The first in our 2022 reserve series, Iron Monk is a highly prized Rock Oolong that hearkens back to the origins of oolong teas. According to legend, the mayor of Wuyi Shan intended to produce green tea as a prestigious gift for the Emperor.
Nestled in the Wuyi mountains, however, the tea bushes were a good distance from the processing center. Rock Oolong, grown in gardens along the cliffs high in the Wuyi Moutains in the Fujian Provence of China, was historically tended by Buddhist and Taoist monks living in the monasteries dotting the misty peaks. As the freshly-picked tea leaves were carried along mountain roads in traditional bamboo baskets, the gentle jostling caused slight bruising followed by oxidation. As with other tea styles, a processing mistake became a gift which unlocked new flavors in the versatile tea leaf. This is the birth of oolong tea.
Iron Monk (Tie Lou Han ) is in many ways a tribute to these ancient origins. A rock tea (yancha), the bushes are planted among the high stone formations and cliffs which are said to grant the tea a complex mineral flavor. In the capable hands of 5th-generation farmer Mr. Liu, the tea is gently bruised in bamboo baskets similar to the ones that once carried the mayor’s tea before beginning a series of three roastings over the course of several months.
This combination – rocky terroir, gentle oxidation & precise roasting – creates a tea with complex floral and mineral notes underlying wonderful malted, roasty flavors.
As one of the four famous tea cultivars used to make Wuyi Yancha, Iron Monk is a highly prized yancha – simply put, a quality of tea that is sought-out and very expensive within China and rarely, if ever, available in the United States.