Tea: First Place Big Red Robe (Yi Deng Jiang Da Hong Pao - 一等奖大红袍)
Type: Charcoal Roasted Wuyi Rock Oolong
Harvest: Spring 2023
Roast Type: Heavy
Producer: Zhang Ji 章冀
Region: Wuyi Mountain, Fujian, China Tasting Notes: Chocolate Truffles, Black Pepper, Vanilla Bean, Gardenia, Sweet Rice
This tea won a first-place ribbon in the 19th annual Wuyi Mountain City tea tasting competition in the category of blended Da Hong Pao. There are three main types of Da Hong Pao currently on the market. The first is the mother-bush cultivar Qidan Da Hong Pao, the second is the more commonly avilable mixed or Tiaopei style of Da Hong Pao (the category to which this tea belongs). The third is the less glorious lax naming convention that umbrellas almost any type of Wuyi Yancha.
This tea is a blend of rougui, shuixian, suxin, and other cultivars both from within the Zhengyan area (the core production region within the Wuyi Scenic Reserve) and outside. Thus, it has a rich complexity that in our opinion outshines a lot of the one-dimensionality sometimes encountered when sipping singular cultivar yanchas. Additionally, the Zhengyan Yanyun (or melody of the cliffs) is apparent in this tea from the first infusion.
The aroma from the dry leaves in the warmed gaiwan is seductively dark, with mineral notes and a hint of old books. Despite being heavily roasted and brewing up a deep rich amber, this tea drinks rather lightly, with an emphasis on its floral bouquet and sweet body. We pick up notes of sweet rice, gardenia flowers, bamboo leaf and honied fruits right from the liquor itself. This is one of those teas whose fragrance steeps into the tea soup itself instead of residing on the leaves alone.
Around the third infusion, the Zhenyan properties of this tea take effect, providing us with a mouth-salivating brew that is gentle, light, and very refreshing. The empty cup holds the secret aroma of all the flowers hinted at with a definite lingering fragrance of sweet berries and honied whiskey.
While we brewed this tea in a gaiwan for the tasting notes, this tea does very well in an unglazed teapot, as it has one of those unique virtues of preserving the fragrances and flavors in the tea soup itself instead of simply on the leaves.