Thursday, November 30, 2006

Most popular tea from our tea plantation- Ruan Zhi Oolong/ Oolong #17

Ruan Zhi Oolong or Oolong #17
Mae Salong Ruan Zhi Oolong or Oolong #17 is crafted from the leaves of the Ruan Zhi (soft stem) tea variety growing at Mae Salong in the Northern part of Thailand. The tea leaves are cultivated and hand picked using only new growth 1st grade top two leaves and bud. At the elevation of 1,200 to 1,400 meters above sea level, the mountainsides rich soils are covered with mist or clouds which are ideal weather conditions for growing High Mountain Oolong tea. Our processing method produces a tea that is very close to Green as it is only oxidized at 20%, yet having a much more complex, rich flavor than Green Tea.

A very rare specialty tea, our High Mountain Ruan Zhi Oolong is regarded as Thailand’s best and most popular tea product. This well balanced and flavorful tea is a new strain which has a deep and rich Oolong flavor. The tender leaves and buds are carefully processed to produce a deep golden cup with a superb zest and a subtle natural fruity aroma. It lasts for many infusions and is very memorable.

Tea History of Thailand

The soil, altitude, and prevailing weather conditions all affect the complex flavor of a tea. Thailand has over the years developed high quality teas the same way places such as California, Chile and Australia have over the years developed high quality wines - by bringing the plant varieties and know-how from overseas and improving on it.

Following the Chinese revolution and the defeat of the KMT at the hand of the Chinese communist party in 1949, thousands of KMT soldiers and their families were forced to flee China. At the welcoming of the Thai government, many of the Chinese ex-KMT soldiers and sympathizers were invited to settle in the Northern part of Thailand. In doing so, these Chinese migrants also brought with them their language, culture and many traditions including their love for the cultivation and making of teas.

In the 1980s, Taiwanese tea experts from the Taiwan Tea Agricultural Research center were invited to Thailand to assist upgrade the tea plantations originally set by the Chinese migrants. The Taiwanese experts brought with them high-quality tea plant hybrids that had been developed by the center as well as the processing technique specifically developed to produce quality High Mountain Oolong teas for which Taiwan is renowned.

Our tea masters took charge from there and continued with the tradition. Benefiting from the rich soil and ideal weather conditions of Doi Tung and Doi Mae Salong mountains, they maintained the high-quality hybrids in tea gardens located at an altitude of more than 1,200 meters above sea level which remains an essential factor in producing what many connoisseurs consider the ultimate in Chinese tea, Organic High Mountain Oolong teas. The teas have a subtle floral aroma and a deep rich flavor that is satisfying, refreshing and endlessly complex.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Famous Five Rock Teas of Wuyi Mountain

Mount Wuyi 武夷山 is the home of many famous oolong teas including the Famous Five Rock Teas (五大岩茶). The Wuyi Mountain Range, usually called Greater Wuyi Mountain, straddles the border of Fujian and Jiangxi provinces, stretching over 500 kilometers. The average height of the peaks is over 1,000 meters above sea level.
It has ideal conditions for growing oolong tea. The Wuyi Mountain range acts as a natural barrier against cold northern winds while also retaining the warm moist air from the south. Shu Xian tea is grown at an altitude of about 800 meters in a fog enshrouded environment that received plenty of rainfall.

Da Hong Pao 大红袍 is the king of the Famous Five Rock Teas in the Wuyi Mountain of China. This tea is legendary. Records of its existence date as far back as the early 18th century (Dao Guang Era). During Qing Dynasty, Da Hong Pao was entitled "King of Tea". Da Hong Pao is one of the most expensive teas sold in auction history. In 1998, the Chinese government put it up for sale for the first time and was sold to a group of auctioneers for almost $900,000. This special made Da Hong Pao is fully hand processed using traditional method passed down from many generations to members of the "Ge" family.

Rou Gui 肉桂 is the latest tea added to Wuyi's famous five bushes (previously only four consisting of Tie Luo Han, Shui Jin Gui, Da Hong Pao and Bai Ji Guan; referred to as Si Da Ming Cong). All these teas originate from Mount Wuyi in Northern Fujian of China. They are also called Yan Cha (Rock tea) due to the pristine rocky areas where the tea bushes grow. In the early 80s, Rou Gui growing area is only a few Mu (6 acres = 1 Mu) but has increased to 30,000 Mu today, a testament to its quality and popularity.

One of Wuyi top five teas, Shui Jin Gui 水金龟, which means "Golden Turtle" is strong and rich tea with a very slight hint of fruity aroma. According to Chinese legends, Shui Jin Gui tea plant is a transmigration of a turtle god. Despite achieving godhood after a thousand years of meditation, the turtle god soon felt discontented as his hard effort as the Heaven's Tea Gardener often went unnoticed. One morning, he awoke to the noise of tea farmers celebrating their harvest of first flush tea leaves happily. Upon seeing this, the turtle god realised that he would be better appreciated as a tea plant and thus he gave up his immortality to become the Shui Jin Gui tea plant.

Tie Luo Han 铁罗汉 is also one of the Famous Five Wuyi Rock Teas and also believed to be the earliest Wuyi tea; with history records dating back to Song Dynasty. The tea bush was first found in a cave (Gui Dong or Ghost Cave) in Hui Yuan Yan, one of the ninety-nine cliffs of Mount Wuyi. Legend tells that this tea was created by a powerful warrior monk with golden-bronze skin, hence the name Tie Luo Han, which means "Iron Warrior Monk".

Legend has it that the name of this marvellous tea, Bai Ji Guan 白鸡冠 (White Cockscomb) was given by a monk in memorial of a courageous rooster that sacrificed his life while protecting his baby from an eagle. Touched by the display of courage and love, the monk buried the rooster and from that spot, the Bai Ji Guan tea bush grew. Bai Ji Guan's wonderful complex taste makes it one of the best Oolong in the world.


Oolong 烏龍 is a traditional Chinese tea. In contrast to oolong tea, green tea is an un-oxidized tea, and black tea is a fully-oxidized tea. The oxidation level of oolong tea gives it more flavor than green tea, but results in a lighter brew than black tea. Although oo-long has a taste more akin to green tea than to black tea, it does not have the stridently grassy vegetal notes that typify green tea. The best Oolong has a nuanced flavor profile. It should be brewed strong and bitter, yet leave one's mouth with a faintly sweet aftertaste.

The term "oolong" means "black dragon" (or more literally "raven dragon") in Chinese; various legends describe the origin of this curious name. In one legend, the owner of a tea plantation was scared away from his drying tea leaves by the appearance of a black serpent; when he cautiously returned several days later, the leaves had been oxidized by the sun and gave a delightful brew. Another tale tells of a man named Wu Liang (later corrupted to Wu Long, or Oolong) who discovered oolong tea by accident when he was distracted by a deer after a hard day's tea-picking, and by the time he remembered about the tea it had already started to oxidize. Others say that the tea is called "oolong" because the leaves look like little black dragons that wake when you pour hot water on them.

Oolong tea is mainly produced in China and Taiwan, but other countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and Sri Lanka also produce a small amount of oolong. Famous examples of Oolong from China are Tie Kuan Yin (鐵觀音), Shui Xian, Dan Chong (单枞), and so on. While some famous Oolong from Taiwan and Thailand will be Cui Yu Oolong (翠玉乌龙), Dong Ding Oolong (冻顶乌龙), Ruan Zhi Oolong (软枝乌龙), and so on.

Example of Oolong- Tie Kuan Yin (鐵觀音)

Processing of Oolong
Oolong tea undergoes a few delicate processes in order to produce the unique aroma and taste. Typical Oolong tea is processed according to the following steps:

  1. Wilting (萎凋)- Sun dry or air dry to remove some moisture.
  2. Yaoqing (摇青)- To bruise the edge of the tea leaf to create more contacting surface for oxidization.
  3. Rouqing (揉青)- The tea leaves are tumbled for the next stage.
  4. Shaqing (杀青)- Process to stop further oxidation. Depending on the quality of the leaves, they will be dried in a large pan over heat and stirred by hand (for premium tea) or by machinery.
  5. Cooling.
  6. Drying- To remove excessive moisture.
  7. Grading.
  8. Packaging.

Tea History

Chinese people are believed to have enjoyed tea drinking for more than 4,000 years. Legend has it that Yan Di/ Shennong 炎帝/ 神農, one of three rulers in ancient times, tasted all kinds of herbs to find medical cures. One day, as he was being poisoned by some herb he had ingested; a drop of water from a tea tree dripped into his mouth and he was saved. For a long time, tea was used as an herbal medicine. During the Western Zhou Dynasty, tea was a religious offering. During the Spring and Autumn Period, people ate fresh tea leaves as vegetables. With the popularization of Buddhism from the Three Kingdoms to the Northern and Southern Dynasties, tea's refreshing effect made it a favorite among monks in Za-Zen meditation.

Tea as a drink prospered during the Tang Dynasty, and tea shops became popular. A major event of this time was the completion of Tea Classics 茶经, the cornerstone of Chinese tea culture, by Lu Yu 陆羽, Tea Sage of China. This little book details rules concerning various aspects of tea, such as growth areas for tea trees, wares and skills for processing tea, tea tasting, the history of Chinese tea and quotations from other records, comments on tea from various places, and notes on what occasions tea wares should be complete and when some wares could be omitted.

Tinted by the cultural style of the Song Dynasty, tea culture at this time was delicate and sumptuous. New skills created many different ways to enjoy tea. The Ming Dynasty laid the foundation for tea processing, tea types and drinking styles that we have inherited.

During the Qing Dynasty folk art entered tea shops, making them popular entertainment centers. This habit is still practiced in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

During the Tang Dynasty, a Japanese monk brought tea seeds from Zhejiang Province to Japan. Later in the Southern Song Dynasty, Zen masters brought tea procedures and tea wares from China to Japan, promoting the initiation of the Japanese tea ceremony. In the Song Dynasty, Arabic merchants exported tea from Quanzhou, Fujian Province. In the Ming Dynasty, tea was sold to Southeast Asian and South African countries. In 1610 tea went to Europe via Macau in a Dutch merchant ship. Thus tea became an international drink.