As we had pointed out in earlier articles on this blog, Dancong oolongs come from shui xian tea plant cultivars. We thought it would be nice now to take a look at this branch of the tea plant family.
|Da Hong Pao (aka Big Red Robe) is a highly prized Wuyi Shui Xian oolong.
Honey colored liquid has honey notes in the flavor.
1 The Name
The Romanized name is sometimes spelled “shui xian” and sometimes “shui hsein.” It is interpreted various ways, such as Water Goddess, Water Fairy, Water Sprite, Narcissus Flower, or Chinese Sacred Lily.
2 The Location
Most shui xian cultivar plants are grown in the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian County, with sub-cultivars grown in the Phoenix Mountains of Guangdong Province (the best are said to be from Mt. Wudong) just south of Fujian Province. Shui xian is also grown in Taiwan, the small island nation off the coast of Guangdong Province, China. Tea masters there use the leaves to produce Narcissus teas based on the min nan style of shui xian oolong. They are rarely seen outside of Taiwan and many even have narcissus flowers mixed in with the tea leaves.
3 There Are 4 Varieties
One variety is the Fenghuang shui xian used to make Dancong oolongs previously mentioned. Another is Fujian wuyi shui xian where the plants grow as tall trees; they tend to have a dark color in the liquid and a heavy honey fragrance whereas the cheaper varieties grown elsewhere in that province have a burnt taste popular in Chinese restaurants since it goes well with most foods served there. The Fujian min bei shui xian is cultivated as a bush and is grown just outside the Wuyi Shan area or in the Min Bei Province (another name for the northern part of Fujian Province). And the Fujian min nan shui xian, also called “se zhong shui xian.” The cultivar is fairly easy to grow and has been propagated to a rather wide area, but the best ones are few and far between, such as our Dancong oolongs.
4 Old Tea Plants
Some of the tea plants can be as old as 200 years and are referred to as lao cong shui xian (hsien). They are well-tended and treasured by the locals, and the leaves are said to make the best quality teas.
5 Storing and Aging
There is some debate out there about what an aged oolong is. Some say it is oolong that has be purposely stored after processing is finished and others that say that it is unsold tea that is stored and then brought back out under the name “aged oolong.” One source says it is better to let them sit for a year or two due to the high firing they undergo during processing. This takes away the burnt, rough, and overly dry characters in the flavor so they steep up instead a liquid that is round, full-bodied, and deep when infused in the gongfu style.
Shop for Shui Xian teas on our store site.