(Gifted for purposes of review)
Once upon a time on Instagram, Pure Chinese Tea reached out to me and asked me if I’d like to sample three teas from their site. My uneducated ass picked, not at random, but three that would be sufficiently different to get a good cross section.
Lovely Yeti advised me that the Da Hong Pao I picked was best enjoyed on a dry autumn or winter day… and thus I had to wait until now ;).
And then, in the common way a person nowadays becomes less ignorant, I googled the name of the tea. Luckily I did this before brewing, so I could give this oolong some proper attention. Da Hong Pao, or Big Red Robe tea, is not just any old oolong. If you were lucky enough (and bougie enough) to be able to source some from one of the six original mother trees, in the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian Province, 20g could cost you over £27,000 (US$35,000). In fact, in 2007, they stopped even picking leaves from these mothers, to preserve them for the future.
Now, this particular variant sells for £6.90 ($8.87) for 20g, so she’s not from one of the six, but if you’re a thrifty tea consumer like me, that’s still around £2 per person per gaiwan playtime, so this isn’t your (my) everyday brew. Having looked into the grades of Da Hong Pao, I would guess this is a commodity/blended version (Purebred plants bred with other quality Wuyi rock tea plants), as the price is still accessible but it retains a velvety mouthfeel and rich, lasting aftertaste, and the origin is stated as the Wuyi Mountains.
So, before I drop all of my tasting notes in amongst my intro, onto the brewing!
Always one to drop an esoteric and unrelatable reference, when I opened the bag and took a long inhale, I was transported to the art room at my primary school – namely the kiln area. Something in the air of fired clay pots, residual aroma of heat and minerals. I had to remind myself that this is an oolong, albeit heavily oxidized over pine charcoal.
The first time I steeped this tea, I followed the packet instructions, which were for western brewing, and produced a silky, buttery liquor, with notes of both roasted wood and orchid. But I felt I could get more out of this tea than that, so I consulted the website, and there were some gaiwan instructions (not sure why these weren’t on the packet though).
And the gaiwan is where this tea belongs. The aroma hit me as soon as the water covered the leaves and warmed them – wood, smoke, nuttiness. The liquor a dark amber with a sweet nose, a velvet mouthfeel and a cocoa coffee hit of inviting darkness. By the fourth infusion (30 second initial with increases of 15 seconds), the flavour had lightened up to nuttiness, but with the lingering taste that promises to remain with you, and I started to get quite giddy – perhaps I should have had my session after lunch rather than before. I managed to get 5 steeps that I was happy with, but I do like my oolongs strong.
A fabulous experience, reinforcing my love of amber and roasted oolongs.
❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️
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