Those who have tasted Da Hong Pao are enchanted by its unique Yanyun, a special quality exclusive to Da Hong Pao produced in the Wuyi Mountains.
The manifestation and sensation of the Yanyun in Da Hong Pao can be described as having a particularly mellow taste. People say it has a "bone-like feeling in the water." After drinking, there is a quick return of sweetness, a lingering aftertaste, and a distinct throat rhyme. The aroma, regardless of its intensity, remains enduring and profound, with a noticeable fragrance even when cold. The tea leaves can withstand multiple infusions, typically 7-10 or more. The quality is stable (the tea leaves are resistant to storage).
So, how is this unique Yanyun formed? Let's explore below.
Key factors influencing the Yanyun of Da Hong Pao
1 Unique Ecological Environment of Wuyi Mountains
The Wuyi Mountains, broadly referring to the Wuyi Mountain Range and narrowly to the Wuyi Mountain Scenic Area, also encompass the administrative jurisdiction of the Wuyi Mountain City. The Wuyi Mountain Scenic Area was originally formed from seabed sedimentary rock, later lifted with the Wuyi Mountain Range, unlike the granite terrain. Sandstone is easily eroded by light, rain, wind, and other factors, forming the rugged and distinctive features we see today over millions of years. Danxia landforms are characterized by the collapse and weathering of red sandstone layers.
The red sandstone soil is situated between "rotten rock" and "gravel soil" and is mature soil with loose texture, good permeability, and favorable conditions for tea trees to absorb nutrients. Lu Yu, a scholar from the Tang Dynasty, described it in the "Classic of Tea": "Tea, the best grows on rotten rock, the middle on gravel soil, and the lowest on yellow soil." This high-quality soil condition is a necessary requirement for producing one of the best loose leaf tea, Da Hong Pao.
"Rotten rock" and "gravel soil" are mature soils suitable for tea growth. In the Wuyi Mountains, Danxia landforms are mainly concentrated in the Wuyi Mountain Scenic Area and radiate to the surrounding areas. Therefore, the tea mountains within the Thirty-Six Peaks and Ninety-Nine Cliffs of Wuyi Mountain are famous production areas for Wuyi Yan tea, producing high-quality rock teas such as "Zhengyan" and "Mingyan," with "Three Pits and Two Streams" being particularly renowned.
"Three Pits and Two Streams" refers to five specific locations: "Niulan Pit," "Daoshui Pit," "Huiyuan Pit," "Liuxiang Stream," and "Wuyuan Stream." For tea enthusiasts who appreciate Wuyi Rock Tea, the mention of "Three Pits and Two Streams" is like a familiar melody, and everyone considers it fortunate to be able to drink Wuyi Rock Tea from these locations.
High mountains yield good tea, and flatlands boast beautiful flowers. Within the Wuyi Mountain Scenic Area, where ravines crisscross, sunlight is abundant, mists shroud the surroundings, and relative humidity is high, the soil is primarily composed of red sandstone with a loose and permeable texture. Coupled with a well-functioning water cycle, a favorable biological chain has formed among various species. The greatness of Wuyi Mountain lies in its superior natural conditions, with a forest coverage rate of 80%, especially in tea cultivation. With such abundant natural advantages, the loose leaf tea produced are almost all high-quality, prompting ancient people to marvel and declare Wuyi Rock Tea as a "gift from heaven."
2 Wuyi Tea Cultivation Techniques
The unique terrain of Wuyi Mountain, characterized by a limited amount of soil on its slopes, has led local tea farmers to develop a sophisticated method of tea cultivation known as the "Stone Seat Technique," also referred to as the "Concave Rock Planting Method." In this method, tea farmers build stone embankments along mountain hollows, rock recesses, and crevices. They fill these structures with soil and plant tea seeds, creating a "potted" tea garden similar to cultivating bonsai.
Two prominent techniques within the "Wuyi Tea Cultivation Techniques" are the "Deep Plowing Suspension Method" and the "Guest Soil Method." During the deep plowing process in August and September, the effective nutrients near the root are lifted towards the surface. This allows the roots to benefit from sunlight exposure, insect and disease control, and soil maturation. The guest soil, rich in trace elements such as Fe, Cu, Mg, Zn, Mo, Cl, is crucial in imparting the unique Yanyun characteristics to the tea.
On a national scale, this tea cultivation method is specific to Wuyi Mountain and is rarely found in other tea-producing regions. Due to the labor-intensive nature of this technique, it is not commonly adopted unless the economic value of the tea is sufficiently high.
Influencing Factors on the Yanyun of Da Hong Pao
1 Tree Age
Through years of processing fresh leaves harvested from places like "Three Pits and Two Streams," it has been observed that young tea trees, especially those of the Water Narcissus variety, produce a fragrance easily but lack a distinct Yanyun. Tea trees with a shorter age do exhibit the Yanyun, while teas made from trees aged 20 years or more not only have a high aroma but also a very noticeable Yanyun.
2 Fresh Leaf Maturity during Harvest
The outer layer of large, open-faced fresh leaves has thicker cell walls, and the cuticle layer is fully differentiated. The wax outside the cuticle contains high-carbon fatty acids and high-carbon monounsaturated fatty acids, contributing to the aroma of oolong tea. More mature fresh leaves contain higher levels of carotene, starch, sugar, and ether extracts, favoring the formation of the "Yanyun" in loose leaf oolong tea.
3 Tea Processing Techniques
The unique processing techniques of Wuyi Rock Tea include a specific green-making process known as "two sunning and two airing," combining heavy and light methods. This process involves observing and making adjustments during the green-making stage, with a primary focus on double frying, double rolling, removing greenness to enhance aroma, and forming the tea into strips. Initial baking, repeated baking, and the ripening of aroma contribute to both the color and flavor, making them essential factors in the formation of the "Yanyun."
If you want to experience the classic flavor of Da Hong Pao, feel free to visit iTeaworld for selection and purchase. In addition to Da Hong Pao, iTeaworld offers a variety of classic Chinese teas in the form of tea sampler, allowing you to easily experience the best and most authentic flavors of Chinese tea.
In summary, Yanyun refers to the aroma and taste of oolong tea that comes from excellent varieties grown in the Danxia landforms of Wuyi Mountain, processed using the traditional cultivation and production techniques of Wuyi Rock Tea. Hopefully, this article helps you better understand the Yanyun of Da Hong Pao.