Yan Cha Tasting Guidelines


For this month’s tea club, because Yan Cha is such a big topic to cover, we are sending everyone 6 different teas, hoping to exhibit as many concepts as possible.

Click here to reveal the answers to see if you guessed right. 

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Rou Gui 肉桂 (Ban Yan)
Huang Bai, 2013

Rou Gui 肉桂 (Zheng Yan)
Lian Hua Feng, 2013

Shui Xian 水仙 (Gao Shan)
Xi Yuan 2014

Rou Gui 肉桂 (Ban Yan)
Huang Bai, 2013

Shui Xian 水仙 (Ban Yan)
Huang Bai, 2013

Shui Xian 水仙 (Ban Yan)
Huang Bai, 2013

Da Hong Pao 大紅袍
(Zheng Yan)
Wu Yi Shan, 2014

Da Hong Pao 大紅袍 (Zheng Yan)
Wu Yi Shan, 2014

Qi Dan 奇丹 (Gao Shan)
Xi Yuan, 2014

Tie Luo Han 鐵羅漢 (Zheng Yan)
San Yang Feng, 2014

Qi Lan 奇蘭 (Ban Yan)
Huang Bai, 2013

Ai Jiao Wu Long 矮腳烏龍 (Zheng Yan)
San Yang Feng, 2014

 

 The following are general guidelines to aid your exploration of each tea.

 Location: Zheng Yan vs. Ban Yan

The most elementary way to tell Zheng Yan apart from Ban Yan is the roast. Zheng Yan tea exhibits higher roast because the thicker leaves can withstand a more thorough roasting, achieving a fuller and smoother body. Ban Yan teas, on the other hand, often take a lighter roast which brings out more aroma in the tea, but with less body and less smooth mouth feel. When referring to Yan Cha roasting, one uses the terms "full" or "half," indicating whether the tea has been roasted to its full potential. This is not to be mistaken for lower-quality re-roasted teas, which often were roasted past the tea’s roasting limit, where the roasted notes overpower the other characteristics of the tea, particularly missing the molten smooth tannins. And as with all teas, the longer the tea maintain its consistency, the better the quality.

Varietals

Shui Xian is known for its impressive full body, a soft but substantial downward mouth feel and generally stronger roast. It has one of the largest and thickest leaves of all Yan Cha varietals, enabling it to withstand a more thorough roasting. Shui Xian is often characterized as feminine and Yin in comparison to Rou Gui.

Rou Gui is sharp, upward, with notes of cinnamon spice, hence the name ("rou gui" means "cinnamon"). It is significantly more floral and slightly bitter compared to Shui Xian. A good Rou Gui has hints of cream in the lingering aroma. Rou Gui is often considered the masculine or Yang half in comparison to Shui Xian.

Tie Luo Han rivals Shui Xian with its bold body and molten mouth feel. It has a signature flavor profile — woody, low key but substantial — that is hard to put ones finger on, yet lingers long after the sip. This particular Tie Luo Han is from the acclaimed San Yang Feng, bold but soft, with balanced roast and ultra smooth tannins and sweetness.

Ai Jiao Wu Long translates to "short-legged" Wu Long and is unusual for this category of tea in that it is a small-leaf varietal. It’s very aromatic with a savory vegetal edge. A highly prized varietal, Ai Jiao Wu Long is intense yet refreshing, with a smooth, sweet, nutty-metallic finish.

Da Hong Pao is a blend of different Yan Cha. This particular one is a Zheng Yan blend by the 2014 Da Hong Pao champion. This is his 3rd best batch that year. A well-blended Da Hong Pao is crafted with individual ingredients made specifically to be blended, with this end goal in mind prior to finishing the tea. Blending helps solve the dilemma between body and aroma, with both well balanced in the final tea, without the distinctive character of any single ingredient teas. The tea in this batch that is both very aromatic and relatively full-bodied is the Da Hong Pao.

Qi Dan is one of the Ming Congs and was once mistakenly identified as the varietal of Da Hong Pao (which we now know is a mixture of varietals). Qi Dan is known for its concentrated sweet and floral aroma. This particular Qi Dan is from the high mountain village of Xi Yuan and is significantly softer and sweeter than Zheng Yan tea. The roast is a little higher than ideal, erasing some of the varietals characteristic aromas.

Qi Lan is an immensely popular Pin Zhong of Yan Cha for its intense floral and nutty aroma. It is a popular ingredient in blending Da Hong Pao. This Ban Yan Qi Lan is very aromatic and metallic, with lighter roast and less body. It is also less smooth than a Zheng Yan tea.

 

You can learn more about yan chas by visiting our blog or watching Shunan's tea sourcing videos