Wuyi Mountain Oolong Tea
Unraveling the Authentic Source

Although Wuyi oolong tea has been exported to the West since the 17th century, few people understand it. Where is the true source of an authentic grade?



Those who have studied the history of Famous Teas would have noticed a familiar pattern, a pattern that tea sellers would be loath to admit.

The difficulty arises because the concepts of "rare" and "famous" don't co-exist.

Famous Teas became famous because they were crafted from rarely available plant materials.

But once a tea becomes famous, there is insufficient supply to meet the explosive demands.

Consequently, Famous Teas are sourced from second-rate, even third-rate regions surrounding the authentic source, but not from the authentic source itself.

This is okay, not everyone cares about authenticity.

The problem arises when legend turns into myth, and tea lovers like you and me are left with a bitter taste in our mouths.

"What's so great about this Famous Tea? Where can I find the real thing?", we wonder.

The Real Thing?

Yes, the real thing is what the tea connoisseurs want.

We want to connect to the spark that inspires the genius of the original inventor. We want to understand and experience what makes this Famous Tea great.

We want to know the true location of the authentic source. We want the authentic taste in our mouths and noses - even if it is only in the smallest quantity on one unforgettable day.

The one day and occasion that we will remember for the rest of our lives.

In short, we don't want to be sold short, and we want to unravel the mystery of the Authentic Source.

Trace Minerals

Wuyi Mountain is not just a mountain with tea growing on it. It is a gigantic volcanic fault structure with meandering rivers, vertical cliffs, deep gorges, cave systems and flat plain.

The highest quality tea grows on the volcanic ashes of high mineral content, which explains the unique yanyun, or rock-like flavors.

This tea has been found to be rich in potassium, manganese and other trace minerals. As a winter drink, it is a great tonic and is a perfect complement to lightly oxidized teas.

How to Grade

The key is to appreciate that only a small part of the Mountain is craggy. In other words, if you want to taste yanyun, you want to zoom into the rocky parts of the Mountain.

This tea can be graded according to where it is grown:

Outside the Mountain

The Mountain has an area of only 64 kilometers square. Many so-called Wuyi teas are grown outside the Mountain. They are moderately priced and are usually certified organic.

Flat Plain (Zhoucha)

This refers to teas growing beside the River in the flat plain rather than in the craggy valleys. They cannot be considered Rock tea as they don't grow out of volcanic ashes.

Small Rock (Banyan Cha)

Known as the Half Rock, or the Small Rock, they grow at the border of the rocky areas. Yanyun exists, but is substantially weaker.

Big Rock (Zhengyan Cha)

The only authentic source is the Big Rock, which consists of the "Three Valleys and Two Ravines". These five craggy valleys are the crown jewels of the Mountain.

Just one Rock alone (Huiwan Yan) is said to contain 830 different types of tea plants. These Five Rocks are the source of Wuyi's biodiversity.

Together they produce 10 tonnes of tea each year. Most go to the local government, which acts as a conduit to high ranking government officials nationwide.

Only a tiny quantity trickles down lay people like us, that is - if you know where to look.

If you are looking to try out the highest quality tea, then you should aim to sample teas grown in the Big Rock.

Famous tea is seldom rare, and in the case of Wuyi tea, old definitions have been expanded to satisfy the demands of tea consumers.

Today, the word Zhengyan Cha refers to all the teas grown in the Scenic Area, which covers both the Small Rock and Big Rock.

So the next time you go tea hunting, forget about Zhengyan Cha. Ask the tea shop if they know anything about the tea growing locations, and the Three Valleys and Two Ravines.

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