Oolong tea is considered by some connoisseurs to be the ultimate in the art of tea. Not just its manufacture but also the way in which it is enjoyed. With names such as Iron Goddess of Mercy and Golden Buddha, the different kinds are ripe with legendary stories and even the name oolong sounds mystical, meaning black dragon.
The beautiful Wuyi Mountains of north-western Fujian province is a fitting place for these legends to originate with its mist-covered, fairy peaks and winding river. The art of tea has been practiced there since ancient times and even today, tea art competitions are held, which draw oolong lovers from in and outside of China.
One could study a life time and still not attain perfection in all the nuances. None the less, it is a goal well worth the endeavor. It is often the journey which is the real art, not simply the end result.
There can be many variations in the gongfu tea ceremony. In the Wuyi Mountain tradition there are 27 steps. Each serves its purpose to create not only an exquisite cup of tea but also an enriching experience for the maker and the guest. Perhaps you may find yourself one day, wandering through the wilds of those mountains, and have your own meeting with the black dragon.
1. Gong Qing Shang Zuo – Respectfully usher in guests
2. Feng Xiang Jing Qi – Light incense and calm the qi
3. Si Zhu He Ming – Silk and Bamboo together make music
4. Yie Jia Chou Bing – Entertain guests with the tea leaves
5. San Quan Chu Fei – Mountain spring water boils
6. Meng Cheng Mu Ling – Honorable teapot is bathed
7. Wu Long Ru Gong – Black dragon goes into the palace
8. Xuan Hu Gao Zhong – Suspend kettle high and centered
9. Quan Feng Fu Mian – Spring wind caresses the face
10. Chong Xi Xian Yian – Wash the fairy’s face once more
11. Ruo Cheng Chu Yu – As if emerging from the shower
12. Yu Yie Hui Hu – Jade liquid returns to the teapot
13. Guan Gong Xun Cheng – Guan Gong reviews the city
14. Han Xing Dian Bing – Han Xing orders his soldiers
15. San Long Hu Ding – Three dragons protect the cup
16. Jian Shang San Se – Enjoy the colors
17. Xi Wen You Xiang – Feel elated by the calming aroma
18. Chu Ping Qi Ming – First, taste the unique drink
19. Zai Hen Lan Jr – Then, pour the tea again
20. Ping Cuo Gan Lu – Sip the sweet dew
21. San Jen Jing Foa – Third, pour the Golden Buddha a few more times
22. Ling Lue Yian Un – Enjoy the rock tea’s beauty
23. Jing Xian Cha Dian – Serve the tea snacks
24. Zi Jen Man Ying – Casually drink at your own leisure
25. Xing Shang Ge Wu – Enjoy singing and dancing
26. You Long Xi Shui – Dragon swims playfully in the water
27. Jing Bei Xie Cha – Empty the cup and appreciate the tea
This post was first published on T-Ching on May 21, 2007
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Oolong tea originated in the Wuyi Mountains of northwestern Fujian province. Today, nearly all oolong is produced in Fujian, Guangdong and Taiwan provinces where it is very popular. Its bright infusion ranges from yellow to a deep red-orange in color. The flavor is typically not as robust as blacks or as herbal as greens, but has its own extremely fragrant and intriguing tones. It is often compared to the taste and aroma of fresh flowers or fresh fruit.
Near Tianxin cliff in the misty and magical Wuyi Mountains under the steep and rugged “Nine Dragon Rock” is a ledge on which a clump of ancient tea plants grow. The sun only shines here for a few hours a day and water from a nearby spring percolates through the mineral-rich sandy soil making the shrubs’ leaves thick and tender and their buds pinkish. Legend says that these are the very trees that produced the tea that cured a deathly ill Mï¿½ng Dynasty magistrate.
Wuyishan is eternity…a place if left unexplored by a person who loves tea, his journey of china and its rich tea culture is incomplete. There is too much then what one can describe of this place.
I love the ceremony of tea. Each step is a visual story that delights the reader or guest. I don’t recall ever having the presence of incense during an oolong tasting but I think it’s a perfect compliment. I will do my small part to keep the magic alive. Thank you Dan.
Despite Iron Goddess, Camellia sinens(a class of Oolong tea ) is my favorite, especially the tea from very old trees. A strong spirituality hidden inside it and quite different with Iron Goddess. it has a huge power from plants and nature.
But this kind of tea is limited, not easy to get since old trees are rare.
Glad you enjoy the tea ceremony Michelle. Tea making, even ceremonially, can be done in many ways and it continues to evolve. I just returned from Fujian having taken a private tea tour group to the tea gardens in Anxi and Wuyi Shan. With the explosion in individually packed servings (as opposed to a caddy of loose tea) the step of scooping the leaves from the caddy is dying out. Also, porcelain gaiwans are replacing unglazed clay teapots.
Glad you like “lao cha shu” oolong. Yes taste and internal energy can be quite different. Tie Guan Yin is a sub-varietal of Camellia sinensis, sinensis. There are old trees and young ones. The tender, succulent ones used to make the top Tie Guan Yins are my favorite, especially the Autumn season. Strong floral fragrance and “yun wei” (intrinsic qualities). In Xi Ping one can find the descendants of the old (purple bud) Tie Guan Yin bushes.