TeaNerd Dictionary: Yancha
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Tea Nerd Dictionary: Yancha

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

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 XianEight Immortals
Bai Ji GuanWhite Cockscomb
Da Hong PaoBig Red Robe
Huang Guan YinYellow Goddess of Mercy
Rou Gui Cassia Bark
Shui Jin GuiGolden Water Turtle
Shui XianWater Sprite
Tie Luo HanIron Arhat
Qi LanRare Orchid
The Yunnu Hill, Iconic among the Wuyi Mountains
Source: Wikipedia

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.

Da Hong Pao growing on a Wuyi Mountain Cliff
Source: Wikipedia

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!

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.