Wuyi Cliff Tea

The Wuyi Mountain or Wu Yi Shan (武夷山) is located in China’s south-east province of Fujian and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for cultural, scenic, and biodiversity values. It is known worldwide not only for the beautiful scenery, abundant biodiversity, but most importantly, its unique cliff tea.

According to ancient legends, Wuyi Mountain was a fiefdom given to Peng Zu (彭祖) by the Emperor of Heaven. As we mentioned before that Peng Zu was the oldest person in history, living to be 800 years old and he had two sons, the eldest son was called Peng Wu (彭武) and the younger son was called Peng Yi (彭夷). Together they were called "Wu Yi" and this is the origin of the name Wuyi.

Since ancient times, this place was one of the cave heaven and blessed regionland (洞天). In Chinese Taoist legends, it is connecting with the heaven and the Taoists who practice sincerely here could be able to enter the heaven and ascend to immortality (成仙). It is said that there are 99 peaks and a total of 99 Taoist temples, which is the inheritance passed down from Peng Zu. However, it is a pity that most of them are gone now or have been converted into Buddhist temples.

The geographical environment here is very special to be able to become such a sacred place since ancient times. One of the unique feature of Wuyi Mountain is its Danxia landform (丹霞地貌), it refers to various landscapes found in southeast, southwest and northwest China that consist of a red bed characterized by steep cliffs. It is formed from red-coloured sandstones and conglomerates of largely Cretaceous age.

It is precisely because of the unique geographical environment that Wuyi Cliff Tea became famous around the world. For the core tea-producing areas, there is a total area of ​​79 square kilometers, which is the Zhengyan(正岩) area recognized by cliff tea lovers, of which 61.33 square kilometers is the Danxia landform. The soil in this area exactly corresponds to Lu Yu's description in The Classic of Tea (茶经), tea grows best in the soil that is slightly stony, while soil that is graveled and rich is next best, however the yellow clay is the worst and shrubs that are planted there will not bear fruit. (上者生烂石,中者生砾壤,下者生黄土).

In the other Danxia landform areas, almost no plant can grow, but in Wuyi Mountain it is a completely different story. Even in some narrow rock crevices, there are grasses struggling to grow, full of life. Because the soil here looks like rocks, it can be easily crushed into fine soil by pinching it with your hands. As it is full of gaps inside of the rocks, which can ensure that the roots of the tea trees receive sufficient moisture and nutrients which is the most suitable one for growing tea in the world. The core area where tea grows is called San Keng Liang Jian (三坑两涧), three grottoes and two streams, which are comprised of Niu Lan keng (牛栏坑), Da Keng Kou (大坑口), Hui Yuan Keng (慧苑坑), Wu Yuan Jian (悟源涧), Liu Xiang Jian (流香涧). In addition to these five core areas, there are also some other key areas, such as Ying Zui Yan (鹰嘴岩), Ma Tou Yan (马头岩), San Yang Feng (三仰峰), etc. The tea in each area has its own characteristics and varieties, but they are all of the highest quality.

Besides the areas, one important place that must be mentioned is Wu San Di (吴三地). It is also one of my favorite areas among so many places, because hundreds of unpruned tea trees ranging from decades to hundreds of years old are preserved here. The villagers at Wu San Di all have the surname Wu. Because they are large families of the same blood, they have inherited the traditions of their ancestors and the tea tree planting culture. In the modern wave of commercialization, the original ecological tea tree environment here has been preserved to the greatest extent.

As we know, during the last ten years, the cliff tea especially Rou Gui from the core area has become so popular, and the price can be comparable to Kynam. The huge economic value has led many tea farmers to cut down the old trees and plant new Rou Gui that can grow quickly and sell for high prices. However, such young tea trees can only absorb nutrients and water from the surface of the soil, and these are often affected by artificial fertilizers and herbicides.

Fortunately, these old trees are all well preserved at Wu San Di. You can see these trees are covered with many other types of plants which live together to form a very complicated ecosystem, as a result the tea leaves from these trees contain extremely complicated and unique aroma. As the formation of agarwood, what really matters more than the name and variety of the tea, is the age of the tree and the environment in which it lives. The older the tree, the deeper its roots can penetrate into the soil and access to more minerals and nutrients. And the more complex the ecosystem in which it grows, more wonderful aroma molecules it can accumulate. Just like this century-old tree at Wu San Di, it is covered with thick moss and other parasitic plants, which can produce the richest Cong(枞) flavor.

Why is the Sinking agarwood and this Cliff tea from the century-old tree so good? Because both stay in the natural environment for too long, and absorbing enough essence from the surrounding ecosystem for hundreds of years. Eventually once we can burn or drink them, these accumulated essences will become part of us, filling our bodies with amazing life force!

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