What is Da Hong Pao?
Da Hong Pao is a famous loose leaf oolong tea primarily produced in Wuyishan City, Fujian Province, China. It is a type of Wuyi rock tea, known for its excellent quality and unique flavor.
Da Hong Pao has a long history, dating back to the Hongwu period of the Ming Dynasty, and it was once a tribute tea during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
The appearance of Dahonpao tea leaves is tightly twisted, with a fresh green-brown color. The brewed tea has a bright orange-yellow color, and the leaves exhibit a mix of red and green. A distinctive feature of Da Hong Pao is its aroma, especially the orchid fragrance, known as "rock charm", which is not only intense but also long-lasting, contributing to Da Hong Pao's high reputation. When selecting Chinese tea gift sets for family and friends, it is advisable to choose one that includes high-quality Da Hong Pao.
Historical Legend of Da Hong Pao
The most popular legend about Da Hong Pao is from the Ming Dynasty.
During the Hongwu period, a scholar on his way to the imperial examination in Beijing fell ill while passing through Wuyishan. A monk from the nearby Tianxin Temple happened to pass by, rescued him, and brewed a bowl of tea for him. After drinking it, the scholar's stomachache immediately disappeared, and he recovered from his illness.
After successfully passing the imperial examination and becoming a top scholar, he returned to Wuyishan. In gratitude for the monk's life-saving help, he draped his red robe on the tea tree. Hence, the tea acquired the name Da Hong Pao, meaning "Big Red Robe."
Excellent Growing Environment of Da Hong Pao
The core production area of Da Hong Pao is within the Wuyishan Scenic Area. The Da Hong Pao is also called Wuyi Da Hong Pao tea. The outstanding growing environment is one of the reasons why Da Hong Pao is considered one of the best loose leaf tea.
The climate in the Da Hong Pao production area is mild, with warm winters and cool summers. The average annual temperature ranges between 18 to 18.5℃. The region receives abundant rainfall, with an annual precipitation of around 2000mm.
Most of the Da Hong Pao tea gardens are nestled among rocks and valleys, surrounded by mountains, providing a natural barrier. The sunlight exposure is relatively short, and there is minimal risk of wind damage. Flowing springs and misty clouds are common in the mountains and valleys, contributing to the unique flavor of rock tea.
The geological composition of Wuyishan belongs to the Cretaceous Wuyi Formation. The lower part consists of quartz porphyry, while the middle part comprises conglomerate, red sandstone, shale, tuffaceous shale, and volcanic breccia, forming distinct layers. The predominant parent rocks in Da Hong Pao tea gardens are volcanic breccia, red sandstone, and shale. The suitable soil conditions contribute to the excellent intrinsic qualities of rock tea.
Classification of Da Hong Pao Planting Regions
Da Hong Pao can be classified into Zhengyan tea, Banyan tea, and Zhou tea based on the planting regions.
Grown within the Wuyishan Scenic Area, Zhengyan tea includes the original Da Hong Pao mother trees such as Liukeng Da Hong Pao, Sankeng, Liangke, Liangjian, and Neiwaiguidong.
Banyan tea refers to Da Hong Pao planted extensively outside the Wuyishan Scenic Area but still within the Wuyishan region.
Tea planted in large areas outside Wuyishan and in the surrounding plains is categorized as Zhou tea.
Da Hong Pao Classification
Da Hong Pao can be classified into Mother Tree Da Hong Pao, Purebred Da Hong Pao, and Commercial Da Hong Pao.
1.Mother Tree Da Hong Pao
Mother Tree Da Hong Pao is the most primitive type, located on the cliffs of Jiulongke in the Wuyishan Scenic Area. It is processed from one of the six tea trees. Since 2006, these six tea trees have stopped being harvested, making Mother Tree Da Hong Pao unavailable in the market.
2.Purebred Da Hong Pao
Purebred Da Hong Pao tea trees are cultivated through asexual reproduction, such as cutting, from a certain lineage of the Mother Tree Da Hong Pao.
The quality of Purebred Da Hong Pao is similar to Mother Tree Da Hong Pao but is not directly harvested from the mother tree. Purebred Da Hong Pao is not commonly found in the market, with Qidan Da Hong Pao being one known example.
3.Commercial Da Hong Pao
Commercial Da Hong Pao, also known as blended Da Hong Pao, is a blend of two or more varieties (such as Shuixian, Rougui, etc.) to achieve a rich aroma and flavor.
Why Do Different Da Hong Pao Have Significant Price Differences?
Different Planting Regions:
The unique geographical environment of Wuyishan determines the quality of tea. Premium mountainous areas, specifically Sankeng, Liangjian, or other special regions, have become increasingly scarce resources in recent years. With high demand and limited production, the price of tea in these areas tends to rise.
Loose leaf oolong tea, particularly Da Hong Pao, has one of the most complex processing methods among Chinese loose leaf tea. Some high-quality loose leaf oolong teas require manual processing to ensure their quality. As labor costs increase, the Da Hong Pao tea price also rises.
In summary, Da Hong Pao teas with excellent mountainous areas and advanced processing techniques naturally command higher prices. On the other hand, lower-priced Da Hong Pao teas may lack these qualities. However, it's important to note that a higher price doesn't always equate to better quality. The best tea is the one that suits individual preferences. It is recommended to try through tea sampler to find the authentic Da Hong Pao tea that suits you taste.
How to Brew Da Hong Pao for the Best Flavor?
When brewing Da Hong Pao and other loose leaf oolong tea, the preferred method is Gongfu tea brewing. By following the Gongfu tea brewing method and paying attention to the following three points, you can enhance the deliciousness of brewed Da Hong Pao:
1.Choose Appropriate Tea Ware
For brewing Da Hong Pao tea, it is recommended to use Yixing clay teapots or white porcelain gaiwans. White porcelain gaiwans are excellent for showcasing the fragrance and taste of the tea while being cost-effective and a preferred choice for tea brewing.
2.Use Quality Water
Good tea requires good water for brewing. Using inferior water can significantly diminish the taste and aroma of high-quality tea.
For brewing Da Hong Pao, mountain spring water is the best choice. If mountain spring water is unavailable, purified water is also a good option.
3.Control Brewing Time
For the first three infusions of Da Hong Pao, it is advisable to keep the brewing time within 15 seconds. Subsequent infusions can have a slightly longer brewing time.
The Efficacy of Da Hong Pao Tea
Da Hong Pao tea offers numerous health benefits, including antioxidation, promoting digestion, reducing blood lipids, refreshing the mind, antibacterial and bacteriostatic effects, and aiding in weight loss. Below are the three main benefits of Da Hong Pao:
Da Hong Pao is rich in catechins and epicatechins, which are antioxidants. These substances effectively eliminate free radicals in the body, slow down cell aging, and reduce the risk of developing cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and other related conditions.
Da Hong Pao contains abundant catechins and flavonoids, which stimulate gastrointestinal peristalsis, promote the secretion of digestive fluids, improve digestion, and alleviate gastrointestinal discomfort, constipation, and related issues.
Da Hong Pao regulates lipid metabolism, lowering total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels while increasing high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. This helps protect cardiovascular health.
How to Store Da Hong Pao Tea?
Proper storage is crucial for Da Hong Pao tea. When stored correctly, even after many years of being opened, Da Hong Pao can maintain its excellent taste and aroma.
Dry Box Storage Method:
Using a dry box for storage is effective because it provides stable temperature conditions and isolates the tea leaves from air, preventing dampness or oxidation. If possible, storing Da Hong Pao in a dry box is a recommended method.
Iron Can Storage Method:
This method involves using a double-lid colored enamel tea can available in the market. Before storage, check the seal of the iron can, and during storage, ensure the can is tightly closed to achieve perfect preservation.
Ceramic Jar Storage Method:
After ensuring the ceramic jar is clean, wrap the Da Hong Pao tea in parchment paper and place a bag of lime in the jar. Seal the jar tightly with cotton. It is important to replace the lime every 1-2 months to maintain optimal storage conditions.