When you travel to Wu Yi Mountain, the birthplace of wulong (or oolong) tea, tea enthusiasts always visit Big Red Robe Park. Guides take visitors to the famous five bushes, perched on a cliff face inscribed with the characters for Big Red Robe. These bushes are estimated to be more than 300 years old – much older than is common for a tea bush. They are sustained in their uncommon old age by the spring water and rich soil provided by the weathered rock. Researchers say of these five bushes, there are three distinct varieties. One of them is named Qi Dan. Although these famous bushes are no longer actually harvested, cuttings taken from the bushes and propagated in other fields makes it possible for us to still drink these ancient tea varieties.
In a Qing Dynasty record of Wu Yi tea varieties, Lu Ting Chan wrote that there were more than 500 hundred named varieties. In recent years, a survey was conducted to find living examples of these antique varieties. Only 156 examples remain. The high yielding and robust Rou Gui and Shui Xian cultivars, through government promotions in the late 1970’s, replaced these old bushes. Today still these two cultivars dominate and are frequently used in blending.
Qi Dan’s most distinctive attribute is the complex aftertaste that develops slowly in the back of the throat after the infused tea is swallowed. This is the celebrated “Yan Yun” or “rhyme” of rock wulong tea – the enduring feeling at the back of your throat. Qi Dan is subtle in that it will not shock the palate right away. Rather, the more you drink, the more its unique character will develop.
Tea Origin: Wu Yi Mountain, Fujian Province
Tea Bush: Qi Dan
Tea Master: Shi Ying
Harvest Time: 2nd week of May
Picking Standard: 1 young leaf and 2 full leaves
Teaware: 12 oz. glass, porcelain or yi xing clay pot
Amount: 1 Tbs of tea leaves
Water: 212 F (boiling) filtered water.
Infusion: First infusion at least 2 minutes. The leaves are good for six infusions.