Old Grove Shuixian 2022
When appreciating tea from the Southern Fujian Province there is a small, lesser known region, bordering Anxi in the South and Dehua in the North, called Yongchun that we must pause our attention on. Yongchun has a surprising number of old grove tea trees that are now more than 60 years old.
Our friend Mei’s encounter with Yongchun oolong started in the summer of 2013. For the last decade Mei has trekked almost all of the mountains and peaks of Yongchun. She has come across abandoned tea trees deep in the mountains, and remote small scale tea farms that are still in operation. With amazement, she discovered that there are many abandoned Buddha’s Hand and Shuixian tea trees tucked high up in the mountain forests. Most of these groves are at least 2000 ft in elevation. Many of the tea trees are around 30 years old, but Mei has found some that are closer to 100: they have been hidden deep in the mountains, forgotten, and thus also protected.
This Shuixian comes from the White Crane Mountain Nature Reserve. White Crane Mountain sits in the middle of Yongchun County, reaching an altitude of 2,000 ft. The tea trees on this mountain were planted in the 1960’s, and most of them are around 60 years old. The rise in agriculture throughout most of the Yongchun area in the 90’s, coupled with the sudden success of the Tieguanyin tea market, meant that almost all the tea farmers working with Buddha’s Hand and Shuixian abandoned their trees in the mountains. The trees have since formed small groves, and have self-sustained, unattended in the wilderness, for some time.
These semi-wild Shuixian tea trees are around 50 years old, and grow at 2500 ft elevation. The special thing about this Shuixian is the unusual way it has been processed. Most of the time Shuixian oolongs are roasted over charcoal for 4 rounds. This Shuixian did not receive any charcoal roasting. Instead, it was baked at low heat for over 30 hours. This slow, and long process reveals very different qualities inherent to the Shuixian varietal – without the charcoal notes we see how sweet and woody this tea is on its own. This more delicate process also emphasizes the unique terroir of White Crane Mountain and the particular mineral quality its ideal conditions impart to the tea that grows there.
We were pleasantly surprised by this experimental tea, and very grateful for the opportunity to encounter this varietal in a new way. We still find the grassy complexity distinct to shuixian here, balanced by the warmth, texture and depth of Old Grove oolong.
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|Steep time||10 - 60 sec|
|No. of infusions||10+