Lao Cong Shui Xian (Old Bush Narcissus)
Rock Wulong Tea 2018
Lao cong or “old bush” Shui Xian offers smoother, sweeter tea than that from younger plants. Fragrant wood and toasted grain aromatics accompany a soft body with persistent minerality and sweetness that intensifies with each sip.
- Tea Origin
- Fujian Province
- Tea Bush
- Old Bush Shui Xian
- Tea Master
- Zhou You Shen & Huang Shi Ying
- Harvest Time
- Picking Standard
- zhong kai mian (3 slightly open leaves)
The Shui Xian tea bush is believed to have originated in south of Wuyi. More specifically, it is believed to have its origin in Jing Yang City (originally called Shui Jie County). The mother bush was found in Zhu Xian cave, pronounced “Shui Xian” by Fujian’s local people. Premium Shui Xian is often called Narcissus because its aroma is reminiscent of blooming Narcissus flowers.
This bush is not originally from Wuyi Mountain. However, tea makers began cultivating the bush in Wuyi Mountain at the end of the Qing Dynasty because of its rich flavor and nice aroma. Like Rou Gui, Shui Xian bushes are very resilient to temperatures and easy to grow. This makes it an ideal bush for producing large quantities of tea. The leaves are fairly large compared to other bushes. In fact, Shui Xian and Rou Gui are the most predominantly grown bushes in this region. Shui Xian is often added to other types of Wuyi tea blends because of its strong flavor and aroma.
You can still find 60-100 year old Shui Xian bushes in Wuyi although few remain. Shui Xian bushes are the oldest type of tea bush that we can still enjoy from Wuyi Mountain. This is due to the fact that tea farmers now prefer to use younger bushes for quantity. Lao Cong allows you to appreciate the quality that comes from aged bushes that is now rare in Wuyi. Older bushes create a slippery feeling in your throat which is similar to that of a good puer made from ancient bushes. We found the oldest Shui Xian bush in this tea maker’s mother-in-law’s backyard. The bush is 120 years old with a diameter of about 30cm. These bushes don’t have center trunks like tea trees, but instead the branches all grow directly from the ground. Yunnan tea trees center trunks are about a foot tall before the branches even begun to grow. According to Chinese medicine, when bushes age, the leaves are treated as a high end herbal for daily care that are thought to work more thoroughly on the body.
You often need two people and a small ladder to pick from old bushes. These bushes are not trimmed. So, if you wish to pick the best spring tea, you must select from the leaves at the end of the branches. The picking standard for Lao Cong Shui Xian is “zhong kai mian”. Loosely this means that you would begin picking when the last tea leaf opens from the bud and is two thirds the size of the most mature leaves of the new growth.
Freshly picked leaves are carried back to the factory in large bamboo baskets and left to wither in the sunshine for about 2-3 hours. This tea is not made by machine, so the tea master will have to set the leaves on bamboo trays to naturally oxidize. Every half an hour or so, he must shake the tea trays by hand. This allows the leaves to twist upon each other which gently breaks the cells of the surface as well as the edges of the leaves. During this natural oxidation process, the fresh tea’s aroma fills the factory. The tea master does not get much sleep during this period of processing. The only time he will get any sleep is when the tea pickers are gathering leaves. Instead he will have recourse only to nap because the oxidation must be carefully monitored and the oxidation has to be stopped at just the right time.
The leaves are sent through a very hot rolling machine (about 210 degrees celsius) for 7-10 minutes in order to stop the oxidation. Afterward, the leaves get sent through a kneading machine which compresses and kneads the leaves into their long twisted shape. The leaves are then sent in to a large oven to make the mao cha. The mao cha is already completely dried, but still has the sprigs and unopened leaves in it that need to be sorted about before undergoing another roasting again. After the tea season is over they will sort out all the broken pieces and sprigs, putting the good, full leaves above charcoal in bamboo drum shaped holders. They are roasted for about 8-12 hours, depending on the weather. The first roasting temperature is usually higher, about 100-110 celsius. After 8-12 hours, the leaves are left to rest for 20-30 days, depending on the weather. The leaves are roasted again for another 8 hours or so at a temperature around 80-90 celsius. The temperature is controlled by ashes, spreading a thick or thin layer on top of the charcoal fire. This is to make sure there is not a heavy smell from the charcoal. If the weather is bad, they will roast the tea for a third time after about another month. Then the tea will be completely finished.
You will be able to note a large difference between Old Bush and Premium Shui Xian. Premium Shui Xian is made from young bushes but there is a distinct sweetness and softness that can be detected from tea that is made from aged bushes. By contrast, tea brewed from young bushes tend to bestow a heavy mouthfeel. Feel free to infuse the leaves for over ten minutes–your tea won’t go bitter. See if you can detect a dried date aroma in the tea and the complex changes this tea undergoes with each infusion as you continue to drink it.
No chemical fertilizer, pesticide, or herbicide was used in the production of this tea. Click here to read more about our promise to fair trade and the environment.
Lao Cong Shui Xian (Old Bush Narcissus) 2018 brewing guidelines
Brewing vessel: glass cup, gaiwan, glass or porcelain pot, yixing pot
Brewing Guidelines: 1st infusion 1 ½ Tbs per 12 oz 212F for 1 min
Infusions: at least 6 times