We have shared some basic knowledge when it comes to Wuyi Yancha, Da Hong pao at large in our previous blogpost. Today, let's take a step further to look at the various type of Da Hong Pao/Yancha in the telescope, especially Rou Gui, one of the most expensive Yancha in Wuyishan. We will compare it with Shui Xian, another representative of Wuyishan Yancha Oolong tea, because of their exclusive characteristics.
How does one distinguish between the different Da Hong Pao?
Da Hong Pao leaf: most Da Hong Pao tea that one can find in the market are a blend of various cultivars grown in Wuyishan region, as the original Da Hong Pao mother tree is unattainable. The blends are standardized so each year the tea masters could adjust slightly the ratios of various cultivars to achieve the same taste every year. Thus, the leaves of Da Hong Pao are generally uneven: you should be able to find leaves from up to 10 types of cultivars in a sample of Da Hong Pao.
Shui Xian: The original cultivar of Shui Xian is actually a type of Da Ye Zhong. Thus one should be pretty each to spot the even large and thick tea leaves either in the dry or wet form.
Rougui: Rougui's cultivar comes of bush type Zhong Ye Zhong (medium sized tea). When comparing it side to side to Shui Xian, the leaf is smaller and narrower.
There is a saying in Wuyishan: There is no tea more aromatic than Rou Gui, and no tea more mellow than Shui Xian. Another categorization calls Rou Gui the tea of the Yang side, and Shui Xian the tea of the Yin side.
The Aroma of Rou Gui is very overbearing and long lasting. It has a very complex aroma profile: not just the signature Cinnamon aroma (english translation for Rou Gui), but also various types of floral and fruity aromas.
There is rarely Shui Xian that is known for fruity aromas, but subtle floral notes. Shui Xian is also more famous for it's taste and texture profile: the tea soup is smoother, the mouthfeel is more gentle. While on the other hand, Rou Gui's mouthfeel could be stimulating, spicy and even slightly bitter in the first impression. The bitterness then turns very quickly to sweet aftertaste, just like the spice 'Cinnamon'.
In then Wuyi Zhengyan area, generally speaking, Shuixian is being produced in bigger quantity. Rougui, on the other hand, enjoys the highest price given the unique and limited areas that it is being produced, each with their own strong characters. These Yancha characters are being pursued by Chinese consumers, and are being named accordingly to the animal names of the areas: beef, horse meat, tiger meat, etc (Rou accidentally means meat in Chinese as well).
Thus, the same grade of Rou Gui can easily be 2-3 times more expensive than Shui Xian. Usually only a Lao Zong Shuixian (with tea trees of older than 50 years) could have price levels similar to Rou Gui Da Hong Pao.
We will explain in detail in the next blogposts the subtle difference of Rou Gui from the 'meat' location it's produced. For those who are curious to taste Cha Moods choice of Zhengyan Rou gui, we have included it in our 'Tea In Season' quarterly Tea subscription club! Be one of the first to taste this exclusive selection.