In the Anxi region of southeastern Fujian the semiball-rolled style of oolong is King. Tea Trekker has featured many oolongs from this region for several years, and for tea enthusiast fans of Anxi oolongs, these teas need no introduction. Our selection includes semiball-rolled style teas with no roasting, light roasting, or the more traditional medium roast.
Tieguanyin, the most famous of this style of oolong, is plucked exclusively from two specific tea bush varieties – the Red Heart and White Heart. Other semiball-rolled style oolongs from this region, such as Ben Shan and Huang Jin Gui are similarly named for their specific tea bush variety, and are known collectively as Se Zhong varieties. Fujian tea producers like to boast that there are more than twelve varieties and cultivars of tea bushes growing in this region, and we continually search for the most delicious examples of these teas.
As a group, semiball-rolled style oolongs are quite different than the strip-style oolongs manufactured in northern Fujian Province (yan cha from the Wu Yi Shan). Semiball-rolled oolongs are often not roasted or they can be given a light to medium roast, but never the heavy roast that yan cha are given. Accordingly, the colors of the dry-leaf range from the avocado greens (sometimes with golden tip) through to the light and medium browns, and liquor hue ranges from pale green / greenish-gold into the pale ambers. Their flavors are fruity, penetrating and crisp, and they are intoxicatingly aromatic.
The Tieguanyin selections that we have right now are all tending toward the more traditional style – being more highly oxidized and with some influence from intentional roasting. While we have had 'greener-style' Tieguanyin oolongs in the past and will again in the future, for the fall of 2013 our Tieguanyin oolongs are all in the more traditional, darker, and more toasty style. If you prefer a semiball-rolled style oolong in the lighter, brighter, greener style we would highly recommend the Tou Tian Xiang or the Huang Jin Gui rather than any of the Tieguanyins.
Our Tieguanyin and Se Zhong oolongs are from the current harvest year or have been rested for one or two years. In China and Taiwan, oolong teas are chosen not just by style and amount of roasting, but also by the age of the tea. Oolongs can be drunk young, rested or aged, so tea drinkers take age into account as a primary variable when purchasing oolongs. Learning about the influence of aging adds awareness of what is being purchased, as well as a dimension of fascination and complexity to oolong teas.