Da Hong Pao, sometimes called Big Red Robe as this is the literal translation, is one of the most famous type of Wuyi oolong (also known as rock tea), a type of tea grown exclusively in the Wuyi Mountains, Fujian province, China.
In China, this tea is still revered, due to its high quality and historical reverence. However, the legends surrounding its name vary. Some say that the name is symbolically descriptive of the colour of young leaves when caught in the evening sun; other legends suggest that the bushes were once cloaked in red imperial robes, as an acknowledgment of their quality, or else the cloaks were a thankful honouring, given because they cured the illness of a Ming Dynasty Emperor's mother.
Harvest & Preparation
Tender leaves are picked and withered before being slowly roasted or baked over charcoal, to create a heavily oxidized, dark oolong.
Big Red Robe is thought to be one of the oldest produced oolongs, as well as one of the most revered types of Wuyi Oolong. To be considered authentic, it must be grown on the Wuyi Mountain. Generally, production costs for creating such a revered tea are high, which is then reflected in the sale price, famous for being expensive.
The dried leaves are particularly dark, twisted into thick strings of leaves. Some note the chocolate and tobacco flavours, others floral notes. However, once steeped, this tea is known for deep toasted flavours, that have a rich and smooth characteristic, producing a deep red cup. It can often be described as having a complex flavour, with a slightly astringent taste, combined with notes of fruits, dark chocolate, wood, minerals and caramel.
Depending on who you listen to, brewing recommendations really vary, at around 95°C for between 1-5 minutes. If you're using the gongfu method, then the leaves should be rinsed and steeped for no more than 30 seconds, with between 5-60 seconds being added for every steep. Brewing this way has the advantage of yielding a more complex flavour, but no matter how you choose to steep this tea, it can be done multiple times, so take time with it, explore it, enjoy it.
Wuyi Ensemble - Adagio
In classic fashion, the packet is deeply enriched with notes of cocoa nib and deep stone fruits, combined with a gentler tobacco scent. Once steeped, the liquid turns a dark colour, emitting a strong fruity and toasted aroma, along with an added floral-mineral backdrop. The flavour is predominately toasted, with a slight astringency in the aftertaste, which easily attributes to a dark chocolate note.
Product Details: Available as 43g or 227g packets of loose leaf and a pack 15 pyramid teabags.
Final Thoughts: This was not my first experience with Big Red Robe, so whilst these leaves produced a tasty cup, I know that there are better out there. What's great about this tea though, is that Adagio are such a big company operating globally, so this particular tea is available from the UK and US websites.