Rougui Shuiliandong 2018 水帘洞肉桂



May 2018

Wuyishan, Fujian

The magnificent Wuyi Mountains, a protected Nature’s Reserve in Fujian Province, is home to the some of the  most treasured and highly sought after oolongs of China. An UNESCO World Heritage site, it famously consist of 36 peaks, 72 caves and 99 cliffs.

 The oolong from Wuyi Mountain is called yancha 岩茶 “cliff or rock oolong”. An extremely rare oolong, the true cliff yanchas are from the limited number of tea trees located within the Nature’s Reserve, and harvested according to ancestral rites on the rocky slopes of the magnificent cliffs.

In the year 1619 during the Ming Dynasty, Xu Biaoran, a native of Wuyi Mountain, compiled and published a book named “Wuyishan Zhilue”. In the four-volume book, he painted an astonishing whole picture of the magnificent Wuyi Mountain. The original painting, called “Wuyi Scenic Spots” is now in the collection of Waseda University in Japan. In the painting, he painted many of the most famous peaks, caves and cliffs, including Shuilian Cave, Matou Cliff, Sanyang Peak, Dawang Peak, Tianxin Cliff, etc.

The Shuilian Cave is the largest cave in the Wuyi Mountain Scenic Area. The cliff that the cave is located in is more than 300 feet tall, with two springs at the top of it that cast over its edge.  Clear water runs from these springs, passing over the mouth of the cave, year-round. From below, they appear like two floating dragons spraying ambergris over the mountains…It is a scenery that conjures many images.

The name of this cliff, “Shuiliandong” 水帘洞, is made up of three characters: shui is water, lian could be translated into curtain or bead, and dong is cave. And so the cliff is named for this falling water which hangs, like a beaded curtain from the sky, across the opening of the Shulian Cave.

The geological features of Shuilan Cave have made it an ideal site for human gathering for thousands of years. Unlike limestone caves, Shuilian has been formed by the slow erosion of softer layers of rock between horizontal strata, then gradually carved out by flowing water. This process makes for an unusually spacious cavity within the cliff; a space that can accommodate thousands of people, and likely has. Inside the cave remain the ruins of three stone buildings – the Sanxian Temple, the Three Churches, and the Zhenguan Temple – and the cave walls are decorated with many inscriptions made by both ancient and modern people.

Not only a scale shift, but a temporal shift, occurs in the presence of the phenomenal landmarks at Shuiliandong. Following the narrow path that winds along the sheer rock face, one senses the attentive rhythm of a way of life specific to this place. The natural features of this environment, tea being one of them, seem to keep time for the long-practiced forms of reverence of those who come here.

With the constant streams of water that filter through Shuiliandong, continually feeding into the vibrant foliage below, we can imagine the mineral available to the roots of the tea trees. This mineral inflection is well matched by the more intense varietal of oolong, Rougui, that grows here. The Rougui trees that yield this tea are around 20 years old, and grow on a small plot of land that belongs to the family of Pei Liyan. Her family are generational tea farmers in the Wuyi Mountain area, and they have ancestral rites to plots of land situated inside the Wuyi Nature Reserve. This Rougui was crafted by her father, who has been crafting Wuyi Rock oolongs for over 4 decades. It is made following traditional techniques, which includes being roasted in 5 rounds over the course of 4 months.

This tea has the distinct mouth-delineating architecture of all Rouguis - it seems to open on the palate like a house, or a temple. Inside of this mineral structure we taste purple flowers, and even peach notes. Its subtle complexities appear consecutively, in a string of suggestion, and continue for a long time – much like the beads of water that make up Shuilian’s curtain. 

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Brewing guide

The key to brewing this tea is to use boiling water, and quick infusions, starting at 10 seconds.

Tea 5g
100 °C
Water  120ml
Steep time 10 - 60 sec
No. of infusions 8

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