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Of all the Wuyi oolong cultivars, it seems the one that I can never manage to muster much of a reaction to is Rou Gui. I think part of that is the fact that it is so common. At the moment, Rou Gui is an extremely popular cultivar both in China and abroad. Every vendor seems to offer at least one Rou Gui variant each year. The cultivar, itself, has become so popular that I have seen it referred to as “the fifth bush;” its popularity with tea drinkers apparently rivals that of Da Hong Pao, Shui Jin Gui, Tie Luohan, and Bai Ji Guan.

This particular Rou Gui is a product of Li Xiangxi, a tea farmer whose portfolio of offerings through Verdant Tea I really admire. Part of why I appreciate her work is that she tends to avoid the increasingly popular heavy roasts in order to let the natural aromas and flavors of the cultivars with which she works shine and to allow drinkers to appreciate the unique terroir from which her teas come. This particular tea seems to go against her processing philosophy. Though it is labeled as a medium roast tea, I found the roast to be quite heavy and overbearing. It obscured the natural spiciness of the Rou Gui cultivar.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 205 F water for 4 seconds. This infusion was chased by 13 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, I noted that the dry tea leaves produced heavy aromas of char, smoke, and dark wood. There was also a hint of elderberry. After the rinse, an orchid-like floral aroma emerged, as did aromas of huckleberry and spice. The first infusion produced a similar aroma, though I was able to detect an earthiness and tobacco as well. In the mouth, heavy flavors of elderberry, dark wood, char, and smoke mingled with more subtle notes of ginger, cinnamon, orchid, and huckleberry. Subsequent infusions began to draw out mineral notes, as well as aromas and flavors of caramel, raisin, black pepper, and clove. The later infusions displayed the expected Wuyi minerality both on the nose and in the mouth, though I could still detect fleeting impressions of caramel, char, smoke, raisin, tobacco, and wood with a hint of mild ginger, black pepper, and cinnamon spiciness.

This tea managed to be resilient, deep, and complex, though the overall aroma and flavor profiles were not much to my liking. I felt like the roast was too heavy, obscuring the spice, flower, and fruit notes of which I would have liked to see more. So, while there may have been a lot going on with this tea, it all seemed to be somewhat out of balance. Though I tend to admire Li Xiangxi’s work, I cannot help feeling that she lost the thread with this one. My search continues for a Rou Gui that really speaks to me. I think fans of heavier roasts may get some satisfaction out of this one, but it was not for me.

Flavors: Black Pepper, Caramel, Char, Cinnamon, Clove, Dark Wood, Fruity, Ginger, Huckleberry, Mineral, Orchid, Raisins, Smoke, Tobacco

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
Rasseru

I’ve only tried a few rou gui now but none of them have really wowed me. I even tried an expensive one from a trusted source & it didnt have much strength or staying power, and came across confused as to what it was trying to put across.. so for me as well, the quest continues

eastkyteaguy

Rasseru, sometimes I get the impression that aromas and flavors that go over in other parts of the world do not always translate well to Western noses and palates. It could be an individual thing too, so who knows? Everything I have read about Rou Gui suggests that it has become one of the most popular oolongs in China, but I’ve tried several, and so far none of them have done it for me. As a matter of fact, none of them have even come close. I have the light roast version of this tea in my cabinet. I think I’ll bump it up in the rotation and work on it next week. Since my biggest issue with this particular tea was the heaviness of the roast, I am hoping that I will like the other version more.

Rasseru

‘not even close’ – yeah thats how i feel. Maybe you are right, and I am expecting cinnamon powder, but I should be expecting actual cassia bark/trees and that smells different…?

The couple i have, will have to try again, they had a medium roast but as I recall, limited staying power.

eastkyteaguy

Just out of curiosity, which other Rou Gui have you tried? All of the ones I have tried in the past year or so have been from Verdant. I started to order a spring 2016 Rou Gui from Yunnan Sourcing, but ended up nabbing a Dan Cong, a Shui Jin Gui, and a Da Hong Pao instead. I figured it made more sense for me to buy things I am likely to enjoy.

Rasseru

actually I just checked and the expensive one wasnt a Rou Gui, my mistake. My others have been from either YS or somewhere else I cant remember – i got given a free sample as well, i’ll have to have a think.

I have actually been drinking the YS spring 2016 for the last few hours to remind myself of it -

it has a roast/sweet/fruit/cinnamon/wood(rooibos?)/(hints of chocolate?) taste.

The roast isnt too strong, nothing like a strong DHP or Shui Xian. You might like it, i dont know – but i’m one of those people that doesnt like chocolate & fruit, so i think thats why I dont go for it?

It is a nice tea, just i dont think to my taste

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Rasseru

I’ve only tried a few rou gui now but none of them have really wowed me. I even tried an expensive one from a trusted source & it didnt have much strength or staying power, and came across confused as to what it was trying to put across.. so for me as well, the quest continues

eastkyteaguy

Rasseru, sometimes I get the impression that aromas and flavors that go over in other parts of the world do not always translate well to Western noses and palates. It could be an individual thing too, so who knows? Everything I have read about Rou Gui suggests that it has become one of the most popular oolongs in China, but I’ve tried several, and so far none of them have done it for me. As a matter of fact, none of them have even come close. I have the light roast version of this tea in my cabinet. I think I’ll bump it up in the rotation and work on it next week. Since my biggest issue with this particular tea was the heaviness of the roast, I am hoping that I will like the other version more.

Rasseru

‘not even close’ – yeah thats how i feel. Maybe you are right, and I am expecting cinnamon powder, but I should be expecting actual cassia bark/trees and that smells different…?

The couple i have, will have to try again, they had a medium roast but as I recall, limited staying power.

eastkyteaguy

Just out of curiosity, which other Rou Gui have you tried? All of the ones I have tried in the past year or so have been from Verdant. I started to order a spring 2016 Rou Gui from Yunnan Sourcing, but ended up nabbing a Dan Cong, a Shui Jin Gui, and a Da Hong Pao instead. I figured it made more sense for me to buy things I am likely to enjoy.

Rasseru

actually I just checked and the expensive one wasnt a Rou Gui, my mistake. My others have been from either YS or somewhere else I cant remember – i got given a free sample as well, i’ll have to have a think.

I have actually been drinking the YS spring 2016 for the last few hours to remind myself of it -

it has a roast/sweet/fruit/cinnamon/wood(rooibos?)/(hints of chocolate?) taste.

The roast isnt too strong, nothing like a strong DHP or Shui Xian. You might like it, i dont know – but i’m one of those people that doesnt like chocolate & fruit, so i think thats why I dont go for it?

It is a nice tea, just i dont think to my taste

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My grading criteria for tea is as follows:

90-100: Exceptional. I love this stuff. If I can get it, I will drink it pretty much every day.

80-89: Very good. I really like this stuff and wouldn’t mind keeping it around for regular consumption.

70-79: Good. I like this stuff, but may or may not reach for it regularly.

60-69: Solid. I rather like this stuff and think it’s a little bit better-than-average. I’ll drink it with no complaints, but am more likely to reach for something I find more enjoyable than revisit it with regularity.

50-59: Average. I find this stuff to be more or less okay, but it is highly doubtful that I will revisit it in the near future if at all.

40-49: A little below average. I don’t really care for this tea and likely won’t have it again.

39 and lower: Varying degrees of yucky.

Don’t be surprised if my average scores are a bit on the high side because I tend to know what I like and what I dislike and will steer clear of teas I am likely to find unappealing.

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