Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe Tea) is a dark oolong rock tea grown in the Wuyi Mountains, Wiyishan, Fujian, China. During our visit to Wuyishan we had the opportunity to visit this unique area to view the tea plantation and the original “mother tea trees”.
The tea myth that accompanies Da Hong Pao concerns four famous tea bushes, whose leaves miraculously cured an Emperor’s mother during the Ming Dynasty, when she fell ill in the mountains. In gratitude the Emperor wrapped the four trees in reams of expensive red cloth to protect them from the elements. Four ancient tea bushes still stand on a cliff in the Wuyi Mountains, which are thought to be those of this legend, and have become something of a tourist attraction. Each year a very small amount of tea is harvested from these trees, and sold for many hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction.
China’s ancient bushes of Da Hong Pao produce one of the most expensive teas in the world, astonishingly costing more than 30 times its weight in gold and can sell for up to US$1,025,000 per kilogram or US $35,436 per ounce. 20g of Da Hong Pao tea from one of the mother plants was sold for ¥156,800 in 1998 and in 2002, a wealthy purchaser paid 180,000 yuan – almost $28,000 – for just 20g of China’s legendary Da Hong Pao tea
Due to its high quality, Da Hong Pao tea is usually reserved for honored guests in China.
In recent years, a number of companies have invested in preserving the interest in this tea and other so-called “artisan” teas, which typically are of very high quality and have rich histories as is true with Da Hong Pao. These have an initially high cost of production (and typically are only considered authentic when grown in their place of origin), but, as they have quickly become popular in Western countries, prized selections of the tea are available each year, with quality being consistent because of the increased popularity of the tea.
Cuttings taken from the original plants have been used to produce similar grades of tea from genetically identical plants. Taste variations produced by processing, differences in the soil, and location of these later generation plants is used to grade the quality of various Da Hong Pao teas.
Following our visit to the Dahongpao tea plantation in the mountains we then visited a tea shop to sample some of the teas. We were shown the way to prepare the teas and the etiquette in drinking the tea. There were a few varieties of teas to sample from the red tea through to the very dark black oolong tea. Then of course we had the opportunity to buy!
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