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2023 Que She Sparrow's Tongue Rock Oolong


Below a light roast and a light colored liquor lies a remarkable depth of character in this Que She Rock Oolong. The contrast between liquid and vaporous aromatics blurs as you rip an inhale-sip of the electric broth. Entertaining, sultry, more rosy and denser floral notes rest heavy and sweet, transforming into a nuttier, mineral-rich latter part of the session.

雀舌 què shé "Sparrow's Tongue" is said to have originated as a sub-cultivar from one of the original Da Hong Pao mother bushes. More slender, slower growing, delicate leaves characterize Que She, and because of its lower yield and later harvest time, Que She doesn’t hold as much market prevalence as its more vigorously growing and Wuyi cultivar cousins. These slender, more sensitive leaves — resembling a sparrow’s tongue — typically lends itself to a lighter roast.

A charming offering from the Yue family in the Wuyi Mountains.

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The Yue family's Que She mother bush

The Yue Family

The Yue family is our connection to well crafted and unpretentious 岩茶 yánchá or rock oolong.  These remarkable teas hail from the Wuyi Mountains, the site of a UNESCO world heritage site that features stunning (previously volcanic) mountain crags that stand as a kingdom above lush forests, valleys, rivers, and springs.  The mineral profile and acidity in these rocks and soil brings to life brilliant tea cultivars fostered for generations.  While the scenic park's teas demand the highest prices, the price of admission to this club has become more elitist over the years.  Incredible rock oolong in similar and proximal environs isn't impossible to be found upon careful searching.

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photo taken during our 2019 adventures to the area

During our latest trip to Wuyishan, we forged relations with the Yue family, an established greater Wuyi area tea family that tends to 8 acres of tea gardens just outside the Wuyishan Forest Park 森林公园 武夷山, another preserve located upstream just west of the more famous scenic area; north of Tongmu village. The Wuyishan Forest Park hosts a rich ecosystem of rare species of flora and fauna, old-growth forests, waterfalls, and shares the same volcanic mountain range as the scenic area, sitting at a similar elevation.AfterlightImage 6

When asked about the specifics of their location and its terroir, they respond:

We are located at an altitude of 457 meters in 山口自然村 Shānkǒu Natural Village, with 吴三地 Wu Sandi to the west, located on the windward slope of the Wuyi Mountains, with sufficient precipitation, coupled with dense vegetation, sufficient evaporation, and high humidity. Heavy, readily forming clouds with mist create a warm and humid semi-shady environment with more scattered light suitable for the growth of tea trees. In addition, the soil in the mountain pass is weathered gravel suitable for the growth of tea trees. The soil has good permeability and high mineral content, which makes the growth of tea trees reach an ideal level.

In an industry fraught with newcomers claiming mastery of marketable + popular styles after just a handful of years, the Yue family has been honing their yancha craft for 3 generations. Yue Jun’s grandmother was the first to begin growing and processing tea in the township of 洋庄 Yángzhuāng. It was her who planted their original 奇丹 Qídān Da Hong Pao bushes, their Old Bush Shui Xian, as well as others.

Also noteworty is that the Yue family's work in Tea has been matrilineal, a line of female "tea bosses" in an industry dominated by good ol boys.  Tea in Chinese society might be as old school as you can get, and deals can often be colored by a distinct machismo, a kind of patriarchal old guard influence that can seem inextricable from the eastern tea table, so much so that working with the Yue family is always refreshing.

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Yue Jun pouring it up


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