Sonwu Tea Huang Guan Yin, Spring 2016, Tea Master Zhou, Wuyi Mountain Inner Circle

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, slightly curled
Steep time: flash infusions
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: dark reddish amber

I’ve had the good fortune to receive some pretty amazing Wuyi oolong samples lately. It has definitely spoiled my palate as I find myself only wanting to drink the good stuff. The place where yancha is produced is integral to getting the right taste, more so than with any other kind of tea that I’ve experienced. “Inner circle” teas will cost a lot more but trust me when I say that it is worth it. They won’t be your daily drinker but a rare treat to be savored slowly instead.

Huang Guan Yin is definitely one of my favorite kinds of yancha (second only to Rou Gui). It is a hybrid of two famous cultivars, Huang Jin Gui and Tie Guan Yin, that was introduced by the Fujian Tea Research Institute. Although it can be made into a greener rolled style oolong like those from Anxi, I think where it really shines is as a strip-style oolong from Wuyi. The roast is usually not as heavy-handed as with other varieties, resulting in a mellower tea.

Sonwu Tea really impressed me with their Rou Gui so I was excited to give this one a try. As always, I’m a sucker for beautiful packaging so they scored major points there as well. There is just something about a handwritten label that adds a special touch. It shows an attention to detail that I think reflects their philosophy as a tea company. Everything is carefully and thoughtfully curated.

This tea was surprisingly floral for a Wuyi oolong. It wasn’t an in-your-face orchid note like you would expect from its Tie Guan Yin forefathers. Think sudden whiff of alluring fragrance rather than someone soaked in perfume. The classic yan yun, or rock rhyme, was definitely there but in a more subtle way than you might be used to. I can’t help but liken the effect to my beloved Reisling wines, flinty but not so much as to make it chewy. Overal it was soft and sweet with a lingering, clean aftertaste. There was no bitterness, even as later steeps became much more lengthy.

Regular readers will know that I’m not usually one for flash steeping but I definitely recommend following Sonwu Tea’s brewing recommendations. This will help you to get the most out of your tea. This is another one that breaks the bank a bit so I also suggest brewing it in the smallest vessel that you have. I keep a very tiny Petr Novak pot for exactly this purpose. 1oz of leaves can be stretched a lot farther that way.

Huang Guan Yin, Spring 2016, Tea Master Zhou, Wuyi Mountain Inner Circle sample was provided for review by Sonwu Tea.

Nicole has been writing about her love of the leaf since 2008. Her work has been featured on World Tea News, The Daily Tea, Tea Journey, and other publications. She is the winner of the 2018 World Tea Award for Best Tea Blog.