Rougui tea is a type of oolong tea made from the tea plant grown in the Wuyi Mountains. The name Rougui means “cassia.” It has a sweet aroma that can be enjoyed up to seven times after steeping. Its history dates back to the Qing dynasty.
There are two ways of processing this tea. The traditional method produces a dark dry leaf and rich scent, while the modern method results in a leaf of mixed color and a more fruity aroma. Some people find Rougui tea difficult to prepare, but it is known for its distinctive aroma.
While Wuyi Shuixian and their famous cultivars are now widely recognized, Rougui has been praised by scholars since the early 1700s. Scholars of the time especially noted its seductive bitterness and cinnamon accent. Since the 1980s, Rougui has spread widely to all areas in Wuyi and beyond, making it one of the most commonly employed cultivars in the region.
Rougui stands out from other Wuyi oolongs not because of its cultivar, but rather its unique taste profile. Finer ones taste sharp, bright, and pleasingly bitter with a distinctive cinnamon accent in the aroma and a sweet, milk-like undertone. Traditional ones are typically more fermented than present-day Wuyi Shuixians and yet more mildly fired. As a result, they can be consumed fresh off as well as matured, which is different from the often over-fired Wuyi Shuixians.
Unlike a matured high-fired Shuixian, Rougui is not as mild to the weaker stomach. The recent trend in shortening fermentation and bake time in favor of cost-saving and maximizing the aroma in the dry tea leaves makes it a tea that is even more like green teas in TCM nature. Therefore, if you need to be concerned, use this tea as an entertainment rather than a staple drink. Also, be sure to drink it while it is still hot. Matured ones are milder.
Rougui infuses well both in porcelain and high-density Yixing clay, but it will taste slightly different depending on the brewing vessel used. The characteristic slight alkaline quality shows up a bit more in porcelain, so if you do not like it, the Yixing pot is the way to go. The new tea is quite distinctly more astringent than matured ones. If the batch you get is too astringent, either mature the tea for three years or hold back on the water temperature.
Because of its different taste quality, food pairing with Rougui is very different from Shuixian. Seafood is a safe bet, but it should be noted that food pairing options are a little more restrictive with Rougui.
In conclusion, Rougui is a unique cultivar of Wuyi oolong tea that offers a distinctive gastronomic character. Whether you are enjoying it for the first time or are a seasoned tea connoisseur, it is important to consider the unique health and tasting notes when selecting, brewing, and enjoying this tea.