Oolong "Wu Yi Rou Gui" or "Wuyi Rougui / Cinnamon" (from China Tea Book)

Wuyi Rougui is produced in Wuyi Mountain and is known for its exceptionally sharp fragrance. In Jiang Heng's "Tea Song" from the Qing Dynasty, there is high praise for the unique qualities of Rougui: "Its strange kind possesses a naturally good flavor; slightly astringent like papaya and slightly pungent like cinnamon. When shall we continue singing its new score, discussing each note like rain and frost, buds and leaves in sequence?" This highlights the intense sharpness of its fragrance and its strong stimulating sensation.

"Teas produced in the famous rocks of Wuyi each have their special characteristics" (from Jiang Shunan's "Travel Notes of Wuyi Mountain"). Rougui, also known as Jade Cinnamon, according to the "New Records of Chong'an County," was first discovered on Huiyuan Rock in Wuyi Mountain, with another account suggesting its original production on Mount Zhenfeng in Wuyi. It is one of the famous bushes of Wuyi and has been renowned since the Qing Dynasty, as "Jade Cinnamon from Panlong Rock... all are extremely precious."

In the 1940s, the original Chong'an Central Tea Research Institute once classified Rougui as one of the top teas in the Qishan Mingcong Observation Garden. However, over the years, Rougui's yield was scarce until the early 1950s when it flourished and emerged as a rising star among the famous bushes of Wuyi.

Since the 1960s, due to its special quality, Rougui has gradually gained recognition, and its planting area has expanded year by year. It is now cultivated in various places in Wuyi Mountain, such as Shuilian Cave, Sanyang Peak, Matouyan, Guilinyan, Tianyouyan, Xianzhangyan, Xiangshengyan, Baihuayan, Zhukao, Bishi, Jiulongke, and more.

In the 1980s, efforts to breed and promote Rougui intensified. Based on traditional cultivation methods in the Wuyi tea area, the Fujian Chong'an County Tea Science Research Institute explored a set of planting and processing techniques to cultivate tea tree varieties with Rougui characteristics and higher economic value. Rougui trees have a semi-open canopy, slightly upright posture, with a height often exceeding 2 meters. The leaves are elliptical, thick-fleshed, smooth on the surface, deep green in color, and have high yield characteristics. Gravel sandy loam soil is preferred, terraced along rocks and water, with an emphasis on applying organic and cake fertilizers. Planting around 3500 plants per mu, with a yield of over 250 kilograms per mu, Rougui is the crown jewel among the famous bushes of Wuyi. Today, Rougui has flourishing descendants, distributed among peaks and rocks such as Shuilian Cave, Sanyang Peak, Matouyan, Guilinyan, Tianyouyan, Shaibuyan, Xiangshengyan, Baihuazhuang, Zhukao, Jiulongke, and along the Jiupu River, covering an area of over 1700 mu. The product has received widespread acclaim in the market.

In 1985, the Fujian Provincial Crop Variety Approval Committee designated Wuyi Rougui as a provincial variety. It has now become one of the main cultivated varieties of Wuyi Rock Tea. The breeding of rock tea varieties prioritizes excellent quality, and the flower names are determined based on characteristics such as growth environment, tea tree morphology, leaf shape, and leaf color. Rougui is named after its characteristic fragrance. Modern scientific analysis of Rougui fragrance has determined it to belong to the floral-fruit fragrance type, confirming the accuracy of previous evaluations of Rougui fragrance.

Unlike the traditional quality characteristics of Wuyi tea, Rougui is a variety with a fragrance that easily becomes mellow and hard to extract. Therefore, strict adherence to the "observe the green and process the green" technique is required, and processing techniques should be flexibly adjusted according to different seasons, periods, and soils. Rougui is a late-budding variety, with vigorous spring shoots that are not easy to "open up." It is suitable for staged and timely tender picking. The best time for spring tea picking is after 9 a.m. and before 4 p.m. on sunny days, conducive to forming high-quality Wuyi Rougui. In hot weather, attention should be paid to preserving the freshness of afternoon green to prevent reddening. Fresh leaves undergo withering, fixation, shaping, rolling, and baking to complete over a dozen processes.

The withering time is generally 20-30 minutes, with one turn, achieving a moisture loss rate of 10%-15%. When sunlight intensity is high, the two drying and two airing method is used to facilitate uniform withering. After appropriately withered tea leaves are moved indoors for cooling for about half an hour, allowing moisture in the stems to be transferred to the leaves, commonly known as "reviving." On rainy days, warming withering can be used.

Shaping is the most complex and meticulous operation in the initial processing stage. Only skilled masters who master the technique meticulously can produce unique quality. Traditional processing is carried out in a stable temperature and humidity environment with tightly closed "green rooms."

A unique shaking technique is used, rubbing the edges of the leaves to promote a certain degree of oxidation of tea polyphenols and the dispersion of moisture. Then the leaves are left to stand to promote water loss, supplemented by hand processing, gently tapping the leaves until the veins are transparent, the red edges appear, and the floral and fruity fragrance is moderately apparent, achieving a moisture loss rate of 32%-35%. The entire process takes 8-10 hours. Hand shaking is performed more than 8 times, with each shaking starting from fewer to more, and the standing time is roughly 60-80-30 minutes before and after. The shaking technique varies according to the picking time: early-picked tea is only shaken without hand processing, mid-picked tea is shaken with hand processing, and late-picked tea requires hand processing due to its coarse and old leaves.

The appropriately processed tea leaves are then pan-fired to fix the formed quality, purify the taste, and enhance the fragrance. The pan temperature during frying is 220°C-250°C, mainly using a smothering method for about 2 minutes. After removing from the pan, press and knead vigorously for 1 minute until the leaves are basically formed into strips, then re-fry. The temperature for re-frying is slightly lower, around 180°C, for a short time, only 20 seconds. This process significantly contributes to forming the unique "rock charm."

After re-frying, it enters the water-wilting and baking stage, with a temperature of 90°C-120°C, for more than 10 minutes until it is baked to about 67% dryness. "Remove the fine debris, spread it out to cool, and re-bake for 1-2 hours using a gentle roasting method." This is a unique process of Wuyi Rock Tea, which enhances the tea fragrance, improves the concentration of the tea soup, and its resistance to brewing.

Wuyi Rougui has a tight and compact appearance, a fresh green-brown color, an extremely sharp and piercing fragrance, a distinct cinnamon aroma, a fresh, smooth, and sweet taste, a clear orange-yellow soup color, bright yellow leaf base, and distinct red dots. According to measurements, the total water extract of Wuyi Rougui tea leaves is 38.91%, total tea polyphenols 23.22%, total amino acids 1.68%, total caffeine 4.65%, total catechins 124.22 mg/g, soluble sugar 3.38%, and water-soluble pectin 3.71%. Higher aroma components in dry tea include linalool and its oxides, eugenol, benzyl alcohol, benzaldehyde, benzyl cyanide, methyl salicylate, methyl anthranilate, jasmine ketone, and trans-3-hexenyl hexenoate. In addition to having the characteristic taste of Wuyi Rock Tea, Rougui is especially loved for its long-lasting, sharp fragrance. The product is sold to regions including Hong Kong, Macau, Southeast Asia, Japan, Europe, and America.

Since 1984, it has been awarded the title of one of the top ten famous teas in China five times by the Ministry of Commerce, received the Ministry of Agriculture's Excellent Product Award in 1989, the Spark Plan Exposition Award in 1991, and won the first and second prizes at the Agricultural Exposition in 1992 and 1995, respectively. Wuyi Rougui is one of the products of Wuyi Rock Tea, and it was included in the original place protection in 2002 and recognized as a geographical indication product in 2006.


(Source: China Tea Book. Author: Guo Yaling, Lin Xinjiong)

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