Rou Gui, also called Cinnamon Tea, is one of the most famous and popular yanchas. It is known for its unique combination of high aroma and energy. This 2019 Rou Gui is a Zhengyan Cha, which means that is comes from within the protected Wuyishan national park. It offers a beautiful insight in what yancha has to offer.
Rou Gui cultivar was introduced on a large scale in Wuyishan fairly recently, in the nineties. It offers spicy notes, with a long aftertaste and a smooth body.
What is Yancha?
A yancha is an oolong, a semi-oxidized tea. Yancha is on the heavier sides of the oolong spectrum. It has dark, roasted leaves and the taste is heavier than what you're used to in lightly oxidized teas such as green Taiwanese oolong. Although this sounds like yancha is a tea for the heavy coffee-drinking tongue, the opposite is true. Yancha can be incredibly subtle, smooth, with sweet tones and a complexity that will keep you satisfied 8-10 brews long.
Yancha literally means ‘Rock tea’ or 'Cliff tea'. This is because of the area yancha grows in. Yancha originates from the Wuyishan area, a beautiful nature area in Fujian. The area is so diverse that you can still escape the tourist crowds, following the tracks swirling through all the valleys, in between waterfalls, giant rocks, caves, gorges, cliffs, and tea trees. It’s a place where poets and writers went to for their inspiration back in the days and still, and where monks meditated. It’s one of these scrolls you see, but then in real life. Absolutely stunning.
The unique environment it grows in makes yancha so special. There are no massive fields of tea. It’s a few trees here, a few there, tucked in between rocks, in valleys, everywhere you look. The high rock cliffs play the biggest part in making yancha so special. They catch the morning mist and make sure the trees are always moist. They protect the tea trees from too much sunshine (only softer morning and evening sunlight will reach the trees) and wind. The rocks absorb sunlight during the day, and release the warmth during the night, making sure the temperature in the valley stays stable even in the night.
After picking, Yancha goes through an extensive process. One of the most important features of the tea is the roast. Yancha is fired/baked two, three or four times over charcoal over the period of four months. After that the tea is available for sale, but often it is advised to let it rest for another six months to let the charcoal fire settle into the tea.