I suspect that for most tea people in the United States, the most familiar high-end Wuyi rock oolong is Da Hong Pao (“Big Red Robe”), but it is not the only famous tea at the top end of this respectable family of teas. I recently had the opportunity to taste some Bai Ji Guan Yancha Tian Xin Yan (“White Cockscomb Rock Oolong”), a member tea of the Si Da Ming Cong (four famous Wuyi tea bushes), and very different in character from Da Hong Pao, and I found it quite wonderful.
The tea was among four Wuyi Rock Oolongs sent to me by Vicony Teas. Each of the packages was identified only with its product number, and I thought it would be most interesting to taste the teas without finding out much about them first, so I chose the one with the lowest number to taste first (WYA05), not knowing anything at all about it, not even the Chinese name.
The first thing I noted about the Bai Ji Guan was that the tea was really beautiful in dry leaf form, with slender, twisty leaves. They did not look dramatically different from most other Wuyi oolongs I’ve had, although they were a little more reddish and less black. But as the tea infused there was much more of a marked distinction from other Wuyi oolongs, with the leaf unfurling to show yellow and light brown.
The liquor was not very aromatic, but the taste was rich, deep and flavorful, somewhat reminiscent of dried stone fruits. Another distinguishing characteristic was the color of the liquor, a golden yellow, much lighter than any other Wuyi yancha I’ve ever seen. Overall the taste and mouthfeel of this tea were very satisfying and complex, exhibiting new qualities with each of the five infusions I took the tea through.
Legend goes that one day a monk saw a rooster sacrifice its life while protecting its child from an eagle. He was moved by the rooster’s courage and then buried its dead body in the ground. However, after a few days, a tea bush grew from the spot where the rooster was buried. In the memory of the rooster, the monk gave the name of White Cockscomb to the tea bush.