Famous Chinese Tea

All About Da Hong Pao: Types, Origins, and How to Brew

All About Da Hong Pao: Types, Origins, and How to Brew

What's your tea today?



Today my choice is Dahongpao Oolong Tea.
Dahongpao is produced in Wuyi Mountain, Fujian Province.
It is the most famous, representative, and best-quality of Wuyi rock tea.
Therefore, it is also known as the king of Wuyi tea.
Dahongpao has been recognized as one of the top ten most famous teas in China every time, and it is a very classic type of tea.
From the classification of tea leaves Dahongpao belongs to the Oolong tea.
Chinese oolong tea is categorized into Minbei oolong, Minnan oolong, Guangdong oolong, and Taiwan oolong according to its place of origin.
Minbei oolong tea is also known as Wuyi rock tea, of which the most well-known is Dahongpao.


Why is it Called Dahongpao?



There are various legends about the name of Da Hong Pao.
One is the story of a monkey picking tea.
Another is the story of the scholar who was saved by the Big Red Robe when he was rushing to take the examination.

Nowadays, the more widely circulated and credible story is still the legend related to the scholar.
The story goes like this:
At the end of the Ming Dynasty, there was a scholar who went to Beijing to take the examination.
When he was passing through Wuyi Mountain, his stomach swelled up and he collapsed by the side of the road at Tianxin Temple.
When the abbot of Tianxin Temple saw that he was sick, he gave him some treasured tea.
After drinking it, his stomach slowly recovered and he continued to rush to the capital to catch the examination.
At the end of the examination, he got the highest score in the imperial examinations.
At that time, when you became the top scorer in the exam, you had to wear red clothes.
He returned to Mount Wuyi in his red robe to thank the abbot and asked what kind of tea he was drinking at the time, and the scholar said it was so good that it saved his life!
The Abbot took him to see the tea tree where the tea was made in the first place.
The scholar took off the red robe he was wearing and wrapped it around the tea. so it came to be known as the Big Red Robe.

Of course, there is another, more interesting story.
When the scholar went to thank the abbot, the abbot took a small altar of the Dahongpao tea he made that year and gave it to him.
And the scholar offered it to the emperor as a treasure.
It so happened that the emperor's empress was in poor health, and after drinking this tea for a few days, she was fine.
The emperor was very happy and gave him a red robe.
He went back and draped the red robe over this tree.
The Ming Emperor also ordered that the tea made from these trees be called Great Red Robe.
Tea made from these trees was supplied to the Emperor every year as a tribute tea.
This is where the name "Big Red Robe" comes from.


Why is Dahongpao Well-Known in China?



There are two reasons why Dahongpao is so famous in China.
One is because of the unique growth environment of the mother tree Dahongpao, which has created the special quality of Dahongpao.
The second is due to the scarcity of the mother tree Dahongpao.

The mother tree Dahongpao is located in a place called Jiulong Pavilion near Tianxin Temple in Wuyi Mountain, Fujian Province.
There is a vertical rock wall in Jiulong Pavilion, just between the narrowness of the rock wall.
There are six tea trees in the center, and the oolong tea brewed from these six trees is the mother tree Dahongpao tea.
Behind the production area are rocky cliffs, and in the morning the sun shines directly on this area.
The direct sunlight will be stronger after ten or eleven, and the rocky cliffs behind just block the direct sunlight.
This kind of growth environment is just like what is said on ancient Chinese tea trees: tea should be shaded by high mountains and sunny in the morning.
And in line with modern cultivation science, tea garden management requirements to plant shade trees.
The purpose of the shade tree is to create a small environment for it to protect from strong direct sunlight.
Since it grows between two cliffs and stone walls, it's a good shade tree to plant depending on the sun.
This is one of the reasons for the unique location of the mother tree Dahongpao, another reason is the stream running down the rocky cliff.
The stream flows continuously, passing through the tea garden, moistening the soil and nourishing the tea trees.
Streams flow down, bringing nutrients from the weathered soil in the weathered rocks to the tea fields.
"The Classic of Tea" states: "The best tea grows on weathered rocks, the middle-grade tea grows on gravel, and the inferior tea grows on loess."
The unique growing environment creates the special quality of Dahongpao, which is the basis of its reputation.

There are six Dahongpao trees, three of which are over 400 years old, and the other three may be over 200 years old.
These six trees produce less than a pound a year, making them extremely rare
In China, the popularity of Dahongpao is directly related to the mother tree Dahongpao.
One is that the environment is unique, making it of extraordinary quality, and the other is that it is very rare.
The best Dahongpao we are talking about today is the mother tree Dahongpao.
It is the king of Wuyi rock tea, one of China's top ten famous teas, and a national gift.


Chairman Mao Gave a Dahongbao to President Nixon.



There's a very good story in China's diplomatic history.
Nixon's visit to China in 1972.
Mao Zedong thought the Dahongpao was precious.
At that time, when we first established diplomatic relations, we chose this as a national gift.
Chairman Mao gave Nixon the Dahongpao in a small jar.
Nixon saw it at the time and thought why is this so petty?
You are the main producer of tea, why did you send me such a small amount of tea?
Later Premier Zhou Enlai also replied very wisely.
He saw the look on Nixon's face and probably thought there was something unsatisfactory about him.
He said to Nixon, "Mr. President, the President has given you half of the country
How can you still be in such an unpleasant mood?
Nixon said at the time, Why do you say that?
Premier Zhou explained to him: this mother tree Dahongpao tea but the generations of tribute tea ah!
It only produces eight taels a year.
Isn't the four taels given to you just half of the country?


Dahongpao Classification of the Mother Tree Dahongpao.


We can start by talking about Dahongpao from the perspective of the variety.
The Mother Tree Dahongpao we've already talked about is the six tea trees on the cliffs of the Nine Dragons Pavilion.
Mother Tree Dahongpao is so rare that most of us don't get to drink it.
In the Wuyi Mountain Spring Tea Festival in 2005, 20 grams of Mother Tree Red Robe fetched more than 200,000 yuan.
This is documented.

Dahongpao's mother tree is more than 300 years old, now the life force of the tea tree is very fragile.
In 2006, the state officially issued a ban on harvesting, to protect it.
Since 2006, the mother tree Dahongpao cannot be harvested and processed.
That is to say, from 2006 onwards, no matter whether rich or poor, we can no longer drink Mother Tree Dahongpao.


Dahongpao Classification of the Qidan Dahongpao



In terms of variety.
The most consistent with the mother tree Dahongpao is what we now call purebred Dahongpao.
Where did this purebred Dahongpao come from?

In the 1980s, the Fujian Provincial Institute of Tea Science made prunings and cuttings of the second and sixth plants of the mother tree Dahongpao.
The second and sixth cuttings were taken as asexually propagated tea seedlings
Then the tea seedlings were bred.
It was later introduced to Wuyi Mountain in large numbers.
From a varietal point of view, it has a high degree of consistency with the mother tree, Dahongpao, and the closest thing to it is Qidan.
The Qidan variety is what we call purebred Dahongpao.


Dahongpao Classification of the Commodity Dahongpao.



In addition to the mother tree Dahongpao just mentioned, there is also purebred Dahongpao also known as Qidan.
There's also a category we call Commercial Dahongpao.
It's also known as Dahongpao, which is what most people drink today.
Where did this Dahongpao come from?

With the recovery of the Wuyi rock tea market after the 1990s.
Consumers are very enthusiastic about this variety of Dahongpao.
But at that time, the production of Qidan Dahongpao was not that much
Tea experts then use Qidan and narcissus, cinnamon, or 105 to blend many varieties.
Make a variety called Commercial Dahongpao also called Blended Dahongpao.
Blended Dahongpao is called Dahongpao because we follow a principle when we blend it.
For example, we use Shui Xian or Cinnamon as the main ingredient to make this blended Dahongpao.
but we require that the blended tea has no obvious Shui Xian or Cinnamon characteristics.
Then we can call it a successful tea blend.
The blended Dahongpao has a unique aroma or flavor profile that is different from other varieties.
It's slowly gaining recognition in the marketplace.
From the perspective of the market, most of our current Dahongpao is blended Dahongpao or commodity Dahongpao.
The best of the Dahongpao of merchandise are the ones that are blended with the varieties of Qidan and Narcissus or Cinnamon.
If we blend the typical osmanthus flavor, then this is a better Dahongpao.
The lesser ones may not have any other species in them at all.
It's Narcissus, Cinnamon, 105, or White Cockscomb Tea.
These small varieties can also be called Dahongpao.
But its varietal aroma and varietal style are less obvious.
From the point of view of varieties, commercial Dahongpao must be the furthest from the mother tree Dahongpao.


About Picking Dahongpao



It seeks a strong aroma, rich flavor, and aesthetics.
When selecting tea leaves, they should have a certain degree of maturity.
The most important feature of harvesting is mature leaf harvesting.
Mature leaves are categorized into small open-face, medium open face and large open-face.
The growth cycle of tea leaves is like this:
It starts as a bud, grows into a leaf, then becomes a bud and two leaves, and the flower bud slowly unfolds.
But when the bud unfolds, the leaf is very small, less than half the size of the leaf next to it.
We call it a small open face.
When it is more than half the size of the second leaf, but not quite the size of the second leaf.
We call it a medium open-face.
When it is fully grown and is the same size as the leaf next to it, we call it large open-face picking.
The best way to pick a small open face.
It needs a good environment and good weather.
When harvesting, we must take good care of the fresh leaves.
After picking, we have to put the fresh leaves in a ventilated place.
Many tea growers use nylon plastic bags for picking.
This way the fresh leaves can be easily smothered.
Because the higher the tea leaves are piled up, the more likely they are to be squeezed, and when the pressure increases, the tea leaves will be damaged.
The water transportation tubes inside the fresh leaves may break and the water is not released evenly and completely.
Therefore, the way the fresh leaves are picked determines the quality of the tea.
This is why the picking must be very delicate and to prevent damage, allow it to air out.
It must breathe as naturally as if it had been picked on a tree.
This is the most important thing.


About the Place of Origin



Many tea lovers know the concept of Wuyi Rock Tea.
What is the evaluation system of Wuyi Dahongpao?
The answer is that according to the growing area of the tea tree, it is categorized into Zheng Yan, Ban Yan, Zhou Cha, and Wai Mountain.
Zheng Yan produces the best oolong tea, the others are second best.
Zheng Yan
Zheng Yan tea is grown in the Wuyi Mountain scenic area.
Ban Yan
Ban Yan tea refers to the Dahongpao tea that is planted on a large scale outside of the Wuyi Mountain Scenic Area, but still within Wuyi Mountain.
Zhou Cha
Zhou cha is the tea planted in large areas of the plains around Wuyi Mountain.
Wai Mountain
Tea is planted outside Wuyi Mountain.


Why Do We Smell The Paste or Baked Flavor?


It is actually because of the processing of Dahongpao.

Dahongpao is usually made into gross tea in April/May and left for another six months. The second processing is done in September/October.

The second process is roasting again with charcoal.
If the temperature is high during the second roasting, then the tea will taste burnt.
So this problem is caused by the second roasting process.
Loose leaf oolong tea is characterized by a mellow flavor.
So we release the aroma of the low boiling point impurities during the roasting process.
Only those highly fire-resistant, i.e. aromatic substances that won't be released at high temperatures, remain
The longer the roasting time, the more impurities in the tea are released
Roasting has two purposes, the first is to allow the tea to develop a higher-quality flavor experience.
The second purpose is to allow Wuyi Rock Tea to have a lower moisture content, which allows it to be preserved for a longer period and is generally required to keep the moisture level below 6%.
Therefore, it must be roasted twice to stabilize its quality.

This process also makes Dahongpao a roasted tea
The Dahongpao we drink must be fully roasted.
Because if the tea is lightly roasted, the quality may drop when it reaches foreign countries.


And we recommend drinking loose leaf tea because the flavor of Dahongpao cannot be fully realized in a tea bag.


Why Pick in April/May and Bake in September/October?


There are two types of water in the tea.
One is called free water.
It evaporates easily.
The other is bound water.
It binds to the cells as water molecules with other substances.
It's hard to roast off all this water at once.
So we need to roast twice.
The first roasting removes the water from the top layer of the tea leaves.
The second roasting takes place after the water from the inner layers of the tea leaves has been redistributed in the center of the leaves, which is usually a six-month wait.
The second roasting is to remove the water from the inner layer of the tea leaves and to remove the mixed flavors and the greenish taste of the leaf surface.
It is because of the special production process of Dahongpao that we have to wait until after October to get a good traditional Dahongpao.
There is a saying in Wuyi Mountain, where the Dahongpao originates, "Every family sells tea from the next year."
Why this saying?
This is because this year's new tea is first made into gross tea, then after re-roasting at the end of the year, it becomes a finished tea, which is then sealed up and will not be sold until the following year at the earliest.
This allows the "fire" flavor to fade away, leaving a strong, mellow aroma!
If you drink this year's new tea, you will feel a bit on fire, that is, his fire flavor has not yet receded.


Craftsmanship of Dahongpao


What is the unique process of oolong tea compared to other teas?
Let's take Northern Fujian Oolong Da Hong Pao as an example.
The first special process is roasting.
Roasting, especially charcoal roasting, is one of the most central and unique processes in the Wuyi rock tea process.
Some coarse teas are not well made, and will even go through 3-4 times of roasting.
This multiple roasting is to make up for some of the defects in the gross tea production process.
The second special process is the two dryings and two sunning, also known as "Withering", which is the difference between Dahongpao and other Oolong teas.
This is the difference between Dahongpao and other Oolong teas. Two drying processes, i.e. picking the fresh leaves when the sunlight is mild, and then drying them under the sunlight.
After drying, the leaves are taken to a cool place to dry, then taken out to the sun again, and then put back to dry again.
This can stimulate the aroma substances in the fresh leaves and activate the ingredients in the fresh leaves.
The third special process is "Make Green (Zuo Qing)".
After two dryings and two sunning, the leaves will undergo the "Make Green (Zuo Qing)" process.
"Make Green (Zuo Qing)" includes Shaking Green (Yao Qing), Put Static (Jing Zhi), and Hand Clapping (Zuo Shou).
This is done by shaking the leaves on a bamboo sieve so that the leaves are constantly bumping against each other.
The purpose of "Make Green (Zuo Qing)" is to let the tea leaves get hurt in the process of the collision so that the edge of the fresh leaves will produce a red edge.
This is also known as "Green Leaves with Red Edge".
"Make Green (Zuo Qing)" is a long process that usually lasts from around 10 pm to 3 or 4 pm the next day!
The fourth process is "double frying and double rolling".
This is a traditional tea production process in Wuyishan, different from other Oolong teas.
The first time the tea leaves are fried until they are 70% dry, then kneaded a little and then fried a second time.
Why fry twice?
To release the water more evenly, the tea is stir-fried once more and then kneaded once more.
These special techniques make Wuyishan's Dahongpao the most expensive of all Oolong teas.
These traditional techniques are very complicated and time-consuming.

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