Our teas showcase a variety of sensory characteristics—shape, color, aroma, texture—that entice us, invite us to use and infuse, bringing us great pleasure and joy as we carefully walk through our tea ritual and sip from our cups.
While we might enjoy all of these characteristics throughout a tea session, it’s no secret that some teas captivate us by uniquely capturing the essence of just one characteristic, as if it were a paradigm, a representative against which all else is to be measured.
We can’t help but admire the wildflower aromatics of Anxi Tieguanyin, the caramelly smooth texture of Sichuan Imperial, and the gorgeous color encapsulated by the inimitable shape of artisanal hand-crafted Liu An Gua Pian. In each of these cases, the tea just is what it means to have a wildflower aromatic, a velvety texture, a splendorous color. So magnificent are these teas that our experience of them defines these features.
Now, though there is little question that Anxi Tieguanyin, for example, perfectly captures that wildflower essence in a way that no other tea can, it raises the question: are there any teas that embody aroma itself?
To meet this qualification, a tea would not only need to be highly fragrant, redolent of the land out of which it is grown, but it would need to go beyond this, to possess an outstanding complexity without overwhelming our olfactory sense, to be hypnotically ambrosial, completely enthralling us with every scent.
Is there such a tea?
The challenge of finding the perfectly aromatic tea would no doubt prove a difficult endeavor, perhaps even a fool’s errand, but there is a class of teas that, on average, stands out above all others when it comes to intoxicating perfumes: Wuyi Rock Oolongs.
Indeed, the Wuyi Yancha tea are the teas par excellence when it comes to heady aromatics. Each rock oolong hails from its own tea bush varietal, tested by the rugged, humid environment of Wuyi Mountain.
The combination of these two factors alone already serve to produce an extensive array of diverse, unique flavor profiles, but when you add the discerning eyes and disciplined hands of a tea master, the aromatic possibilities seem endless.
Consider, for instance, the famous Horse Head Rock Yancha, Rou Gui, a Wuyi rock oolong that treats the nose with herbaceous notes of true cinnamon sprinkled over baked stone fruits.
As alluring as this may sound, one would also do well to also pay heed to White Rooster Crest Yancha, Bai Ji Guan. Grown at Huiyuan Cave, this is a lighter-colored rock oolong that smells of freshly sliced pear garnished with almond slivers and infused with the essence of elderflower.
Or you might turn your attention and nose to Stone Milk Fragrance Yancha, Shi Ru Xiang. Cultivated from an especially rocky area known as Shui Lian Dong, this viscous tea, true to its name sake, pleases with a trace scent of milk poured atop a bowl of vanilla granola sweetened with sun-dried raisins.
To be sure, the entrancing aromas of Wuyi rock oolongs does not end with those three. Deserving a category of their own, these teas comprise a whole world unto themselves, begging to be explored by the curious adventurers and the discriminating connoisseurs alike.What’s your favorite Wuyi Rock Oolong?