Our new stock of Big Red Robe Oolong tea recently arrived so we thought we would share a few of our photos of the terroir from our last trip there and the story behind one of China’s most famous Oolong teas.
The Wuyi Mountain terrior (placeness) in China, is historically speaking, the world’s first tea terrior for oolong and black teas and no tea from Wuyi is more celebrated than the Big Red Robe (Da Hong Pao in Chinese). The scenery is breath-taking with mountain gorges, red mountains rising steeply into the sky and incredibly varied and lush plant life.
The first Big Red Robe tea trees are now more than 400 years old. Big Red Robe is a unique cultivar of tea tree; its leaves are almost always used to produce a moderate to high fired oolong tea. Its rich, complex and deliciously warming, nourishing flavour is extremely well liked in China.
The original Big Red Robe trees found their name after a Ming dynasty mandarin attributed his survival of a serious illness to their curative powers. He was travelling to Beijing via the Wuyi Mountains and fell ill. He rested in a small hut and was tended to by a Buddhist monk living in another hut a few feet away. The monk picked leaves from three tea trees growing above them on a cliff. He made tea from the leaves and the mandarin drank the restorative liquor daily and made what was considered to be a miraculous recovery. The Mandarin then returned to Beijing and related his experience to the Emperor.
The Emperor deeply loved and respected the Mandarin, and sent his imperial scarlet robe to be draped over the bushes. These same three trees still survive today. Leaves are picked from them every year and made into tea – perhaps only a few kilos depending on the weather conditions. Many consider these trees to be too old to produce good quality oolong tea but it is still amazing to visit these trees as a living part of history. The setting is stunning and countless Chinese tourists visit the trees and the local area every day.
Big Red Robe makes a great autumn or winter tea, with one of the most distinctive and accessible flavours of any Oolong tea. Our new stock is a great example of this famous tea, which if you haven’t yet tried, we would highly recommend.