to Wuyi Rougui. Iron Arhat, Golden Turtle etc as Da Hong Pao-s. So don’t be surprised when you see a box of Wuyi Rougui have the words Da Hong Pao and Wuyi Rougui appearing.

The ‘authentic’ Da Hong Pao though, refers to the 3 trees (later 6) from which thousands were spawned using asexual plant propagation. This results in there being a wide spectrum in the grade of Da Hong Paos being sold with the 3 Pits and 2 Gullies fetching a premium. As for the original 6 trees, it is out of the reach of the common man- in 2002 20g of Dahongpao fetched RMB 180,000 for what amounted to approximately 3 servings.

And its not just a matter of money- it has only appeared for public auction 3 times (1998, 2002, 2004)- with an annual harvest of just over 100g, it is usually reserved for the top echelons of the ruling party- not unlike ancient times when the harvest was reserved as tribute for the Emperor. So if anyone tells you they are offering you the ‘original’ Dahongpao, unless the person is Hu Jintao or Wen Jiabao, the credibility goes right out the window.

The next on the list is the White Cockscomb, unquestionably the next most well-known Wuyi Yancha. In fact, it has a longer history than the Da Hong Pao.

Legend has it that there was a tea farmer who brought a rooster as a gift for his father-in-law’s birthday celebration. On his way there, the heat drove him to rest under the shade of a tree and he casually let the rooster down. Suddenly, he saw the rooster let out a cry of pain and fell dead beside the tea tree. A centipede had crawled away, ostensibly the culprit.

Disheartened, the farmer had no choice but to bury the rooster- underneath the tree no less. When he passed by the tree sometime later, he discovered the tree had grown taller than the surroundings and the leaves have turned from green to a pale green- almost white shade. He took some leaves to brew and was blown away by how awesome the tea tasted and so the popularity of the tea grew.

That tale is almost certainly a tall one but there is no denying the unique taste and look of the White Cockscomb. It is also one of the most expensive teas around for its limited supply.

The other 3 trees are the Iron Arhat, Golden Turtle and Half Sky Demon with the last one being the eventual replacement of Da Hong Pao.

By no means do these 5 teas make up all the Cliff Teas, there is still Unknown Spring, Rock Milk,Old Handsome Brow, Narcissus, Rougui or Cinnamon and lesser known types like Mei Lan Xiang, Hong Mei Xiang, Jin Liu Tiao and Jin Shuo Si.

The Cliffs of Mt Wuyi and its rich mineral soils make this an unmatched breeding ground for the finest teas of the world. Coupled with the fact that this was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1999, Mt Wuyi is unspoiled and maintained in its natural state- ideal for the tea trees.

In fact, state regulation prohibits new trees from being planted in Mt Wuyi to maintain the natural habitat for the flora and fauna of the region. Hence Wuyi teas are limited in supply and the more famous breeds, especially those grown in the 3 Pits and 2 Gullies can command a hefty price.

For fans, its worth every penny- few types of teas can match the Wuyi Cliff Teas in aroma and strong flavor- what is known as the Rock Aura.


Source by Derek Chew

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