The uniqueness of this rare tea is readily apparent: unlike most Chinese oolongs—and indeed most oolongs everywhere—the large, lightly-oxidized leaves have not been rolled into tiny balls or long twists, but have rather been compressed into a minuscule brick. Place one in the tea vessel of choice, and apply the hottest water to encourage it to open. Its second unusual aspect is deductible from the name, for while Wuyi Yan Cha fans may know the Shui Xian cultivar best for the dark, roasted oolong of the same name, this version, from the south of the same province, is mild and smooth. Once the infusion is complete, a milky, then oily viscosity will greet the palate, a hint of salinity tickling the tongue while the nose fills with the aromas of orchid, apple, and speculoos. Perfect for the tea traveler or the connoisseur of the unique.
Zhang Ping Shui Xian bricks (bricklets?) are formed by hand pressing in a small, wooden mould before being individually wrapped and dried over hot ash. The bricks are then vacuum sealed to preserve freshness. Watch this short clip to see the moulding in action: