Big Red Robe (大红袍)

Name Dàhóng páo / 大红袍
English Big Red Robe
Region Wuyi Mountain, Fujian
Manufacture Wulong (or, Oolong) tea (80% oxidation); most oxidized of the wulong teas (looks like a black tea)
Style Open, crepey leaf
Flavor Deap, rich
Aroma Fresh
Liquor Golden amber
Brewing Brew three/four times at 90°C

Big Red Robe is the first of the wulong teas on the Taobao Tea Trail and is the most famous of the Wǔyí cliff teas (武夷岩茶 Wǔyí yán chá) from Fújiàn province. Other Wuyi cliff teas include:

  • Dà Hóng Páo (大红袍)
    Big Red Robe in Chinese, a highly prized tea and a Si Da Ming Cong (四大名樅, literally: The Four Great Bushes). This tea is also one of the two Oolongs that make it to the 十大名茶.
  • Shuǐ Jīn Guī (水金亀)
    Golden Water Turtle in Chinese, a Si Da Ming Cong.
  • Tiě Luóhàn (鉄羅漢)
    Iron Arhat in Chinese, a Si Da Ming Cong tea
  • Bái Jī Guān (白鸡冠)
    White Cockscomb in Chinese, a Si Da Ming Cong tea. A light tea with light, yellowish leaves.
  • Ròu Guì (肉桂)
    Cinnamon in Chinese, a dark tea with a spicy aroma.
  • Shuǐ Xiān (水仙)
    Water Sprite in Chinese, a very dark tea, often grown elsewhere.

Big Red Robe is commonly brewed to be strong and is considered the strongest, full-bodied Wulong tea.

Tea Tip – Tea Processing

All teas start from the same plant Camellia sinensis, with the different styles (e.g. green, white, wulong, black, etc.) a result of differences in the manufacturing styles. Wikipedia has an excellent diagram that breaks down the stages:

[click above image to enlarge]

From the same original plant, teas are then classified by the techniques with which it is produced and processed:

  • White tea: Wilted and unoxidized
  • Yellow tea: Unwilted and unoxidized, but allowed to yellow
  • Green tea: Unwilted and unoxidized
  • Wulong tea: Wilted, bruised, and partially oxidized
  • Black tea: Wilted, sometimes crushed, and fully oxidized
  • Post-fermented tea: Green tea that has been allowed to ferment/compost

Prior to The Taobao Tea Trail, my personal favorite teas were all Wulong – likely a result of first discovering Chinese tea while in Taiwan. In fact, I find this tends to be a typical experience with many Chinese as well. Most Chinese I have been asking typically have been exposed to teas common to their home towns, but have much less knowledge of teas from other regions.

With the first stops on the Taobao Tea Trail exploring green, white and yellow teas I definitely have developed a much stronger appreciation for these less oxidized tea styles. With wulong teas covering such a broad range of oxidation (from 20-80%) I am looking forward to comparing and contrasting different styles of wulong teas both from Fujian and Taiwan.

More Information (from Baidu Baike):

Dahongpao is part of the Wuyi Cliff Tea family, a group of Oolong teas collectively ranks in China’s top ten teas. Wuyi Mountain is in Fujian Province, a region famous for its superior Oolong tea. As the name Wuyi Cliff Tea suggests, the tea grows in the cliffs of Wuyi Mountain.

Wuyi Mountain is about 650 meters above sea level. Creeks run through the rocks and cliffs, making it a unique yet accommodating breeding ground for tea. There have been a lot of legends surrounding Dahongpao, partly due to the almost ethereal environment that it grows in. In the cliffs still exist 4 to 6 “mother trees”, i.e. the oldest living Dahongpao trees planted almost 400 years ago. Only a few kilos of tea are harvested from these trees every year, fetching million Renminbi price tags at auctions. The China National Museum also keeps part of the produce to preserve the heritage.

Dahongpao has an intense reddish brown color. The leaves are compact. Once brewed, the liquor is a bright orange color. The aroma lingers long even after the seventh or eighth brew. The most traditional way to enjoy Dahongpao is using small “gongfu” tea cups, i.e. cups so small that the tea is finished in one small sip. These cups help discipline one to savor tea with patience, aka ‘gongfu’. It is believed that only drinking Dahongpao slowly and patiently will one fully appreciate its unique flavors. Dahongpao tastes warm and smooth with a mellow osmanthus flavor.

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One thought on “Big Red Robe (大红袍)

  1. Pingback: Wuyishan (武夷山) – July 21/22, 2011

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