Wu Yi Tea Classification, Benefits, Taste & Caffeine
What Is Wu Yi Rock Tea?
Wu Yi tea is a type of oolong tea grown in the Wuyi mountain. The region is famous for the exceptional oolong teas produced. The tea has a highly individual flavor that is not reproduced anywhere else because of the high mineral content of the soil. The humid climate and the narrow valley enable the tea to grow without risk of scorching or bitterness. The oolongs from wuyishan are also often referred to as Wuyi rock tea (or in Chinese 'Yancha'). Da Hong Pao is the most popular Wuyi source tea, right after Rou Gui, Shui Xian, and Tieluohan.
There is a Chinese saying: 'every rock has tea, and without the rocks there is no tea.' If you're interested in the original Chinese writing, then see below:
岩岩有茶，非岩不茶 - Yán yán yǒu chá, fēi yán bù chá
The meaning of this saying is that there would be no oolong tea from Wuyishan, if there is no presence of the rock formations. It doesn't affect. The reason is that Wu Yi source tea owns it taste to the rocks. Due to erosion, the mineral rich essence from mountains flow down with the rain water and get absorbed by the red soil.
“The teas by the stream are the most famous. The immortals in Wuyi mountain planted them long since."
Zhongyan Fan (Song Dynasty)
Wuyishan Oolong Tea Sampler
If you're curious about the diverse variety of wu yi tea styles, you should consider this Teasenz wuyi tea sampler.
Official Wu Yi Source Tea Criteria
Besides just the original growing location, there are more requirements for tea to be classified as original rock tea. For an oolong tea to be classified as original rock tea, it needs to be:
- produced in 2798 square kilometers of land on the Wuyishan; In the next paragraph we will discuss more about the geographic classification.
- production based original/traditional processing methodology;
- and have a distinctive mineral taste and aroma. Of course, this requirement is subjective, and requires tasting. Seasoned tea drinkers will easily recognize how distinctive the aroma of wu yi teas are.
Image above: raw wu yi tea leaves being withered indoors.
Wuyi Oolong Tea Classification
Geology is of such importance that oolong teas from this region (yancha) are classified based on growing location:
- Zhengyan 正岩: grown in the official Wuyishan region. The teas grown here are very expensive, but the taste is exceptional.
- Banyan 半岩: grown in areas surrounding the official region with quality that closely matches zhengyan. The price quality of banyan is much better than zhengyan.
- Zhouyan 洲茶: growing in areas further away from the official region. The quality of these teas usually don't come close to zhengyan and banyan.
Of course, the closest you can get to 'original' wu yi tea, is to sip tea made from the mother trees in wuyishan. However, these are these days protected trees in the scenic area that aren't allowed to be harvested. See shot of the mother trees during our Wuyishan sourcing trip below:
Image above: the oldest original wu yi Da Hong Pao mother trees in the natural reserve of Wuyishan.
Besides classification by growing location, it's also important to mention that Wuyishan has many different kinds of breeds/cultivars of the original Camellia Sinensis tea plant. Rougui, bei dou, and da hong pao are among the most well known cultivars. For selection of the cultivars, please have a look at our wuyi tea, yan cha category.
Last but not least, it's obvious that the processing method applied will significantly affect the end result. When you talk to locals in Wuyishan, you'll know that there are 3 general levels of roast:
- qing huo: low fire/roast
- zhong huo: medium fire/roast
- gao huo: high fire/roast
With a low roast Wu yi tea, the flavour will be closer to a light oolong like Tie Guan Yin. While the dry appearance of a low roast wu yi tea still has a dark appearance, you'll notice that the wet leaves will turn greenish. This category of teas are great for beginning tea drinkers. The flavours will be floral, smooth and highly accessible. This is how the wet leaves for a light roast tea should look like:
See how green the leaves are, even though the dry leaves are very dark.
With medium roast and high roast teas, the wet leaves will also be darker. The taste turns from floral to fruity/savory with stronger hints of rock and minerals. More seasoned wu yi tea drinkers will often times prefer these roast levels. At last, medium and high roast teas generally last for 3-5 additional rounds of steeps relative to light roast tea.
The Taste Wu Yi tea?
For beginners, who never tried a Wu Yi oolong tea, the taste is often described as something between the taste of green tea and black tea.
Whether this is true or not, the logic behind this is that wu yi source tea has a fermentation level between that of non-fermented green and fully fermented black tea. When it comes to the intensity and thickness of the tea the fermentation level definitely matters, but one also has to take into account that the earthy mineral flavor plus the floral aroma makes this tea unique. You should definitely taste it yourself to grasp the amazing taste.
The complicated growing and harvesting processes to produce authentic Wu Yi tea is definitely time consuming. That is the reason this type of tea is more expensive than others. Any manufacturers that skip any of these crucial steps aren't producing authentic wu-yi tea.
Read also: The Legend of Da Hong Pao
Wu Yi Rock Tea Benefits & Weight loss
What Can Wuyi Tea Do For You?
Oolong teas have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for hundreds of years. According to recent studies, it burns fat faster than green tea, and increases your metabolism resulting in natural, safe and weight loss. The reason is the natural substance called polyphenol, this is also found in green and black teas but in a much lower percentage. In addition, Wu Yi source tea also has other health benefits that have been scientifically studied and documented. Case studies show that tea reduces the effects of cholesterol, protects against cancer, strengthens bones and protects against tooth plaque and decay.
Because of the benefits, this tea is an excellent beverage for diet control purposes. At last, the detoxifying effect of Wuyi teas makes it also a great drink for an ultra cleansing effect. Though this tea can bring great results, there are a few potential side effects to be aware of, which we discuss in the next paragraph.
Wu Yi Tea Side Effects
Although Wu Yi teas have many benefits, consumers need to be aware that the amount of caffeine, which can increase the heart rate as well as create a spike in blood pressure. Drinking Wuyi tea can also affect your sleep, especially when consumed in the evening. However, the amount of caffeine is still significantly lower than in coffee.
Tea can also have diuretic effects and can have related side effects on the stomach. It's therefore important to avoid it on an empty stomach. The best moment to drink tea is 30 minutes after a breakfast and/or lunch.
Also read: When to drink tea