The Metaphysics of "岩韵" (Yan Yun)

When Chinese people describe something as having depth, we always like to use the terms 意境"artistic conception" or 境界"realm" to express it. For example, saying that a person has a high realm means that this person has depth, which can be manifested in culture, personal cultivation, and noble character. When we say a poem has a strong artistic conception, it means the imagery of the poem is vivid and engaging. In the context of Yancha, "Yan Yun“ is more than a simple flavor profile, it carries a metaphysical quality. This term embodies the deeper, intangible aspects of the tea experience. It signifies not only the physical tastes and aromas of the tea, but also its ability to evoke emotion, conjure imagery, and transcend the ordinary.

What exactly is the characteristic of "Yan Yun"?

Wuyi Yancha has the characteristic flavor of "岩骨花香" (Yan Gu Hua Xiang), which means rock bone and floral fragrance. Even after seven or eight brews, there is still a strong tea aroma, which is what we call "Yan Yun". "岩骨", commonly known as "rock taste" or „mossy taste" , is a particularly mellow and rich taste sensation that lingers in the mouth for a long, deep aftertaste. Some people summarize the "Yan Yun" of Wuyi Yancha into four words: "fragrant, clear, sweet, active".

Fragrance is the basis, which is a feature that all properly made Yancha should have. According to the cause of the fragrance, the tea aroma of Wuyi Yancha is divided into three types.
  • Fire Fragrance: the unique aroma formed by roasting and stewing in the process of making Wuyi Yancha.

  • Original Fragrance: the aroma displayed by the inherent quality of Wuyi Yancha. The "original fragrance" can be further divided into floral type, fruity type, honey type, and mixed type.

  • Aged Fragrance: the pleasant aroma that Wuyi Yancha has after long-term storage.

When you drink a cup of tea, you can smell the fragrance from three places: the dry tea fragrance, the cup lid fragrance, the tea soup fragrance.

Clarity is the standard, referring to the clear and bright color of the tea soup, not muddy or cloudy; the tea flavor is pure and smooth, and the aftertaste is sweet and long-lasting; the tea fragrance is pure and elegant without any odors.

Sweetness is a requirement, it not only refers to the sweet taste of the tea soup in the mouth but also its sweetness after bitterness. Yancha has a strong taste, and tea drinkers often first feel its bitter taste. But high-quality Yancha quickly transforms its bitterness, and its aftertaste is sweet and lasting, making people feel like drinking sweet dew, leaving a sweet taste on the lips and teeth.

"Active" refers to the finest quality, not only includes the three characteristics of "fragrant, clear, sweet", but also has unique variability. This refers to the unique spiritual feeling when tasting Wuyi Yancha. Active tea has lively tea soup upon entry, strong soup feeling, full of tea spirit, and still has aftertaste after swallowing. The brewed leaves are stretched and vibrant, the color is uniform, and the touch is soft and resilient.

What factors affect Yan Yun?

The innate characteristics of Yancha come from the unique terroir of Wuyi Mountain, so the origin of "Yan Yun" is the mountain field. Therefore, it's worth interpreting the factors influencing the "Yan Yun" from the perspectives of topography, soil, climate, and ecology.

1. Topography: Wuyi Mountain is characterized by Danxia landform, with thousands of cliffs and ravines, and many gullies. The abundant rainfall, coupled with the upstream forest, forms the winding Jiuqu River around Wuyi Mountain, with numerous fractured valleys and streams in the scenic area.

2. Soil: The rocks of Wuyi Mountain are loose and prone to weathering. The rockiness is between rotten stone and coarse sand. The soil is loose, with strong water and air permeability, and a high organic matter content, which nourishes the tea plants.

3. Climate: Tea tree grows in diffused light and can effectively absorb the blue-violet light in it. Through photosynthesis, more chlorophyll b is produced, forming a variety of amino acids and improving the aroma and quality of tea. Wuyi Mountain scenic area with tall vegetation, nearly one-third of the year is foggy weather, creating an excellent diffused light environment for tea trees.

4. Ecology: Wuyi Mountain preserves a large area of intact subtropical primary forest ecosystem, and it has been listed as a "World Cultural and Natural Heritage Site". The dense vegetation can conserve water and soil; diverse plants provide a unique vegetation ecology for Yancha. The fallen leaves and flowers from the vegetation enter the soil through natural leaching, becoming the unique nutrients for tea trees, forming a rich floral characteristic; the complete ecological chain greatly reduces the pest and disease in the tea garden. 

"Yan Yun" is a direct measure of the highest quality of Wuyi Yancha. Good Yancha hides infinite taste mysteries. To truly understand Yancha, it requires careful tasting and perception. 

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