What is Big Red Robe tea?

milky oolong tea

How I wish I could say I tasted this tea! It's not only the rarest and the most mysterious - it's also supposed to be nothing else but the best tea in the world. Unfortunately, it is also said  that the entire production is consumed by the members of the Chinese government and if, by any chance, some Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) leaves make it to an auction, they can cost more than 20 000 EUR for 20 grams.

A star of Fujian oolongs

Fujian is a mountaineous region in the East of Chine which is the home of oolong tea. My favourite book on tea, The Ultimate Guide to Chinese Tea by Bret Hinsch uses these poetic words to describe Fujian teas: "Taiwanese oolongs seem to be created by Monet, while Fujian's oolongs are more like the work of Rembrandt." These teas are more heavily oxidized and thus darker and more intense. They carry intense, spicy notes where Taiwanese oolongs are floral and frivolous.

Rich in polyphenols, Fujian oolong teas are known for their health benefits. They used to be the type of tea that was most exported to Europe, before cheap black tea from India took the first spot.

Grown in the legendary Wuyi mountains

If Fujian is the temple of oolong teas, Wuyi mountains are their Holy Grail. Most of the rarest, most famous and most exquisite oolong teas from the Fujian region are grown in these picturesque mountains of thirty-six peaks and ninety-nine cliffs.

Whike the Wuyi mountains produce many unique and searched for teas, the Big Red Robe is the one that truly stands out.

 The Special One

Its name alone is unique, and surrounded by mistery. Why Big Red Robe? Does the name come from the robes of the monks (some legends say - trained monkeys) harvesting the tea leaves? Or was it a big red robe of a scholar who was cured from an ilness by this exceptional tea and offerred his robe to express his gratitude? 

The authentic Da Hong Pao tea is harvested from only a few trees, growing in the Wuyi mountains, that are more than 350 years old. The trees grow at a very high spot called Nine Dragon Nest - thus the need for the trained monkeys to climb on the cliffs to harvest the leaves.

Whenever I come across Big Red Robe tea in a tea shop, I can't help thinking that it cannot be the real one. Yet, I also can't help hoping that one day, I'll have the opportunity to taste this rare delicacy.

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