Rich yet easy drinking Rock Oolong made from the ancient Shi Ru heirloom cultivar. Creamy and sweet yet fruity and mineral.
Shi Ru is a less often seen cultivar for Yan Cha. Yet, it has a very long history dating as far back as the Song Dynasty. This Wuyi heirloom cultivar was highly praised and became an Imperial tribute tea. Shi Ru became synonymous with Yancha, and its name translates as ‘Stone Milk’ – the essence of rocks.
In modern times the production of Shi Ru has been overtaken by more famous cultivars such as Rou Gui, Shui Xian, Qi Lan and others. We have been told that this is because the processing of Shi Ru is more delicate and prone to error, and fewer makers are keen to process this precious cultivar. There may be other factors such as yield and marketing of other varieties.
The character of Shi Ru is beguiling. It is, on the one hand, soft and creamy with a supple mouthfeel and an easy-drinking floral sweetness. But, it is also rich and complex with fruits and resins with a lingering aftertaste and Yan Yun (Rock Rhyme).
This Shi Ru is from Ban Yan (half rock), which is the prized rocky area just outside the Zheng Yan protected areas of Wuyi). Zheng Yan Shi Ru commands a mad high price, and in our blind taste tests, we found that this Shi Ru could more than hold its own against the Zheng Yan tea and was so much more affordable.
The tea has been baked twice over charcoal for a deep set character. I have seen much lighter baked Shi Ru, which does not bring out the best of this cultivar, in my opinion.
If you brew this tea short, it will deliver brews that are soft and floral sweet. I recommend brewing longer to get the best out of this tea and experience the dance between the milky orchid lightness, the guava fruitiness and the frankincense woodsy resins.