Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Tag: wulong (Page 1 of 2)

A Tie Guan Yin Flight from Taiwan

Tie Guan Yin is one of the most interesting takes on oolong ever developed. Despite its ancient-sounding name—invoking the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Guan Yin— the “Iron Goddess of Mercy” only dates back to the 19th century. Hailing from Anxi county, in Fujian province, China, this complicated style of oolong originally began its life as a medium-roast, “strip leaf”-shaped incarnation; similar to Wuyi Mountain yanchas, or Phoenix Mountain Dan Congs—only nowhere near as dark. That changed around the turn of the 20th century when the processing techniques grew even more labyrinthine.

Image mooched from Wikipedia.

Contrary to popular belief, though, Tie Guan Yin didn’t start out as a processing style of oolong. Rather, the style was inspired by a slow-growing, low-yielding cultivar of the same name.

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A Tea Pairing from One Wuyi Artisan

For those that have tuned in to my li’l corner of “the In-Tea-Net”, folks can tell I have an affinity for talking about where the tea comes from. I have focused a lot of text-space to estates, gardens, factories, and the farmers that supply their wares to them. Less frequent, though, are my forays into focusing on the ways-‘n-means of the artisans.

Image owned by Seven Cups.

Mainly because . . . the opportunity hasn’t arisen.

Until Austin Hodge of Seven Cups Fine Chinese Teas contacted me.

Austin Hodge; Image owned by Seven Cups.

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Rethinking Tea Categories

Editor’s Note: This is merely a thought exercise by the author. The opinions reflected in the below narrative do not reflect the opinions of the teaware on staff . . . or this editor, for that matter.

Seriously, I just work here, guys.

A thought occurred to me over the years. No one has come to a clear consensus as to what the proper tea categories are. The general consensus is that there are six: Heicha (Dark Tea), Hong Cha (Black/Red Tea), Wulong, Green Tea, Yellow Tea, and White Tea. However, some say that yellow tea isn’t its own category (even though it clearly is). Others champion the stance that dark tea shouldn’t include sheng (raw) puerh. Others still believe puerh should be its own category. Hell, even some international trade laws only recognize two tea categories.

So, this got me thinking . . .

If I were the end-all/say-all authority on tea lexicography, how would I divvy up the different tea types? What would my breakdown look like? Well, in order to answer that question, I must breakdown (and in some cases, outright destroy) existing trends. This might over-complicate the issue, and over-simplify other things. But this is my write-up . . . and I’ll do what I want. So, here we go:

*dons helmet*

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Da Hong Pao: My Old Nemesis

Seven Days of Seven Cups, Day 7 – “Da Hong Pao: My Old Nemesis”

Da Hong Pao (“Big Red Robe”) . . . my old nemesis . . . we meet again.

Now, I’ve gone on record several times over the years as saying that Da Hong Pao was one of my least favorite oolongs. Sure, I had a few I liked, but the amount I disliked far outweighed that. That all changed in November of last year when I had an original “mother bush” Qi Dan Da Hong Pao. And for some reason—as I stated in earlier entries—it forever changed my palate. Wuyi oolongs were now welcomed to my tea tray.

However, I still remained hesitant toward commodity Da Hong Pao. What’s the difference? Allow me to explain.

The six (allegedly) original Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) tea bushes; image owned by Seven Cups.

The six (allegedly) original Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) tea bushes; image owned by Seven Cups.

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Lao Cong Shui Xian Oolong . . . or Wulong

Seven Days of Seven Cups, Day 6 – “Lao Cong Shui Xian Oolong . . . or Wulong”

A thought occurred to me while I was doing this Wuyi oolong-fueled, seven-blog stretch. I haven’t once referred to “oolong” as “wulong”. Granted, I never do, but it’s a particular sticking point here . . . because Seven Cups refers to them as wulongs. And, technically, they’re right? It is “wulong”, or rather . . . this, in Traditional Chinese (Mandarin) . . .

wulong characters

Basically “woolong cha” or “black dragon tea”, which is the coolest name, ever.

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Searching for the Cinnamon in Rou Gui

Seven Days of Seven Cups, Day 5 – “Searching for the Cinnamon in Rou Gui”

Rou Gui holds the distinction of being the first—and a long time ago, only— Wuyi oolong I liked when I first got started. Of course, in the last year or so, my palate has since Stockholmed its way into acceptance of most Wuyi oolongs, but Rou Gui will always be the first that opened the floodgates. Part of that might be in the name; Rou Gui literally means “cassia” in Chinese, which is a type of local cinnamon—Cinnamomum cassia.

Cinnamomum cassia

This is the first Wuyi oolong I’ve sipped this week that didn’t have a name that sounded like a call-back to a piece of Hong Kong cinema. Curious that a bunch of folks in the Qing Dynasty would want to name a plant for . . . another plant, instead of tea drunk, kung fu monks or Taoist wizards. I wonder why that is? Let’s dig into the tea itself to find out.

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Tie Luo Han: The Iron Monk Oolong

Seven Days of Seven Cups, Day 4 – “Tie Luo Han: The Iron Monk Oolong”

This interesting oolong derives its name—Tie Luo Han, which means “Iron Monk”—from old legends linked to a particular cave. I couldn’t even find a picture of this legendary cave, and—believe me—I looked. All that came up were Mindcraft photos. So, here’s a picture of the tea bushes themselves, instead.

Tie Luo Han oolong bushes

Tie Luo Han bushes. Image owned by Seven Cups

Lovely, aren’t they?

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Ba Xian: Oolong of the Eight Immortals

Seven Days of Seven Cups, Day 3 – “Ba Xian: Oolong of the Eight Immortals”

Ba Xian literally means “Eight Immortals” in Chinese. The name refers to the tea plant cultivar used to create this particularly odd Wuyi oolong, but it also has a legend attached to it. Don’t they all?

The name is a direct reference to eight legendary heroes in Chinese mythology, particularly the Taoist tradition.

Eight Immortals (Ba Xian)

Ba Xian or “Eight Immortals”

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Bai Ji Guan or White Rooster Crest

Seven Days of Seven Cups, Day 2 – “Bai Ji Guan or White Rooster Crest”

Bai Ji Guan—translated as “White Rooster Crest”— earns its name from the color and shape of its leaves.

Bai Ji Guan

Image owned by Seven Cups

They’re rather yellow and crest-like. According to legend, an old rooster died near a place called Hui Yan Rock. The locals buried the bird under a tea bush, and the following year, the bush’s leaves grew in yellow. It’s as likely a story as any coming out of China.

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Orchids in My Oolong

I’m used to running into an oolong I’ve never heard of. It’s kind of my thing. But finding next-to-no information on a particular style of oolong is my greatest joy . . . and biggest pet peeve. It all started when I was put into contact with this guy.

Jeff Kovac

Image mooched from the Four Seasons Tea page.

This is Jeff Kovac of Four Seasons Tea – a new outfit specializing in rare and rarely-heard-of offerings from China and Taiwan. His name first popped up on my radar when Tony “World of Tea” Gebely sent me an e-mail. Shortly after that, I was contacted by Jeff himself.

At the time, I was still trying to whittle down my backlog of tea samples, and I was making some progress at it. That being said, I sort of had an unspoken moratorium on new samples put in place. I had to get through what I possessed before welcoming anything new.

That resolve didn’t last very long once I saw what he carried.

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