Monday, November 16, 2020

Wuyi Origin Shui Xian, exceptional Wuyi Yancha / rock oolong

This post reviews a Shui Xian version from Wuyi Origin, sent by Cindy for review.  Really for me to try, since she's a friend, but I'll review it too.

I'm probably biased in relation to how I expect their teas to be.  To some extent if you expect a tea to be really good or instead flawed that could lead to a more positive or negative interpretation.  At this point I think I'm able to get a relatively clear, neutral read on whatever I try but I guess you never know for sure.

I don't think this tea is listed on their site.  Two versions are, of Wuyishan Shui Xian oolong, but this was identified as roasted twice, and in those descriptions both are said to be roasted three times.  This may be somewhat similar to what is listed, and I can pass on how they describe their teas:

Gao Cong shui xian 高枞水仙

Gaocong Shuixian , first of all, it is also a Shuixian Cultivar , but has not been pruned for more than 10 years. Therefore, the tea tree is relatively tall, but the age of the tree is about 50years, so its taste is still the standard taste of Shuixian . Due to the difference in roasting fire, its aroma is not as high as Huaxiang Shuixian , but the Yan yun is more obviouse , more mellow, the taste is quite soft . and clean  . Its content is rich, and the taste is more layered. Half of the aroma is condensed in water, and half floats between the walls of the cup, the texture is very silky.

Let's check the other description, which looks a lot lighter, related to the photo shown on the web page, at least:

Shui xian (Narcissus) 2020 (hua xiang 花香)

Since ancient times to present , Shuixian is like a house keeper tea in every tea family. It is famous for its mellow soup and it's suitability for aging. After some years of keeping, its soup can be like rice water, sticky and mellow. the age of the tea bush in this garden is about 40 years old ,but every year in October we did the tea tree pruning , so the tea tree is no so tall , of 2020 harvest , the roast fire temperature is no so strong , keep its  original aroma ,  very Hua xiang  (floral )  . 

These cost $54 and $38 per 100 gram, respectively, so it's not "cheap" tea.  The best versions of Wuyi Yancha that I can buy locally aren't nearly this good, although some are quite decent, and a standard price for the highest level in my favorite Bangkok Chinatown shop is 1000 baht ($30) per 100 grams.  That is more or less completely irrelevant to people anywhere else, just offering that for comparison.  

Really appropriate price depends on quality level, and for teas in the range of as good as theirs tend to get presented in different ways and sold for different prices.  A lot of vendors would be selling "teas so good that they almost never make it out of China" that aren't this good for more.  But don't take my word for it; look up "Wuyi Origin" in your favorite tea group search function, and see what others say.



Just amazing. I won't do this tea justice with a description.  To be fair I've not tried related oolong anywhere near this good since whenever I tried theirs last, so the differential in quality level is probably making this seem all the more impressive.  I've been focused on sheng pu'er for about three years, trying to get that complex type sorted, and beyond that being impossible, a never-ending task, I think I've made enough of a start that I could move on, to some degree.

It tastes like good Wuyi Yancha, smooth, rich, complex, intense, and balanced. It's hard to describe a main flavor, never mind a set. I suppose interpretation as floral wouldn't be wrong but there's an earthier, towards-spice flavor that dominates. It's like how dark tropical wood furniture smells, sweet and complex, with layers of input.  

I think it's really a complex group of flavors causing this end effect: rich floral tone, dark wood, aromatic oil, fragrant spice (like frankincense, maybe, but I don't keep up with that range). It's so clean in effect; absolutely no trace of mustiness. Of course mineral stands out too, as a base. To me that mineral is like Utah desert slickrock, warm and slightly sweet. Of course anyone else's interpretation would be likely to vary, especially about a part as difficult to split out as the mineral tone.

2:  a bit more range towards sweet leather emerges, probably the tea opening up. This is better tea than 99% of all Da Hong Pao, or what is sold as that.  Saying that a DHP version might "just be Shui Xian" doesn't do justice to how good this plant input results can be. I'd expect that this flavor is exactly what many people think DHP should taste like, at best.

In this round the mineral reminds me a little of the smell of ink. The sweetness, cleanliness, complexity, and sophistication makes that work really well. The feel is great; not rough, but with some structure. The aftertaste is very pleasant, the way that mineral carries over. It's strange to think that a couple of the other oolong samples Cindy sent will be better than this, more subtle, complex in a different way, and more novel. For what this type is there might not be that much room left for improvement; it should be exactly like this.

3: Strange that it could still be improving. The level of roast is perfect in this; I'm sure that helps.

As I contemplate the flavor more roasted chestnut is quite close to the main flavor. Those usually pick up a little char flavor, and this didn't, so maybe it's light roasted chestnut, or one cooked at a moderate temperature. The  bumped mineral and slight shift in other flavor may have prevented me from making that association earlier, or maybe it's just a gap in my ability to describe the experience.

I may let note taking go after another round. This isn't changing much and I'm a bit under the weather, just a cold. Since my sense of taste seems fine it shouldn't be covid. That's not really here in Thailand at this point anyway; we've only had 2 or 3 cases of in-country transmission in four months.

4: not so different.This includes a hint of cinnamon spice I've not yet mentioned, probably increasing in this round to become more noticeable. This probably has 3 or 4 really exceptional rounds left in it, the another 3 or 4 tapering off, then for as good as this is I'll stretch it for more after that.

It's strange that pu'er gets so much focus, for as good as teas like this are. I like sheng too, and drink shu sometimes.  The intensity and range for those is amazing, and it's cool how they change with even moderate ageing. But Wuyishan oolongs are amazing for other reasons. Lots of people know, but it may be that the rarity of versions this good detracts from their image.

5: still great, similar to last round.

The picture of the wet leaves looks greener than it does to my eyes; interesting. This does taste like the oxidation level and roast level are moderate. To me it works really well. The quality level is so evident it's hard to split out a guess at objective quality level from preference. It seems high on the scale for both.

That lighter part seems to tie to the floral component of the complex flavor range that I've not said much about. Maybe like lotus flower? That set or list of flavors integrates much better than it sounds like it would, coming across almost as on broad-scope single flavor. Such a nice tea experience.


  1. Nice writeup and I hope the cold clears up soon.

    There's a huge hype machine around Puer tea (though I do enjoy it).

    I don't know about the WuyiOrigin stock as I haven't tried it, but Shui Xian is a solid favorite.

    I've nearly finished off the spring 2020 bag that I had and I ordered some winter 2020 harvest. It'll be interesting to taste for any differences. I also was hit by hints of roasted chestnuts.

    I wonder how this would age?

    1. I'm not the right person to have that well-grounded an opinion on Wuyi Yancha aging, but I can pass on some standard ideas about that. More roasted versions are said to settle nicely, to evolve away from the touch of char (or strong char, in what I see as worse cases). In general all teas lose brighter, more forward range when aging, and pick up depth, but I would expect oolongs to not change fast. Sheng is a completely different theme since those are given more air and humidity contact and the fermentation process is different than a general aging process. I would expect some people to say that all Wuyi Yancha would improve with moderate age, since inclinations about that vary, and there seems to be a standard opinion that the mellowing out and deepening change is positive. Usually you only see such teas sold as aged for 5 to 7 years, not that they wouldn't continue to change, but the thinking seems to be that this type of transition levels off, versus sheng, where it might after 20-25 years.