China, the much-acknowledged birthplace of tea drinking in the world, is a large country divided into provinces. Fujian is one such province and is also a source of some fine teas. They are so varied, though, that we will start with the county of Anxi. Time to go exploring!
About Anxi County
The area has the perfect balance of red, sandy soil plus climate and elevation, and most teas grown here are processed as oolongs (semi-oxidized). The first Chinese Tea Industry International Cooperation Summit was held here in late 2002 or early 2003 (funded by money funneled from UN member countries to the UN Development Program Office in Beijing).
Oolongs produced in this region are mainly processed as tightly rolled pellet shapes, instead of the longer, twisted shape of many Wuyi oolongs.
- Ti Kuan Yin — Probably the best known tea from Anxi County. Legend has it that the tea was named after the goddess Ti Kuan Yin (“Iron Bodhisattva of Compassion”), a granter of wishes. A farmer prayed to the goddess for money to restore a Buddhist monastery in his village. One version says he went to the temple to pray, while another says he prayed before going to bed and then dreamt of her. Either way, she is supposed to have shown him a special tea bush and told him to cultivate it. The tea grew so popular, that the village was able to get the money to restore the monastery. The tea is extremely fragrant and intoxicatingly complex and fruity.
- Spring Imperial Anxi Huang Jin Gui Oolong — “Huang Jin Gui” means literally “Golden Osmanthus.” From Dapingtown in Anxi County, and produced in accordance with the traditional Anxi Oolong tea making techniques and so has green leaves with red edges. A different tea plant varietal is used from Ti Kuan Yin, so the liquid is rather more yellow than other teas from Anxi. The flavor is very full, mellow, and thick, and the aroma is unique. The leaves are harvested in late April and are comprised of two or three half-matured tea leaves that are processed into a tight bold ball shape (or some call dragonfly head shape). Steeps best in a gaiwan or Yixing teapot using water heated to 209° F (98° C).
- Ben Shan Green Dragon — Made from a young tea plant varietal (a clonal) with strong, heavy branches and brightly colored, distinct, ellipse shaped leaves. It grows in the mountains primarily near Raoyang village in Anxi and shares some similarities in fragrance with the Tie Kuan Yin varietal. This oolong has a low oxidization and has been lightly roasted after rolling, with some re-rolling and re-roasting. The liquid is smooth, full-bodied, and golden with a toasty, grassy-sweet flavor and light floral notes.
- Qi Lan Oolong — Means “profound orchid,” “strange orchid,” or even “wonderful orchid,” depending on how you translate. More heavily oxidized and darker-roasted. The color is darker and often described as being mild and sweet, with a nutty aroma. Some are less oxidized, resembling other greener oolongs, and have a more evident orchid aroma.
- Rou Gui — Means “cinnamon,” also called “Cassia bark oolong.” It tends to be darker and the name refers to its aroma, suggestive of cinnamon. However, it contains no cinnamon flavoring. Cultivated both in the Wuyi mountains and in Anxi county, the Anxi version tends to have a greener character while the Wuyi version tends to be darker.
- Mao Xie Oolong — Means “hairy crab.” A se chung oolong that has fine hairs on the tea leaves. Those leaves are from a particular tea plant varietal that has deeply serrated edges. The edges tend to cause the leaves to form into irregular shapes when rolled, with curled pieces of stem and leaf projecting out in a way that makes them look like a miniature crab.
- Crooked Horse Oolong — This is a medium oxidized Ti Kuan Yin style tea made from a tea plant varietal called wai ma tau (“crooked horse peach”) due to the tip of the tea leaf being hooked like a local peach called Crooked Horse. The leaves are fired in an oven after oxidation, giving a richness and depth to the aroma and flavor. The leaves should be dark green and steep up a golden liquid with a lingering sweet taste of autumn fruit.
Don’t miss our next stop on this virtual world tea tour!
See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.
© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.