Wuyi Tea: Types, Flavors, Benefits and Side Effects

Wu Yi tea, also known as Wuyi oolong or Wuyi rock tea (Yancha), is a type of oolong tea cultivated in the Wuyi mountains or Wuyishan. This region enjoys ideal weather conditions for growing tea, along with a long history of exceptional skill in producing high-quality oolongs. One of the unique features of Wuyi tea is its mineral flavor, which is due to the region’s fertile land and special soil conditions that cannot be found anywhere else. Additionally, the humid climate and narrow valley provide the perfect environment for tea leaves to grow without risk of scorching or bitterness.

Wuyi oolongs are typically twisted into thin strips rather than being curled into a ball shape like Anxi or Taiwan oolong teas. They are also fired heavily, as most oolong teas were in the past, and have a characteristic smoky flavor with notes of stone fruit. Some of the most popular Wuyi source teas include Da Hong Pao, Rou Gui, Shui Xian, Shui Jin Gui, and Tieluohan.

The rocks of Wuyishan play an essential role in the unique taste of Wuyi oolong tea, as demonstrated by the famous saying “every rock has tea, and without the rocks there is no tea” (岩岩有茶,非岩不茶). This means that without the rock formations present in the region, there would be no Wuyi oolong tea. Due to erosion, the mineral-rich essence from the mountains flows down with the rainwater and gets absorbed by the red soil. Thus, the Wu Yi source tea owes its taste to the rocks.

The divine status of Wuyi tea is reflected in the words of Song Dynasty poet Zhongyan Fang, who wrote, “The teas by the stream are the most famous. The immortals in Wuyi mountain planted them long since.” The natural conditions and the skill of the local farmers combine to make Wu Yi tea a truly unique and sought-after tea that is appreciated by tea lovers worldwide.

Image: Wuyi mountain

What Makes Wu Yi Tea Unique?

To be considered a true Wuyi tea, it is not just about where the tea is grown. There are certain criteria that must be met in order for an oolong tea to be classified as original rock tea, including:

  • The tea must be produced in the 2,798 square kilometers of land located in the Wuyishan region. We will discuss more about the geographic classification in the next paragraph.
  • The tea must be produced using the original and traditional processing methods.
  • The tea must have a unique mineral taste and aroma, which is subjective and requires tasting to confirm. Anyone who has tasted Wuyi teas before will easily recognize the distinct aroma.

Wu Yi Tea Classification, Cultivars, and Roasting Levels

Wu Yi tea, also known as yancha, encompasses a fascinating world of flavors and characteristics shaped by various factors. One crucial element is the geology of the region, which plays a significant role in classifying oolong teas from Wu Yi based on their growing location:

  • Zhengyan 正岩: Grown within the official Wuyishan nature reserve, teas from this area are highly prized for their exceptional taste, although they come at a higher price.
  • Banyan 半岩: Cultivated in the areas surrounding the official region, Banyan teas closely rival the quality of Zhengyan teas while offering a more favorable price-quality ratio.
  • Zhouyan 洲茶: Thriving in more distant areas from the official region, Zhouyan teas may not reach the same level of quality as Zhengyan and Banyan, but they can still exhibit great flavors when skillfully processed.

To experience the essence of original Wu Yi tea, one would need to sip tea made from the mother trees in Wuyishan. However, these protected trees in the scenic area are not available for harvesting.

Apart from the geography, it’s important to mention the rich variety of cultivars found in Wuyishan. The region boasts diverse breeds of the original Camellia Sinensis tea plant, including renowned cultivars like Rougui, Bei Dou, and Da Hong Pao. These cultivars offer unique flavor profiles and can be explored in the selection of Wuyi tea, Yan Cha category.

The roast level of rock tea significantly influences its taste. Roasting serves as the final step in oolong tea production. Depending on the oxidation level, rock teas undergo multiple roastings with resting periods in between. This extended production time distinguishes rock teas and other oolongs from green teas. The three general roast levels are:

  • Qing Huo: Low fire/roast. This level produces a more floral and vegetal flavor reminiscent of Tie Guan Yin oolong. The dry leaves have a dark brown hue, while the wet leaves, after steeping, retain a greenish appearance. Low roast rock teas are accessible, flavorful, and highly recommended for first-time rock tea drinkers. They offer floral, sweet, and smooth characteristics.
  • Zhong Huo: Medium fire/roast. Medium roast wet leaves have a brownish color, and the flavors are stronger and more intense compared to low roast teas. Seasoned drinkers often appreciate the complexity and depth of medium roast teas, which can endure more steepings when brewed traditionally.
  • Gao Huo: High fire/roast. High roast wet leaves appear dark brown, and the flavors are bold and robust. This level provides an intense experience favored by enthusiasts seeking a powerful and enduring tea session.

Exploring the nuances of Wu Yi tea reveals a captivating interplay between geology, cultivars, and roast levels, resulting in a diverse range of flavors and sensations. Each cup offers a delightful journey for tea enthusiasts eager to delve into the intricacies of this extraordinary tea.

Understanding the Flavors of Wu Yi Tea

Wu Yi oolong teas are hard to pin down when it comes to flavor. Some say it’s like a mix of black and green tea, but the truth is much more complex. Wu Yi teas have a wide range of flavors, from floral to fruity, spicy to medicinal. This is because the teas go through different levels of oxidation and roasting during processing.

It’s been said that Wu Yi teas are somewhere between green and black teas in terms of fermentation, but it’s not just about the fermentation level. The earthy mineral taste and floral aroma also contribute to the unique character of this tea. To truly appreciate it, you have to taste it for yourself.

Producing authentic Wu Yi tea takes a lot of time and effort, from growing to harvesting to processing. That’s why it’s more expensive than other teas. Manufacturers who cut corners in any of these steps aren’t making the real deal.

Benefits for Weight Loss and Overall Health

Wu Yi rock tea has been a popular beverage in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries. Recent studies have shown that it can aid in weight loss by burning fat faster than green tea and increasing metabolism. This is due to the presence of polyphenol, a natural substance found in oolong tea, which is also present in green and black teas but in much lower percentages.

Aside from weight loss, Wu Yi tea also has other health benefits, including reducing the effects of cholesterol, protecting against cancer, strengthening bones, and protecting against tooth plaque and decay. Due to its detoxifying effect, it is also a great beverage for cleansing purposes.

Side Effects

However, it is important to be aware of potential side effects of Wu Yi tea. It contains caffeine, which can increase heart rate and blood pressure and affect sleep, especially if consumed in the evening. It can also have diuretic effects and related side effects on the stomach, so it is best to avoid drinking on an empty stomach. The ideal time to drink Wu Yi tea is 30 minutes after breakfast and/or lunch.

While Wu Yi rock tea offers numerous health benefits, it is important to consume it in moderation and be mindful of any potential side effects. If you have any questions about Wu Yi tea, feel free to ask us in the comment section below.

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