Oolong "Da Hong Pao" or "Big Red Robe / Dahongpao" (from China Tea Book)

The hometown of rock tea, with "unique species," "single bushes," and "famous bushes," each possessing distinct characteristics. "Famous bushes" are regarded as the "kings of rock tea."

These teas, whether of exceptional quality, with uniquely shaped tea trees, or grown in peculiar locations, are often given names that reflect their individual traits, often imbued with literary flair. Among these esteemed famous bushes, the four most renowned are Da Hong Pao, Iron Arhat, White Comb, and Water Golden Tortoise.

The earliest written records about Da Hong Pao date back to the Daoguang period of the Qing Dynasty, as documented by Zheng Guangzu in "Yi Ban Lu Zashu" (1839), Volume Four, stating, "...if Min produces 'Hong Bao,' it has been popular for fifty years." A monk from the original Tianxin Temple remarked, "The tree is named for its purple-red young leaves."

Da Hong Pao is cultivated on the steep cliffs of Jiulongke in Tianxin Rock of Mount Wuyi. The steep cliffs on both sides stand upright, with minimal sunlight, stable temperature fluctuations, and notably, there are small sweet springs dripping from the rock valley onto the tea fields year-round. These springs enrich the tea fields with moss and algae, enhancing the soil's fertility, giving Da Hong Pao exceptional natural advantages. It has been cultivated and grown in Mount Wuyi for over 350 years.

In ancient times, harvesting Da Hong Pao required burning incense, setting up altars for chanting scriptures, using special utensils, and being processed by skilled tea masters.

From Lin Fuquan's record of the picking and processing of Da Hong Pao in 1941, it can be seen that its value lies in "observing the green and processing the green." Picking begins at 8:30 in the morning, with 1 hour of withering starting at 9:30, followed by 15 minutes of cooling at 10:30. At 10:45, it is moved to the withering room until 1:45 the next day when it is pan-fried. The withering process lasts for 14 hours and 40 minutes, with 7 rounds of withering. The order of withering is 16, 80, 100, 40, 144, 100, and 60, with hand alternations three times. After withering, it undergoes primary frying, re-frying, primary roasting, and re-roasting.

Da Hong Pao is characterized by its fragrant, mysterious, and unique qualities, with a mellow and clear taste and a refreshing aftertaste, bringing joy and pleasure.

As an ancient poem goes, "The miraculous tales of tea span ancient and modern times, the red cliffs and Da Hong Pao endure forever, praised as the world's finest, it enhances health and prolongs life." In ancient times, only the emperor could drink it.

Now, there are only six mother trees of Da Hong Pao left in history, with an annual yield of just over ten taels (50 grams per tael), produced by local famous tea masters each year and handed over to the local government for safekeeping, as precious gifts for foreign dignitaries, heads of state, and national leaders to taste. As a rare treasure, a 20-gram sample of Da Hong Pao auctioned at the Wuyi Rock Tea Festival in 1998 reached 156,000 yuan.

In 2006, the "Traditional Production Techniques of Wuyi Rock Tea (Da Hong Pao)" declared by Wuyishan City became the first batch of national intangible cultural heritage related to tea. On the morning of October 10, 2007, the Wuyishan City People's Government officially presented 20 grams of Da Hong Pao tea leaves picked in May 2005, directly from the 350-year-old mother tree in Wuyishan, Fujian, to the National Museum for collection.

According to the UNESCO-approved "World Natural and Cultural Heritage List of Wuyishan," the mother tree of Da Hong Pao growing in the Jiulongke scenic area of Mount Wuyi is listed as an ancient tree specimen in the world natural and cultural heritage. According to expert assessment, Da Hong Pao's quality is very distinctive. In comparison with other famous bushes, Da Hong Pao retains its original tea flavor even after the ninth infusion, while the taste of other famous bushes becomes very light after seven infusions.

After years of hard work and the use of asexual reproduction methods, relying on the historical mother tree of Da Hong Pao, and under the specific ecological conditions of Mount Wuyi, successful asexual reproduction has been achieved. Asexually reproduced Da Hong Pao, as identified by relevant experts, maintains the excellent characteristics of the mother tree, with its flavor remaining essentially consistent.

Now, tourists visiting Mount Wuyi can taste the exquisite packaged Da Hong Pao rock tea, experiencing the mood described in Fan Zhongyan's poem: "Better than a sip from a fairy mountain, one feels like flying with the wind." The truly original Da Hong Pao has now been mass-produced and put on the market, deeply loved by people.

Da Hong Pao is one of the traditional precious famous bushes of Wuyi, originally from the cliffs of Tianxin Rock in Wuyishan, Fujian. It is an asexual series, a shrub type, a mid-leaf type, a late-born variety, with elliptical leaves, dark green and glossy, slightly raised leaf surface, and purple-red buds and leaves. The picking period is slightly later, generally in mid-May. During processing, it is advisable to gradually progress through multiple withering steps. The characteristics of rock tea are evident.

In 2002, Wuyi Rock Tea obtained geographical indication protection and formulated national standards. The current standard is CB/118145-2006 Geographic Indication Product.


(Source: China Tea Book. Author: Guo Yaling, Lin Xinjiong)

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