Horse Meat Wuyi Oolong (馬頭岩肉桂, Mǎ Tóu Yán Ròu Guì, “Horse Head Cliff Cassia”) – In the grand tradition of naming teas, especially oolongs, after bizarre or unappetizing things (see: Duck Shit), the name Horse Meat comes from an abbreviation of this tea’s full name, Mǎ Tóu Yán Ròu Guì, which means “Rou Gui from Horse Head Cliff.” Mǎ Tóu Yán Ròu Guì is a mouthful, so in Chinese it gets abbreviated to Mǎ Ròu 馬肉 (“Horse Meat”), which takes the first character of the location and the first character of the tea breed. This is because Ròu Guì 肉桂 literally translated means “Meat Osmanthus” and refers to a cinnamon-like plant called Cassia. Ròu Guì is an ancient breed that has emerged in recent years as one of the most sought after high-end Wuyi Oolong breeds, and the finest Ròu Guì comes from Horse Head Cliff. The terroir or dì wèi 地味 (“earth taste”) of Horse Head Cliff brings out the natural minerality and birch bark and cinnamon notes of the breed.
Wuyi Oolongs are subject to somewhat capricious trends in tea market, whereby new breeds will become popular, and farmers will quickly graft the new breed onto their old rootstock to be able to capitalize on the demand. For this reason, many of our favorite Wuyi Oolongs from the past decade have become commercially extinct—while the mother plants still exist, our sources aren’t producing them in sellable quantities. This was the fate of some of our classic offerings including White Cockscomb and Haunted Plum.
Fragrance notes for Horse Meat include fresh baked pastries with a little bit of honey on the dry leaf, with some distant fruity notes that push the fragrance toward something like warm apple pie. A cooked cherry sweetness emerges on the wet leaf and mixes with the crushed granite minerality characteristic of Wuyis, presenting a soft, silky mouthfeel that really coats the tongue. The huí gān 回甘 (“returning sweetness”) fills the mouth and lingers. The Qi is powerful and permeating, spanning the region from the head to the chest, and has the comforting quality of a warm embrace.