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Describing Yan Yun: The Elegance Of Wuyi Rock Tea

Posted by Angelina Kurganska on

Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty was the first to describe Yan Yun in Wuyi Oolong Tea in his poem called Don Ye Peng Cha (Drinking Tea on A Winter Evening).
One cold winter evening while the emperor was appointing a new governor he took a sip of Wuyi Yan Cha. He was so inspired by the tea’s grace that he immediately composed his poem. Describing Wuyi Oolong as being the best he has ever tasted, conveying that it perfectly embodies the terroir of the region.


describing yan yun

From the world of many tea enthusiast terms like “Cha Qi” and “Umami” (although not solely about tea) comes another term: Yan Yun, or Rock Rhyme.

What is Yan Yun?

Similarly with Cha Qi, as many GongFu-ers that exist, the many definitions of Yan Yun you may hear.

In Chinese Yan means rock, which is also where the name Yan Cha comes from — Rock Tea.

Yun, on the other hand, is much more abstract and is more of a feeling, or a knowing, than it is anything of the physical realm.

In music, the term Yun is used to define a certain rhythm that coats the listener with delight.

Yun is indeed a very poetic word, and when it comes to the feeling we get from tea the best way to describe it would be a gracefulness that all of the qualities exhibit, tying together taste, aroma, mouthfeel, and the feeling we get after sipping the tea.

What Determines Yan Yun?

Yan Yun comes first and foremost from the environment where the tea bushes are grown.

The best Yan Cha grows high up in the Wuyi Mountains, on very rocky soil. These bushes require strong roots to survive the rocky slopes and absorb all the nutrients from the earth that they can get.

Check out our article What Is Rock Tea? to find out more.

The fresh tea leaves that are picked from the high slopes of Wuyi Mountain are considered the best for getting the finest Rock Rhyme.

In the same way, a Yan Cha that grows at lower altitudes in tea gardens, while it still may be a good quality tea, will lack Yan Yun.


Da Hong Pao Oolong Tea 

How Does a Wuyi Yancha With Yan Yun Taste?


  • Long-lasting. One essential factor of tea with Yan Yun is that it can have a steady gong-fu style brew of up to 15 infusions without losing its color, taste, or aroma. 


Yan Yun can be described by the mouthwatering sensation we get after drinking the tea. The Rock Rhyme entrances us, inviting us to drink more of the tea, absorbing all the nutrient within it.


  • Mineral. This common term is often used to portray an outstanding Da Hong Pao. The taste of all the minerals the tea has absorbed and is now sharing them with us. 

Yan Yun does not disappear shortly after we are done drinking the tea. The essence of Yan Yun is that it stays with us for hours or even days to follow, nurturing us with its qualities.

To see if you can spot the Rock Rhyme in your Wuyi Oolong tea try this exercise:

After drinking a sip of the tea, inhale and exhale deeply. Do you feel the tea’s essence lingering all the way from your nose, mouth, and down to your throat and chest? This is Yan Yun.


Have you experienced tea with Yan Yun before? How would you describe it?