Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rougui, a different Wuyi yancha (Chinese "rock oolong")

A chance vendor contact recently sent me some samples of different teas, "rock" oolongs from Wuyi, China (thanks much!).

Since the vendor isn't a tea company, but rather an individual involved with tea growing and sales, I'll just refer to her as Cindy.  This might be a good time to point out that it's not uncommon for Chinese people to pick up Western nicknames if they end up in contact with Westerners.  She doesn't have a tea web page to reference, but she can be reached through this Facebook page link.

2012 Rougui

Rougui 2012 tasting notes:

Good tea!  Interesting and powerful first impression.   General profile is in the range of dahongpao--appearance is similar, oxidization range likely similar, some of the flavor profile is common--but the character is quite different (relatively speaking).

Rich flavors, soft with natural sweetness.   Caramel and floral tastes extend towards cocoa with a very subtle but rich underlying range of earthy elements, mineral and wood.  One particular taste element, the first thing that stands out, is hard to pin down,  almost like a perfume, maybe tying to something like a mahogany wood taste.  It's strange having the impression of one primary taste element I just can't describe, especially since it seems like there is probably a reference I'm just not familiar with, maybe floral or maybe not.

Second infusion is still wonderful but flavors diminish.  It seems the general type of tea is not suited to brewing a lot of infusions or a lot of tea.  Multiple infusions are still nice but as seems typical the flavors are more intense and different in the first infusion, brighter, more towards cocoa and floral elements, then earthier and more subdued after.

The feel of the tea is nice, rich, even though there is no astringency element which in some cases can interrelate with the "body" of a tea.  I'm curious what age has done to this tea, what it would have tasted like two years ago.  Cindy claimed the taste changes to diminish a smoky or charred effect, which sounds familiar related to the dahongpao from the Buddhist temple in a recent post, or that could be something else.

Rougui research:

I've went on about dahongpao enough in other posts, but I'd like to try and explain what rougui even is, and cite some background reading.

Wikipedia says almost nothing:  it's from Mount Wuyi, in Fujian Province in China, and it has a distinctive sweet aroma.  They say the name literally means "cassia," relating to "cinnamomum aromaticum," surely related to cinnamon but not the same plant.

Makes you wonder about cinnamon, doesn't it?  Time for a nice long tangent;  Wikipedia says this:

Cinnamon ... is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees from the genus Cinnamomum that is used in both sweet and savoury foods. While Cinnamomum verum is sometimes considered to be "true cinnamon", most cinnamon in international commerce is derived from related species, which are also referred to as "cassia" to distinguish them from "true cinnamon"

and then later:  Cinnamomum cassia (Cassia or Chinese cinnamon, the most common type)

So cinnaomomum aromaticum = cinnaomomum cassia, which is not exactly standard or "true" cinnamon, but still a common type of cinnamon.  Getting way off of tea here but if you're a health nut eating cinnamon to prevent diabetes you might consider this WebMD input:   

In many cases, the cinnamon spice purchased in food stores contains a combination of these different types of cinnamon. So far, only cassia cinnamon has been shown to have any effect on blood sugar in humans. However, Cinnamomum verum also contains the ingredient thought to be responsible for lowering blood sugar.

So there's that.

A "Tea  Spring" vendor site fills in some details:   Rou Gui is the latest tea added to Wu Yi's famous five bushes (previously only four consisting of Tie Luo Han, Shui Jin Gui, Da Hong Pao and Bai Ji Guan; referred to as Si Da Ming Cong)....  They are also called Yan Cha (Rock tea) due to the pristine rocky areas where the tea bushes grow.

Steepster reviews of  Yunnan Sourcing (vendor) tea:  nothing so novel about the reviews, tea descriptions, or the source reference but interesting for further reading, especially the variances in what people say.  One might judge from the moderate price of the tea that it's a lower grade but really paying a lot for a tea, or not paying a lot, doesn't necessarily mean anything, although on the higher end one would hope they would at least be getting "relatively good" tea.

Grade level and other subjective preference concerns could even be two different things, but that's a longer story.  For these particular types of teas demand seems to be high so issues of cost, quality, and grade all become more important, as prices go up and consistency of products can vary, with the higher than average costs essentially always being justified by the grade level of the tea.

I've read descriptions of different rougui teas than I've mentioned here and the basic character and taste profile doesn't sound so similar, but then adherence to some standard type is sort of a different thing again.

It's probably not the conclusion that everyone draws but for me the most important thing is if I like a tea, echoing my old wine guru's assertion that subjective preference is the final determining factor.  Contrary to that, but not completely so, I do find myself appreciating different things about teas more as time goes by, so although I can't imagine I'm gravitating towards some universal objective perspective some loosely typical experience curve might be a factor.


Nice tea!  It's not everyday you get to try a new tea that becomes a new favorite.


  1. Rou Gui is one of my absolutely favorite Wuyi oolongs. When you get one with just the right amount of "spice" it can be really nice in the cold weather months. The trouble with yancha is that there is a big variation in quality, leaf grade and roasting level. The ones that I have liked most had broken leaf and fairly heavy roasting. I just don't find lighter ones as satisfying.

  2. Thanks, lots of interesting ideas in what you've said. It never is cold here (Bangkok) so it gets interesting related to drinking hot tea, or when to drink masala chai, and so on. I could just drink iced tea but it doesn't usually come down to that; we adapt, and if it comes down to it I just get hot.

    I've had good luck with the different dahongpao I've tried but this is my first rougui (or Rou Gui), so more experience will tell more. It's hard to be sure if that's because I've tried good teas by chance or just like the type, so inconsistencies in flavor elements and the rest don't seem so negative. I could see how someone else might not like the earthy elements that can drift a little towards cardboard (not so much the ones I've tried recently) but even the more unusual versions I've still really liked.