Wu Yi Tea Classification, Benefits, Taste & Caffeine
Wu Yi tea is a type of oolong tea grown in the Wuyi mountain (or 'Wuyishan'). Farmers in the region enjoy ideal climate conditions and inherited exceptional skill in producing high quality oolong. They also enjoy fertile land and it's unique soil conditions allow the tea leaves to have an unique mineral flavour, you won't find anywhere else. 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, Shui Jin Gui, and Tieluohan.
The unique natural conditions are so important, which is proven by this famous saying: 'every rock has tea, and without the rocks there is no tea' (岩岩有茶，非岩不茶). In other words, there would be no oolong tea from Wuyishan, if there is no presence of the rock formations. Due to erosion, the mineral rich essence from mountains flow down with the rain water and get absorbed by the red soil. Thus, Wu Yi source tea owns it taste to the rocks. Poet Zhongyan Fang even give Wuyi teas a divine status:
“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. By getting our sampler you will be able to taste 6 kinds of Wuyi rock teas at an affordable price.
Official Wu Yi Source Tea Criteria
Whether or not a tea can be classified as Wuyi tea isn't just depend on the grown location. 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 on original/traditional processing methodology;
- and have a distinctive mineral taste and aroma. Of course, this requirement is subjective, and requires tasting. Those who've tasted Wuyi teas before will easily recognize how distinctive the aroma truly is.
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 nature reserve. 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, but can still taste great if skillfully processed.
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.
Roast Level of Rock Tea
What significantly affect the taste of rock tea is the 'roast level'. Roasting is the final step of oolong tea production. Depending on the oxidation level, rock teas are roasted multiple times with resting periods in between. This is what makes the production time of rock teas and other oolong teas significantly longer. While green teas are fairly quickly ready after harvest, for oolong tea, one needs at least 1-3 month of production time depending on the level of roast. The 3 general roast levels are:
- qing huo: low fire/roast
- zhong huo: medium fire/roast
- gao huo: high fire/roast
With a low roast tea, the flavour is more flowery and vegetal like a Tie Guan Yin oolong. While the dry leaves are dark brown, you'll notice that the wet leaves (after steeping) have a greenish appearance. Low roast rock teas are the most accessible in flavour and are highly recommended for first time rock tea drinkers. The flavours are floral, sweet, smooth and easy to drink. Wet leaves look like this:
As you can see, the leaves are green after they're steeped. However, with medium and high roast teas, the wet leaves will look darker. Medium roast wet leaves will look brownish, and high roast ones appear dark brown. Seasoned drinkers tend to love the stronger and more intense flavours of medium and high roast teas. These also last more steeps when brewed the traditional way.
The Taste Wu Yi tea?
You sometimes here the taste of oolong tea is between that of black tea and green tea. The truth is, it's very hard to describe the range of flavours of Wu Yi teas. Due to the high range of oxidation and roast levels, there's also a wide range of flavours that can include floral notes, fruity notes, notes of spice and medicine.
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 or take shortcuts 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. If you're interested in this topic, you may also read our article about When to drink tea.
We hope you've learned a lot about Wuyishan through this article. If you've any questions, feel free to ask us in the comment section below.