Rou Gui is generally known as a strip style oolong from the Wuyi Mountains, yet it is grown and harvested elsewhere. I have noticed that Verdant, or at least the individual tea producers who supply them, have gotten into experimenting with the effects of different terroir and different production methods in the production of some of their oolongs. This tea and the Dark Roast Anxi Qilan are both Anxi County takes on traditional Wuyi oolongs, while the new Wuyi Jin Guanyin is a Wuyi take on a new Anxi cultivar. As with Qilan, I have come to discover that I tend to prefer Rou Gui as produced in the traditional manner.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse (about 4-5 seconds for this one), I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 10 seconds. I followed Verdant Tea’s gongfu method very closely this time around. I conducted 9 subsequent infusions, increasing the steep time by 2 seconds per infusion. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 12 seconds, 14 seconds, 16 seconds, 18 seconds, 20 seconds, 22 seconds, 24 seconds, 26 seconds, and 28 seconds.
Prior to the rinse, I noted that the dry leaves emitted a mild aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg with a light vegetal undertone. After the rinse, I noted a strong spicy aroma. The first infusion produced lovely aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, and flowers. In the mouth, however, the taste of the tea did not follow the aroma. I got strong notes of grass, basil, and Buttercrunch lettuce underscored by mild traces of cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, marigold, and chrysanthemum. The next several infusions heavily emphasized aromas and flavors of honey, chrysanthemum, marigold, cinnamon, and nutmeg underscored by lettuce, basil, and grass. At this point, I began to note that the tea was settling and fading faster than I would have liked. The final series of infusions began to wash out quickly, though I could still detect distinct impressions of grass, basil, lettuce, marigold, and spices underscored by traces of honey and minerality.
To be perfectly honest, this oolong did not do much for me. Again, I tend to like oolongs produced in the traditional manner. It was quite obvious to me that the influence of Daping’s terroir produced a much milder, more floral tea, and that is not really what I look for in a Rou Gui. I can understand why some people may like this tea-I suppose that if you find the spice notes of traditional Wuyi Rou Gui overpowering, then a milder, smoother version such as this may hit the spot. For me, however, I just do not see the point. I’m glad I had the opportunity to try this experiment, but I think I will stick with traditionally produced Wuyi Rou Gui variants from here on out.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Floral, Grass, Herbs, Honey, Lettuce, Mineral, Nutmeg