Two weeks ago I realized that I had not written any blog posts about Wulong Tea (烏龍茶, or wulong cha in Chinese). For that reason I drank a lightly oxidized Taiwanese wulong tea, and discussed some of the production methods and flavors typical of that style of tea.
Today I wanted to talk about another large and well known style of wulong tea: Cliff tea from China’s Fujian province (福建武夷岩茶 or Fujian Wuyi Yan Cha in Chinese). Wuyi is the name of the Wuyi mountains, the mountain range in and around which this kind of wulong tea is produced.
I will again briefly summarize the processing steps of wulong tea below. There are always exceptions within categories, but Wuyi rock teas tend to have greater levels of oxidation and roasting in their processing.
- Picking the tea leaves (採茶 or cai cha in Chinese)
- Sun drying / withering (曬青 or shai qing in Chinese)
- Shaking (搖青 or yao qing in Chinese)
- Rolling (揉捻 or rou nian in Chinese)
- Firing / Kill Green (殺青 or sha qing in Chinese)
- Roasting (烘焙 or hong bei in Chinese) – different teas have different degrees of roasting
- Sorting (分級 or fen ji in Chinese)
For today’s blog post I drank a kind of Wuyi wulong tea called Qilan (奇兰). Qilan means wonderful orchid. It was a varietal of tea that was originally grown in Fujian’s Anxi county, but then brought to the Wuyi mountains in the early 1900’s.
The photo above shows the dry leaves of the Qilan Wuyi wulong tea. The color of the dry leaves includes a few light green leaves, but has a majority or darker brown leaves. This indicates a greater degree of oxidation and roasting. Sometimes this style of tea is called ‘strip style’ tea because the leaves are rolled into long slender strips rather than tightly compact balls.
This tea brews up a rich amber color, and the flavor and feeling of the tea are similarly dark and warm. The flavors are general woody, nutty, and slightly spicy (not reminding me of hot spices, but more warm spices like cinnamon). The texture of the tea has a slight coarseness or astringency that linger after the tea is drunk. There is also a light but pervasive floral fragrance that remains throughout the session. I wonder if this floral quality could be one reason for naming the tea ‘Qilan’.
In terms of flavors, aromas, feelings, or durability this tea is nothing extraordinary. However it did yield an enjoyable 5 – 7 brews that had the warm and complex qualities I would want from an wulong tea.
The time of year where I really enjoy drinking darker wulong teas like wuyi yancha is just about here. We still have some summer days left. However some cooler days and nights have already arrived, and autumn feels like it is just around the corner. When it feels this way the darker and warmer qualities of this style of tea seem to bolster my spirits.
If you’ve never tried a Wuyi wulong before and are interested, I hope you get a chance to try this style of wulong tea. I think it has accessible qualities that can be enjoyed by both new and old lovers of tea.