Wu Yi Shan Tu Cha (武夷山土茶) is a classic black tea from the famous Wuyi Mountain tea growing area of Fujian Province in China. Grown at high altitude, it utilises the local Tucha or Caicha plants. The small wiry leaves produce a balanced and smooth liquor with sweet malty notes and a mineral aspect. This particular batch is from the spring 2021 harvest.
The Wuyi Shan native small leaf tea plant (often Xiaozhong – 小種) is known as Caicha (菜茶), this being a generic term that is used to describe tea plants that are native or indigenous to certain parts of China. While these types of plants have differentiating features in different regions, they are still not uniform due to normal natural variation in the plants. So Caicha is not a specific cultivar but rather a type of a tea plant that can be found around Wuyi Shan that has small leaves and appeared naturally and over long time as a result of natural hybridisation. In this way, it is similar to zairai plants in Japan or tea plants found in most of South Korea.
The Tucha (土茶) part of the name is also used locally to refer to Caicha plants found in Wuyi Shan. It is also often used to describe wild tea. While in many cases the plants no longer grow wild, this is a descriptive name given to plants that either originated from wild plants or tea trees that are grown in semi-wild conditions. The semi-wild conditions generally mean that the trees are propagated by seed rather than cuttings and are left to grow on their own, often amongst other plants. This is beneficial not only for the flavour of the tea produced but also for local biodiversity as it avoids large monocultural plantations. Unlike uniform tea plantations, where the plants are trimmed to small bushes to allow ease of picking or machine picking, the semi-wild plants are generally allowed to grow to their natural height.
The leaves of this Wu Yu Shan Tu Cha tea are dark and wiry in appearance, a typical look for black tea from this area. It produces a dark amber liquor with a fruity, malty and lightly mineral aroma. The smooth taste is very well balanced with an array of classic Chinese black tea notes. The flavour is predominately fruity and malty, with the maltiness becoming more apparent as the liquor cools. There are floral notes, which combined with the sweetness are reminiscent of rose Turkish delight. Finally there is a touch of cocoa flavours also coming through. The aftertaste is tangy, a little mineral and lasting with no tannins. This is a very smooth and balanced tea that is very easy to drink!
It is best brewed at 90°C for 2-3 minutes, with multiple infusions.