Da Hong Pao is a Chinese oolong tea that is cultivated in the Wuyi Mountains of China. The tea is a Wuyi rock tea and is also known as Big Red Robe tea. This type of oolong tea is one of the most expensive teas in the world and is often reserved for welcoming elite guests. It is classified as one of the Chinese Famous Teas as well as a Four Great Bushes tea. Develop a taste for the finest tea in the world with this guide to Da Hong Pao tea and find out how you can try the exquisite creation without the high price tag.

Flavor Profile of Da Hong Pao

This oolong tea is heavily oxidized and offers a unique flavor profile and sweet aroma that you can't find in most other oolongs. The tea has peaty and earthy notes with hints of stone fruit, brown sugar, and molasses. It has a woody fragrance with mild notes of tobacco and the body is velvety smooth with mild notes of sandalwood.

In China, the tea is described as having Yan Yun, a balanced profile that blends multiple characteristics. It features a pure flavor with a fresh orchid sensation and each leaf is consistently roasted during production. It's the perfect blend of sweet and mellow with a touch of liveliness that keeps things interesting.

da hong pao leaves in cup

History of Da Hong Pao

What makes Da Hong Pao so special is its history and cultivation. According to local Chinese legend, an emperor's mother came down with a mysterious illness. She was only cured after drinking tea made from four special tea bushes in the Wuyi Mountains. As a sign of his gratitude, the emperor gifted red robes to protect the plants.

Cultivation of Da Hong Pao

Today, the tea is made from wild tea plants that grow natively on the cliffs and rock ledges of the Wuyi Mountains. The most expensive Da Hong Pao oolong teas come from the four original tea bushes on Tianxin Rock. There are two more original tea plants, but these are referred to as the mother trees and are no longer used to produce tea.

There are three main types of Da Hong Pao ranging from the high-quality tea soured from the original tea trees to a more affordable yet lower quality variety. The first type is known as Mother Tree Da Hong Pao or the original Da Hong Pao. This type of Da Hong Pao is the most expensive on the planet and was hand-crafted by tea masters. In 2007, the Chinese government banned the production of tea using the mother plants in order to preserve them. The last batches of tea made from the original plants have fetched tens of thousands of dollars for just a few grams.

The second highest-quality variety is known as Purebred Da Hong Pao. This type of oolong tea is as close to the original Big Red Robe tea as most tea drinkers will ever get. In the late 20th century, scientists at a university in the Fujian Province took small fragments from the original Da Hong Pao tea bushes. They were able to cultivate new plants from these cuttings, dramatically increasing the production capacity of Red Robe teas. 

The most affordable Da Hong Pao is actually a blend of other Wuyi rock teas with similar flavor characteristics. The tea is typically a mixture of some purebred Da Hong Pao leaves and other Wuyi oolong teas such as Shui Xian and Rou Gui or even Tie Guan Yin

There are also inferior Da Hong Pao teas that are sold as the real, authentic tea but are actually made from different types of tea plants in the Wuyi region. These tea gardens produce oolongs that do not have the distinct aftertaste of Red Robe teas and tend to be less balanced overall.

da hong pao tea brewed

How to Brew Da Hong Pao

  1. Preheat the teapot and teacup or traditional gaiwan. To do this, fill each vessel with hot water, rinse, and then discard the water.
  2. Place 1.5 teaspoons of Da Hong Pao loose leaf tea in a tea strainer
  3. Heat water to between 95 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit and pour into a  gaiwan or teacup.
  4. Set the strainer with the tea leaves in the cup and steep for 1 minute. 
  5. When steeping is done, remove the tea strainer and enjoy!

Da Hong Pao can be re-infused anywhere from four to six times. Add an additional minute of steeping time for each new infusion.

Get A Taste Of The Most Expensive Tea On The Planet

While it's nearly impossible and incredibly expensive to get your hands on original Da Hong Pao tea, you can get a taste of its unique flavor by purchasing a purebred Big Red Robe tea. Many specialty tea houses – including several in Wuyishan — offer high-quality Da Hong Pao in addition to classic white tea and oolong tea varieties.

This Chinese tea is a dark oolong that is sure to offer an exquisite tea drinking experience for tea connoisseurs. It'll quickly become your favorite tea thanks to a wide range of balanced flavors that work harmoniously together to create a real treat for your senses.

Tags: Oolong Tea