Blog 44: The Secret of A Wu-Yi oolong’s Aromas
Updated: Oct 19, 2018
In one of our previous blogs, we talked about the evolution of fragrances of tea leaves during tea-making(Click here for Part I, Click here for Part II). However, we’ve never really discussed how a Wu-Yi oolong acquires its aromas from the growing environment. In fact, aromas give us the first impression when we enjoy a tea. This is a very subjective and private experience. Different people have different interpretations and understandings of a tea. If we understand how a Wu-Yi oolong gets its aromas, we’ll have a more objective view. Today, let’s talk about some secrets of a tea’s aromas.
In some online posts and videos, the description of a tea’s aromas can be quite exaggerated. Sometimes, it’s hard to differentiate the real experience from those beautiful and artistic words. One thing we have to admit, for an inexperienced tea drinker, a Wu-Yi oolong’s aromas can be rather “breathtaking”. Some inexpressible floral and fruity aromas dissolve perfectly into the tea soup. This feeling of rich smells becomes a criteria in judging a Wu-Yi oolong’s quality. In the Wuyi mountain area, strong and pleasant aromas of tea leaves are important to the cultivation of new plants, the harvest of fresh leaves and the tea-making.
There are many factors that can affect a Wu-Yi oolong’s aroma. The growing environment, the climate during the harvest, the soil condition and many other elements can all influence tea leaves. The Wuyi mountain area is consisted of multiple kinds of volcanic rock and granite. In terms of geologic age, the major rock stratum in the Wuyi mountain area is from the jurassic period and the Cretaceous period. After many years’ erosion, the mountain wall started to collapse, and large rocks became gravels. After a long time, different gravels from all ages form a new ground. Then, rains and floods took this new soil from the mountaintop to mountainside, and finally reached the foot of the mountain. This transition not only finalized tea plants’ migration, but also provided the soil for tea plants’ survival. All lives require a necessary and abundant environment. The first condition ensures a life can survive, and the second part ensures a life can flourish. For example, we can survive with just basic food and water; but if we want to be healthy and strong, we need a more nutritious and balanced meal. The special environment of the Wuyi mountain area provides unparalleled nutritions accumulated from different ages. This is the source of a Wu-Yi oolong’s complex aromas.
In labs, an aroma is the combination of all kinds of fragrance chemicals. In a South China Agricultural University research of 8 Wu-Yi oolongs by Professor Dai, there are a total of 104 kinds of natural fragrances. Among all 104 kinds of fragrances, only 18 kinds are shared among all researched varieties. This is why every Wu-Yi oolong has its own unique fragrance ID. There are no Wu-Yi oolong share the same set of aromas.
The amino acid content is the core of a Wu-Yi oolong’s aromas. The amino acid in tea leaves represent the supply and the transformation of nutrients. Tea plants that grow at a higher elevation field where temperature changes drastically during the day and night would have a higher level of amino acid. This is another important factor that affects the quality of fresh leaves and eventually leads to a better aroma.
Finally, good environment gives us good fresh leaves. But fresh leaves are not tea. They’re raw materials. Only good tea-making skills can unleash the potential in fresh tea leaves. If you’re interested in learning more about secrets of Wu-Yi oolong tea-making, please click here for more.
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