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The Rich History of Wuyi


Once considered a great rarity in the West, tea is now about as commonplace as earth or air. Like both, however, it has the ability to be ordinary and humdrum, or – as is the case with our artisanal Canadian tea company’s Wuyi Rock Oolong – to be rare, uplifting, and inspired.

Harvested from the Wuyi Mountains in China’s Nanping Prefecture, this tea is specially grown in small batches, sucking up the rich and unique flavor profiles of the region. As the leaves do so they are infused with the lush tastes of earthy China, while giving back to the region even more distinctive history.

First settled by humans some 4,000 years ago according to archeological records, these green, cloud-capped mountains provide some of China’s most breathtaking views. Like the pictures on a tourist brochure (or the digitally created photos we now associate with James Cameron’s groundbreaking movie Avatar), the scenery of this region has an enchanted quality of green forest and white mist.

The mountains also lend China some of its most venerated history. In the 8th century AD, for instance, the Tang Dynasty built the fabulous Wuyi Palace at the foot of the Great King Peak. Though blood sacrifices are no longer held there, it remains a tourist destination and retains the ghostly vestiges of many human lives spilt over the course of hundreds of years. A dedicated visitor can also see the ruins of dozens of monasteries and temples, as well as ancient institutions of learning.

The region is further known for its almost mythically priceless Da Hong Pao tea, which shares its genealogy and cultivation with the humbler (but still delicious!) variety that we offer. This wondrous tea is said to be the healing agent behind a Ming emperor’s mother’s miraculous recovery from a mysterious disease. So grateful was he to have his mother back safe and sound that he sent big red robes (the translation of Da Hong Pao) to the four bushes from whence the tea came, so that they might ever afterward be wrapped up and protected.

Though this legend originates from almost a thousand years ago, three of the four bushes are still recognized and preserved today, and are in fact so highly thought-of that the tea they produce sells for hundreds of thousands – sometimes millions – of dollars. An apocryphal story even claims that President Nixon once received a 50-gram batch back in 1972, at a cost equaling a quarter of a million dollars today!

The bushes, which grow on a rock on Mount Wuyi (hence the name of this category of tea, Wuyi Rock), are still cultivated today, and their appeal and value have penetrated Western consciousness. Luckily for you, though this highly pedigreed brew goes for a king’s ransom, you can try its simpler cousin for a very reasonable price and – we think – a very similar taste experience. Our delicious organic variety is sure to not only please, but carry with it the exoticism and experience of the rustic Wuyi Mountains.

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