In February, 2020, I started a writeup of the 2019 Premium Yancha Tasting Flight from Jon Huarong Li and Tong Xin Teahouse. Somehow, I never got around to writing up the second half of the teas in that sampler. I can’t remember exactly what distracted me, I vaguely recall something about a pandemic? Maybe a new job?
In any case, later that year I ordered their 2020 Premium Yancha Tasting Flight and will endeavor here to record my impressions of the teas and some photos of the teas contained therein.
2020 Premium Yancha Tasting Flight
In conjunction with the new year, I would like to show my gratitude to your continuous support by offering a premium yan cha tasting flight!Tong Xin Teahouse
I’ve spent half a month going through the selections of tea that I’ve sourced from Wuyi after the tea competition ended on the 18th of Nov to curate this premium Yancha tasting flight.
- Grand Prize ShuiXian
- Silver award RouGui
- Hui Yuan Keng LaoCong ShuiXian
- Golden Water Turtle (Shui Jin Gui)
- Iron Arhat (Tie Luo Han)
- White Cockscomb (Bai Ji Guan)
- Heaven’s Waist (Ban Tian Yao)
- Rock Milk (Shi Ru)
- Jin Guan Yin
- Yellow rose (Huang Mei Gui)
- Huang Guan Yin
No 7-12 are much rarer tea varieties. These tea varieties are named after its terroir, allowed to grow naturally with minimal human intervention. Based on the rich soil, biodiversity, and microclimate of the terroir, the tea produced has all the goodness from nature.Tong Xin Teahouse
Blend Da Hong Pao
Tong Xin Teahouse describes Blend Da Hong Pao as follows, “this rock tea is a very cost-effective blend of Dahongpao made by my brother Gao Peng. Among them is a blend of Zheng Yan Shui Xian. This blend of Dahongpao has a deep fragrance, no astringency, and is resistant to brewing. Rock rhyme is obvious, full of aftertaste.” Which makes it seem like a fine place to get warmed up for our tasting of the various teas provided in their 2020 Premium Yancha Tasting Flight.
White Cockscomb is lighter in oxidation and roast than more robust rock oolong. Sweet candy-ish scent from dampened leaves gives way to grain character, almost like a white tea. Light lingering herbal aftertaste with a touch of grip. Easier to appreciate as it cools, a subtle style of rock oolong.
Like the white cockscomb, Yellow Rose is also on the lower oxidation side, however it is a more robustly flavored varietal, paired with a bit stronger roast. This is a very good tea, with the complexity of scent and flavor I associate with fine yancha. A pure pleasure to drink, think, and savor.
Golden Water Turtle
Medium-light rock oolong both in oxidation and roast. There’s a tropical fruit/incense character to the early steeps. Lingering light huigan in the aftertaste.
A medium roast, medium oxidation rock oolong. About the name, Tong Xin She says, “Heaven’s Waist is originally produced on the halfway of Matouyan in Wuyi Mountain. It is difficult for ordinary people to reach directly. When picking tea, you need to take a ladder to go up in the tea garden. Hence the name Heaven’s Waist, this tea grows in the tea garden between the cliffs.” After an initial fragrance of flowers in the warmed pot, Heaven’s Waist is a bit on the savory side in later steeps. Scents of flowers return in the long lasting lingering aftertastes.
I am never entirely sure what is meant by the word “Milk” in the name of Milk Oolongs, does it mean they are supposed to taste like Milk? Which seems weird, since adults don’t really traditionally drink Milk in China. Is there some other word playing going on with the name not apparent from the literal translation? The Tong Xin Website explains about Shi Ru Rock Oolong, “…some people even directly regarded stone milk as the representative of Wuyi rock tea, which is well-deserved ‘essence in stone'”. So rather than the name meaning the tea tastes like Milk, it is more like Rock Milk teas are an expression of the essence of the rock they are growing out of. In any case, rock milk are one of my favorite type of rock oolong. This Rock Milk from Tong Xin She is no exception. Great damp leaf smell, good body and balance, long lasting aftertaste, and warming energy. Good tea for a damp San Francisco morning.
Iron Arhat is almost always one of my top favorite types of rock oolong. Again, this Iron Arhat from Tong Xin She is no exception. Stronger in oxidation and (especially) roast from any of the other 2020 teas I’ve tried so far from this sampler, it still manages to strike a beautiful balance between the flavor/scent of the base tea and the processing. A very good rock oolong!
Huang Guan Yin
As you might gather from the name “Huang Guan Yin”, this rock oolong is a cross involving Tieguanyin. The other parent is Huang Fen. To showcase the Tieguanyin fragrance, the producer has opted for a lower oxidation and light roast style, as you can see from the amber broth. Early impressions are of the narcissus perfume, with an undertone of slight astringency. As the tea cools, in later impressions, the rock character asserts itself. A subtle, but elegant, and very skillfully made tea.
Jin Guanyin strikes me as a very good medium. Medium roast, medium oxidation, pleasant perfume and flavor that is neither overwhelmingly complex nor underwhelmingly simple. It exhibits all the good qualities of great rock tea without being showy about them.
2020 Wuyi Mountain Rock Tea Competition Silver Award Rou Gui
I never quite know what to think of teas which are marketed as award winners in tea competitions in China. As I have neither the length of experience drinking tea nor knowledge about the judging criteria for tea competitions, I can only go from my impressions. I try to open all my senses and recalibrate my perceptions of the aesthetics for the tea variety around the characteristics I perceive. This is a medium oxidation, medium-light roast Rou Gui, which allows the base character of the tea to shine. Cassia/Camphor and more than slight grip give way to iris perfume in the very long after impressions.
Hui Yuan Pit Lao Cong Shui Xian
“Hui Yuan Pit Lao Cong Shui Xian 120 years old tea tree – Three times charcoal baked, total 42 hours of baking” The very well known areas of the Wuyi preserve are the mountainous rocky peaks, but between the peaks are areas known as “pits” and rock oolong tea is also produced in these areas. This tea comes from older tea trees in the Hui Yuan “pit” area. Funky and a bit savory, for all the baking, the charcoal isn’t as assertive as I would expect, nowhere near the level on the Iron Arhat, for example. Very strong rock character, twisted with slight narcissus in the finish.
2020 Wuyi Mountain Rock Tea Competition Special Prize Shui Xian
In their writeup of the 2020 Wuyi Mountain Rock Tea Competition Special Prize Shui Xian, Tong Xin She stresses the “softness” and “gentle” nature of this Shui Xian. I think this is accurate, it is floral and sweet in the early steeps and gives way slowly to a woody resinous character in the later steeps.
Overall, I feel that the 2020 Premium Yancha Tasting Flight highlights softer and more elegant teas than the 2019 Premium Yancha Tasting Flight. Well, what I remember of the 2019 Tasting Flight, anyway.
Awards aside, for me the highlights were the Yellow Rose, Iron Arhat, and Rock Milk teas. All, I thought, were fine examples of what I enjoy in Rock Ooolong and well worth your investment if you are investigating this fine purveyor of Fujian tea, (though, also check out their sneaky recent additions of vintage puerh to the store!).
Happy Holidays and wishing you a new year filled with great and enjoyable teas!