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The Most Expensive Tea - Da Hong Pao

The Most Expensive Tea - Da Hong Pao

Wuyi Mountains, a famous landscape in the world, is located in north-western Fujian province, is about 650 meters above sea level. Creeks run through the rocks and cliffs, making it a unique yet accommodative breeding ground for tea. Wuyi oolong tea has a long history. Tea has been planted and produced since Tang Dynasty(618-907). In Song Dynasty(960-1279), Wuyi Da Hong Pao tea was honored as a royal tribute tea.

Da Hong Pao, a meaning of "big red robe" in Chinese, tea is produced only in Wuyi Mountain, is a type of extraordinary quality oolong tea, is also honored Chinese Special Tea. The name comes from distant sighting effect under sunlight reflection during the time of early spring germination as if fire-red color robe caping over tea trees, that because of reddish buddings of Da Hong Pao trees.

There have been a lot of legends surrounding. According to legend, in Ming Dynasty(1368-1644), one of emperors believed that his ill mother was cured by this tea, so emperor sent Great Red Robes to label and honor the four bushes from which that tea originated.

Wuyi Da Hong Pao tea growing with rock

Tea of Rock

"Yancha" meaning rock tea, as the name it suggests that tea from tea trees growing in the cracks of rocks in the Wuyi Mountain cliffs are named Yancha. Da Hong Pao is the king of rock tea. But name of "Da Hong Pao" is now being used for all of subcategory rock teas. The orthodox Da Hong Pao tea is rare, only six thousand-year-old trees left in the mountainside of Jiu Long Ke Cliffs with stone fence built where they are fertilized and thrived by essence of natural spring water seaming out from rock cracks.

The existing six Da Hong Pao mother trees are shrubs that the leaves quality is quite thick with slightly red buddings. These original bushes are growing on the rocks on the Wuyi Mountains and reportedly dated back to the Song Dynasty, are still survived today and highly venerated. These six mother trees are strictly preserved by government. The total annual production from these six trees are not even one kilogram. This scarcely tea is only reserved by China National Museum for study and research purposes. Due to its rareness, Da Hong Pao tea is also reserved to honor national presidents in China Congress. The Da Hong Pao teas (rock tea) found on the market have been grafted by more than a dozen of generations, and the price is still expensive.

Da Hong Pao is unexpectedly expensive oolong tea that top quality type 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). Only a few kilos of tea are harvested from closer trees every year, fetching million RMB price tags at auctions. Da Hong Pao tea is harvested in the middle of May every year with very limited production, it is so considered as rareness of tea.


Quality of Rock Tea

Da Hong Pao tea is now widely reproduced massively after the successful experiment of reproduction test by Tea Research Institute of Wuyi Shan City

Within diameter of 60 kilometers, with total of 99 famous rocks and 36 peaks, there are tea trees growing on every rock and cliff. Tea is named after rock, so Rock Tea is a general name for oolong teas from these rocks. Da Hong Pao is the best quality tea among these rock teas. Good rock teas are from difficult growing environment in the steep cliffs that breed a lot of more tasting components in the leaves, rather than just tannic and bitter “strength” of those from lower lands.

The variations of processing, differences of soil, and location of these later generation plants are the major factors that used to grade the various quality of Da Hong Pao teas.

Wuyi Rock tea Rou Gui

Varieties of Rock Teas

In earlier age of Qing Dynasty, many variations of Wuyi oolong teas were farm raised such as Four Famous Oolong including Da Hong Pao "大红袍", Tie Luo Han "铁罗汉", Bai Ji Guan "白鸡冠" and Shui Jin Gui "水金龟". In addition, others varieties like Bu Jian Tian "不见天" and Jin Suo Shi "金锁匙" are named after tea growing environment. Some are named after overall shape of tea tree such as Zui Hai Tang "醉海棠", Zui Dong Bin "醉洞宾", Diao Jin Gui "钓金龟", Feng Wei Cao "凤尾草", Yu Qi Lin "玉麒麟",  Yi Zhi Xiang "一枝香" and etc, whereas some varieties are named after shapes of tea leaves such as Gua Zhi Jin "瓜子金", Jin Qian "金钱", Zhu Si "竹丝", Jin Liu Tiao "金柳条", Dao Ye Liu "倒叶柳" and etc. And some others are named after tea germination time like Ying Chun Liu "迎春柳" and Bu Zhi Chun "不知春". The most common and popular varieties including Rou Gui "肉贵", Shi Ru Xiang "石乳香" and Bai She Xiang "白麝香" are named after their aromas.

The varieties under subcategory generally give a shorter, but more robust impression both in the aroma and in the taste, as compared with other oolong teas. This has to do with the plucks of the particular local cultivars as treated in the production style popularly adapted there, with high fire and aggressively swift handling of the leaves.

Wuyi Rou Gui oolong tea


Taste of Da Hong Pao tea

Da Hong Pao tea is an oolong tea, a type of semi-fermented tea. Dry tea leaves look fresh dark brown with averagely strong strips. The color of Da Hong Pao tea looks golden orange but bright and translucent, on dark side. It features the fresh fragrance of green tea and the mellow sweetness of black tea. The most prominent feature of the quality is its long-lasting floral notes, has obviously the feel of an unexplainable “Rhyme of Rock”, Known as “yan yun”.

Da Hong Pao tea is long lasting for steeping. The osmanthus flower aroma lingers long even after the seventh or eighth brews without losing its much fragrance. It tastes warm and smooth with a mellow cinnamon flavor. It is believed that drinking this tea slowly and patiently with small tea ware will fully appreciate its unique flavor.

With its lovely flowery aromas and health benefits, it was offered and tribute to emperors in the past 1,000 years. It was enjoyed by Europeans when it was first introduced to Europe in the 18th century. Da Hong Pao is one of the best Yancha of Wuyi oolong teas.


Process of Da Hong Pao tea

The process of Wuyi rock tea is unique and complex, especially Da Hong Pao is taking a long period of time. The traditional processes of Da Hong Pao tea making are being through about a dozen of processes which include sun drying, cool drying, shaking, frying, rolling, baking, picking, re-firing, sorting, blending and many other processes that can not be replaced with modern machine. This exclusive craftsmanship is listed in the National Intangible Cultural Heritage, and it is currently claiming for World's Intangible Cultural Heritage.


Health Benefits of Da Hong Pao tea

It has been said that in addition to the general health benefits of tea that helps mind refreshing, eliminating fatigue, digesting and etc., Da Hong Pao also has benefits of reducing blood fat, anti-cancer, anti-aging, and other special benefits.

  • Eliminate reactive oxygen that harms skin and health.
  • Drinking rock tea daily helps reducing skin irritation.
  • Drinking rock tea helps losing weight.


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