The Highly Distinguished Da Hong Pao Tea

On a site about Wu Long tea, it only makes sense for the first post to cover the most distinguished and famous of all the Chinese teas: Big Red Robe Tea. Also known by its Chinese name, Da Hong Pao, this tea comes from bushes in the Wuyi rock region of China’s Fujian province. Only a handful of these bushes still remain, making this tea the rarest on earth.

Big Red Robe oolong tea leaves

Luckily for us, those bushes have been cloned and they grow in various other areas. Tea leaves from these cloned bushes taste just as good as the originals. That said, these leaves are not nearly as distinguished. Of course, that also means they are not nearly as expensive. Big Red Robe tea from the original bushes has fetched the highest price ever for tea on the world market.

Is this tea worth such a high price? The Answer is simple and the same as it is for every other high-priced food product: no. This tea is definitely not worth that incredibly high price, especially since the cloned bushes are not all that expensive and taste just as good. You are paying for the status as you always do when you buy such a high-priced product and that is more true in China than anywhere else, where paying a lot for things that are not worth it marks you as a high status person.

The tea is quite nice though. If you like oolong tea, as I’m guessing you do, considering you’re on this site, then this is perhaps the best you can find. It is oxidated for a fairly long time, so it is a much stronger tea than the lightly oxidated Iron Goddess. In my opinion, this makes it a classic and traditional oolong tea and one that everyone should try at least once in their lives.

If you trying to get into these varieties of tea, Da Hong Pao is perhaps the best introduction. It brews to a dark reddish color, almost like a slightly watered-down black tea. The taste is hard to describe. It is stronger than any green tea, but has no bitterness at all and instead is slightly sweet with a light fruitiness.

I couldn’t find much information about the legend of this tea, but I’m sure it’s out there, since every Chinese tea seems to have some ancient mythological tale attached to it. So let’s just make one up.

A long time ago a beautiful girl was imprisoned in a house on top of a cliff. Unlike similar tales in the west, she had no hope of ever leaving, no matter how dashing or charming the prince who showed up. Since this was China, the princes were not really dashing, but short and sporting the status-indicating potbelly. Obviously, a prince such as this had no chance of climbing up the rock either and thus would never be able to rescue the maiden.

Instead, when her prince showed up, she simply asked for the best tea he could find. He brought bush after bush and tried tossing them up to her, but he was too weak and none of them reached her. Instead, they bounce back down at him and the few got caught in cracks in the rocks and stayed hanging on the cliff wall. The strongest of these took root and killed off the others. This unique growing environment ended up giving them a unique flavor, one that can only be found in leaves grown on this rock wall.

These are the current Big Red Robe bushes, which still cling to this very same rock wall, even though the girl is long gone and the prince is long dead. The bushes still produce wonderful tea and they are the only creatures in the story that ended up living happily ever after. Of course these days, they are highly famous and priceless, so they have to be under the watchful eye of state-of-the-art security cameras all day, every day.

This blog post on the eBeijing site details a foreigner’s experience with this Da Hong Pao tea.

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