Shui Jin Gui Tea: Chinese “Golden Turtle Water”

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The province of Fujian is a hot spot for tea production. Nestled on the southeast coast of China, this area is best known for its oolong, white, and black tea varieties.

The famous tea bushes that grow in the Wuyi mountains, which produce four distinct oolong varieties, are referred to as Si Da Ming Cong. With a humid climate and high amounts of rainfall, the Wuyi mountains produce teas that are unique, highly prized, and top quality. Shui Jin Gui tea is one type of oolong that is grown in this part of the world.

Attributes of Oolong Tea

Oolong tea is made by combining hot water and partially oxidized leaves from the Camellia sinensis. Unlike green tea, which is not allowed to oxidize, or black tea which is fully oxidized, oolong tea falls somewhere in between.

Depending on the variety, the oxidation percentage of oolong tea leaves can range anywhere from 8% to 85%. This large discrepancy in how much the leaves are allowed to dry and darken means oolong tea can have numerous tastes and aromas.

“Four Big Famous Bushes”

 Si Da Ming Cong, which is a collective term used when referring to the four most famous oolong teas produced in the Wuyi mountains, literally means “four big famous bushes.” Shui Jin Gui tea is one of these teas. The other Wuyi rock teas classified under the term Si Da Ming Cong are:

  • Da Hong Pao
  • Tie Luo Han
  • Bai Ji Guan

Origins & Legends

Although Shui Jin Gui tea can be traced as far back as the Qing dynasty (1636-1912), there are different versions of the story behind its name. Some claim the name comes from how the thick leaves appear to be glittery in the sun and resemble a swimming turtle. Other legends, however, says the name of this oolong variety comes from a combination of luck and a force of nature.

A Legendary Force of Nature

As the story goes, the tea trees that were once tended to by monks high up on the slopes of the Wuyi mountains were swept away by flooding and heavy rains. They washed up further down the mountain on someone else’s property.

Desperate to get the tea trees back, the monks pleaded with the farmers whose land the plants had landed on. Not wanting to give up the new addition, the farmers fought to keep the shrubs. It was eventually determined by the local government that the tea plants were to remain on the new land, as it was nature’s wish.

As the legend goes, the path the trees and soil took down the mountain resembled an algae-covered turtle swimming in the water. Consequently, the tea that was produced from these tea trees was named after the beautiful aftermath: ‘golden turtle water’ (Shui Jin Gui).

Harvest & Production

Plucked in the month of May, Shui Jin Gui tea is harvested with two or three leaves picked together. Once they have been harvested, they are left to wither outside in the sun. Once they have been partially oxidized, the leaves are then fried at 410°F. for no more than ten minutes, stopping the oxidation process from continuing.

Once the leaves have been fried, they are kneaded. This step compresses the leaves and gives them their twisted and elongated shape. Once shaped, the leaves are then dried to make sure all the remaining moisture has been removed.

The final step, roasting, takes place over the course of a few months. The leaves are roasted slowly over charcoal and allowed to rest before the next roasting cycle. This process of roasting the leaves takes place up to three times, which gives the Shui Jin Gui tea its distinct and unique flavor.

Brewing Instructions

With just a handful of steps, you can use traditional Chinese methods to brew a fresh cup of Shui Jin Gui tea. Brewing tea, especially in Chinese culture, is savored and enjoyed. A lot of pride and precision goes into making the best cup of tea possible.

In order to brew with a more traditional method, you will need a clay teapot, often called a Yixing teapot, a serving vessel, tea cups to drink out of, and a tea strainer. You will also need 8 g of tea leaves for every 100 ml of water. Measure out your serving of tea leaves and the proportionate amount of water before starting.

  1. Bring some water (preferably natural mineral water for the best flavor) to a boil.
  2. While you are waiting, preheat the clay teapot, serving vessel, and tea cups with hot water. Then discard the used water.
  3. Place your measured portion of tea leaves into the clay pot. When the water starts to boil, fill the teapot with the boiling water. (Remember to keep the correct ratio of leaves and water.)
  4. Allow the leaves to steep for 5 seconds. Then, pour the tea directly into the serving vessel.
  5. The final step before enjoying your tea is to strain it into the cups. (Keep the tea leaves, as they can be used at least three more times.)

Appearance, Aroma, & Taste

This dark orange to golden brew is made by steeping dark brownish-green tea leaves that are long, twisted, and curvy. The tea’s aroma has been described as strong, slightly floral, and resembling that of dark chocolate. The taste has been portrayed as silky with hints of sweet potato and caramel. Unlike other teas, the aftertaste is not bitter, but rather spiced and slightly floral.

Diving Into a Serving

In one 8 fl oz serving of this oolong variety, there are zero calories, fats, carbs, and proteins. Despite being low in nutritional value, one serving of oolong tea does contain caffeine. While the amount of caffeine can vary due to several factors, oolong tea typically has somewhere between 37 to 55 mg of caffeine per serving.

Shui Jin Gui Tea

Considered to be one of the four most famous oolongs produced in the Wuyi mountains in southeast China, Shui Jin Gui tea has a distinct taste and aroma. Often described as having a chocolatey flavor and rich taste, the golden color of this brew is brilliant and beautiful.

If you are a fan of oolong tea, or you are just starting to explore different types of tea, Shui Jin Gui is one of the best and should definitely be sampled.