Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, slightly curled
Steep time: 3 seconds, increasing with each infusion
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: deep reddish brown
Things have changed quite a bit since I first started reviewing tea. For a long time, email was the primary method of communication between tea companies and bloggers like myself. Nowadays I am more likely to receive a direct message on Instagram. Being a pseudo-millennial, I am OK with this. When I received such an inquiry from new-to-me Sonwu Tea my interest was definitely piqued. A glance at their website showed a focus on single-origin Chinese teas.
I’m a sucker for handwritten labels and although just a single serving, this package was beautifully done. Rou Gui roughly translates as cinnamon. The name might lead you to think the taste would be spicy. There are hints of that but I would say the defining characteristic is a fruitiness reminiscent of dark red fruits. Although it is an individual cultivar, Rou Gui is often used for blending with famous Shui Xian varieties like Da Hong Pao and Tie Luo Han. It is one of my favorite Wuyi oolong varieties and I have been lucky enough to try many excellent examples over the years.
The brewing directions for this tea were a bit lighter than my personal style but I always try a vendor’s recommendation first before experimenting. A quick initial flash brew of 3 seconds produced a surprisingly robust cup. The taste was fruity with hints of chocolate covered espresso beans. Yum! Later brews revealed a slightly drying minerality along with a sweet woody tobacco-like character. By gradually increasing my infusion time, I was able to make at least 10 to 15 infusions before the leaves had given their all.
This tea is definitely not a daily drinker. It might just rank among the priciest that I’ve reviewed here on the blog. That being said, sometimes you do get what you pay for. It was everything that a Rou Gui should be. Note the “Inner Circle” part of the name. It indicates that it was grown in the protected core part of the Wuyi Shan region making it a Zheng Yan, or true cliff, tea. I also have a Huang Guan Yin from Sonwu Tea in my to-be-reviewed pile. After enjoying this one so much I can’t wait to dive into it.
Rou Gui, Spring 2016, Tea Master Zhou, Wuyi Mountain Inner Circle sample provided for review by Sonwu Tea.