Yancha is a tea term that I wondered about for a long time before I knew what it was. Simply put, the name yancha translates as rock tea and it refers to oolong teas produced in the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian Province in China. The soil in this region is very rocky and the best quality teas are grown high up on cliffs. This imparts a mineral taste to the finished tea that is sometimes called yanyun, or rock rhyme.
Da Hong Pao is arguably the most well-known variety of yancha. You’ve surely seen news articles about this tea being worth more than its weight in gold. Don’t let that price tag stop you, there are lots of other varieties to explore. My personal favorite is Rou Gui. I just love its subtle spicy note. Sampling a few different kinds is great way to better understand the region and its teas.
Wuyi Oolong Varieties
|Bai Xian||Eight Immortals|
|Bai Ji Guan||White Cockscomb|
|Da Hong Pao||Big Red Robe|
|Huang Guan Yin||Yellow Goddess of Mercy|
|Rou Gui||Cassia Bark|
|Shui Jin Gui||Golden Water Turtle|
|Shui Xian||Water Sprite|
|Tie Luo Han||Iron Arhat|
|Qi Lan||Rare Orchid|
True Cliff vs Half Cliff
Zheng Yan refers to teas that are grown within the national preserve. This area is carefully protected and no pesticides are allowed within its borders. The soil here is considerably rockier, making it rich in minerals. You’ll often see these teas called “true cliff”.
“Half cliff” teas are called Ban Yan. They are less desirable because they are grown outside of the innermost area of Wuyi. The mineral quality will be less noticeable. I’ve found that they also don’t last for as many infusions as true cliff teas. On the plus side, they are usually less expensive.
Yancha is a perfect example of the diversity of the oolong category. Higher oxidation and a charcoal roast give the tea a deeper, darker taste than what you might expect. They can still offer surprising floral notes and great complexity underneath all of that.
Do you have a favorite kind of yancha? Let me know about it in the comments below!