Rougui (Cassia Bark)

Rock Wulong Tea 2021

Bold, balanced and complex flavors without heaviness that last through many infusions. A very popular tea cultivar in Wuyishan for its rich flavor and cassia aroma, often used in Big Red Robe blends. An excellent choice for an affordable everyday rock wulong.

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Tea Origin
Wuyishan City, Fujian Province, China

Tea Bush
Rougui (Cassia Bark)

Tea Master
Zhou Yousheng and Huang Shiying

Harvest Time
Late April

Picking Standard
Zhong kai mian

Rougui rock wulong is grown in the Wuyi Mountains (Wuyishan), a region known for its mineral rich soil. The traditional roast of this tea creates a strong full-bodied flavor with a hint of dark chocolate. The lingering aftertaste leaves a slightly sweet taste and characteristic cassia aroma. The rich flavor and many infusions make this great choice as an everyday rock wulong tea.

Wuyishan is the hometown of wulong tea with the style beginning there over 400 years ago. Botanical surveys through the last few hundred years have always noted the hundreds of varieties of tea bushes in the region. Starting in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the government in Wuyishan promoted the propagation of two main cultivars: Rougui and Shuixian. Rougui is a local tea bush variety that was selected for its a strong flavor, rich aroma, and it’s hardiness against both cold and hot weather. It is also very easy to cultivate and can yield a large quantity of tea from its many branches. Rougui now occupies approximately a third of all tea gardens in Wuyishan.

Rougui bushes are usually picked in the first week of May, making it a late picking variety. The picking standard is “zhong kai mian” which means picking when the last tea leaf opens from the bud and is half the size of the most mature leaves of the new growth. Leaves that are too mature will not roll and twist properly. Pickers select only the top 3-4 leaves for production. The tea master knows the exact time to pick the tea, sending workers to the gardens as new leaves start to come. It takes a great amount of skill to control the quality of tea before it has even started its processing.

Picking begins after the sun rises, and they never pick tea on a rainy day. After about noon, they carry all the fresh leaves back to the factory to wither under the sunshine on top of large bamboo trays or sheets of fabric. The leaves will naturally lose some moisture over 2-3 hours. The leaves are transported inside the factory under shade and placed inside a long wooden rolling machine for 6 hours or more, depending on the humidity that day. Each hour they will rotate the leaves. If the weather is cold, tea makers will blow warm air in to the rolling machine to help the oxidation. Increased moisture and temperature encourages the natural oxidation of the tea. Chinese tea makers have a saying “tea master’s most valuable property is his nose and hands.” Tea masters rely on the smell and feel of the leaves to know how far along in the oxidation process the leaves are. When the leaves are ready, they are fried in a very hot 210 Celsius rolling machine for 7-10 minutes to halt their oxidation. Wulong tea is made up of much larger leaves, meaning they must be fried for longer and at a hotter temperature than green tea to stop the oxidation process and by quickly neutralizing the enzymes that drive it. After the leaves are withered, they are kneaded with a machine for about 30 minutes. The strength of the machine’s compression is adjusted to compress the tea into the long twisted shape. The leaves are then dried in an oven for about 45 minutes. At this point the wulong tea’s “mao cha” is complete. Mao cha is tea before it has been finished by any final sorting, destemming, roasting.

Wulong tea mao cha is collected throughout the tea season and finally goes on to finishing around the end of May. The mao cha is sorted by hand or machine to remove large, unfolded leaves and sprigs, leaving only the dark twisted tea leaves. The tea is roasted above charcoal 2-3 times during a span of about three months. Each roasting time is about 7-10 hours and up to three times, depending on how much humidity the weather brings. The temperature of the first roast is hotter, about 110 Celsius, but will decrease to around 80 Celsius for the last one or two roasts. After that, the tea is done, but is very crispy and delicate. Each time after roasting, the workers must be very careful transferring the tea, so as not to break it. This long process creates a complex, deeper flavor with a lightly sweet lingering aftertaste.

Even under extended roasting, Rougui’s pronounced aroma is recognizable. Rou Gui brews a toastier, darker cup of rock wulong with scorched coconut and palo santo wood aroma. Perfect for those who desire their tea to have a bold character.

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.

Rougui (Cassia Bark) 2021 brewing guidelines

5 grams (2 Tb) tea

12 oz 100°C (212ºF) water

3 min. first infusion

At least 4 infusions: 3, 3, 5, 8 minutes