Da Hong Pao, known as Big Red Robe, is produced in Wuyi Mountain, Fujian Province, is an excellent quality oolong tea, an honored Chinese Special Tea. It got the name of “Yancha” since the plant grows in the cracks of rocks in Wuyi Mountains, which yancha means Tea of Rock.
It has been said that in addition to the general health and benefits of tea, Da Hong Pao also helps reducing blood fat, anti-cancer, anti-aging, and other special effects.
Da Hong Pao is very lasting for brewing. Its closely tight shape and intense reddish brown color will yield bright yellowish orange tea soup between its reddish and greenish leaves. The most prominent part of the quality is its long lasting orchid fragrance, has obviously the feel of the rhyme of the rock. The 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.
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. According to legend, in Ming Dynasty, an illness of an emperor’s mother was cured by this tea, so emperor sent great red robes to clothe and honor the four bushes from which that tea originated.
Six of these original bushes, growing on a rock on the Wuyi Mountains and reportedly dating back to the Song Dynasty, still survive today and are highly venerated. Famously expensive, Da Hong Pao 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 these trees every year, fetching million RMB price tags at auctions. The China National Museum also keeps part of the produce to preserve the heritage. Due to its high quality, Da Hong Pao tea is usually reserved for honored guests in China.
The variations of processing, differences of planting soil, and location of these later generation plants are the main elements that used to grade the quality of various Da Hong Pao teas.
Yancha, tea of the Rock
The finer Da Hong Pao tea is called Yancha, teas of the big rocks, denoting origins that are in the heights rather than on the plains. The more difficult growing environment in the patches of land or steppes in the hills yield a lot more taste elements in the leaves, rather than just tannic and bitter “strength” of those from lower lands. The varieties under this 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.
Yancha tea features the fresh fragrance of green tea and the mellow sweetness of black tea. With its lovely flowery aromas and health benefits, it has been offered and tribute to emperors as a gift more than 1,000 years ago. It was enjoyed by Europeans when it was introduced to Europe in the 18th century. Da Hong Pao is one of the best Wuyi Yancha of oolong teas.