This is a heavily roasted Rou Gui Yancha, or “Rock Tea”, made of the tea leaves picked from more than 30 year old Rou Gui Tea trees in Ma Tou Yan, a famous area of Zhengyan in the Wuyi Mountains of China. The Wuyi Mountains are a mountain range located in the prefecture of Nanping in northern Fujian Province, which is in the southeast part of China. Wuyi is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and biodiversity conservation area, serving as refuge for a large number of ancient, relict plant and animal species, some of them endemic to China. The area is renowned for the beauty of the dramatic gorges of the Nine Bend River with many temples and monasteries. It is also one of the major tea production areas in the world, renowned for black and oolong teas. Like Rou Gui tea, the oolong teas produced in Wuyi are known an “yancha” or Rock Teas because of the distinctive terroir of the mountainsides where they are grown. The tea bushes grow in rocky, mineral-rich soil. The conditions and terrain at the higher elevations, where the best tea is grown, result in a lower yield which makes these teas both highly prized teas and quite expensive. There are five main tea cultivars, of which Rou Gui is the latest to be added. The other four are Tie Luo Han, Shui Jin Gui, Da Hong Pao and Bai Ji Guan. Rou Gui and Shui Jin Gui are the main varieties and occupy the largest planting area. At the risk of further confusing the matter, the “products” (as distinct from cultivars) of Wuyi rock tea are divided into five categories: Dahongpao, Mingcong, Rougui, Shuixian and Qizhong, according to the National Standard for Wuyi rock tea. These are the products that are designated as “Protected Products From Original Place” for Wuyi rock tea.
Rou Gui is a heavily roasted rock tea harvested in late April. The name literally means “cassia”, which is the evergreen tree that produces chinese cinnamon, the most common type of cinnamon used. It is produced following the orthodox method of plucking, sun withering, room withering, bruising in bamboo trays, wok frying, roasting, rolling, cooling and packing. The leaves are medium to large in size and black, shaped into tight strips or bars. The bright amber liquor is both sweet and savory, with hints of charcoal, fruit, honey and spice. According to the vendor, a good Rou Gui will have a very sharp and distinct aroma of the cinnamon spice from which the name of the cultivar is derived.