2017 Da Hong Pao ‘Zheng Yan’
2017 Da Hong Pao ‘Zheng Yan’
A time-honoured Wu Yi oolong with excellent mellowed character
Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) is a heavily oxidised oolong tea. The leaf material comes from the Zheng Yan, or ‘center rock’ protected growing area of the Wuyi Mountain range in Fujian, China. While at first slightly bitter and heavily baked in taste, the flavour quickly evolves into a flavour that is deeply nuanced and bold.
This batch teases with complex notes of rich chocolate, warm wood, tobacco smoke and well-preserved fruits — perhaps even barrel rum, if one were feeling generous in their descriptive language. Patience is rewarded with a lingering sweetness and a light rocky, mineral finish in the throat and nose.
Shui Lian Dong (500m ASL), Zheng Yan (Wuyishan National Nature Reserve), Wuyishan, Fujian, China
Plucking: 10th May 2017
Cultivar: Mixed (Some Qi Dan, some Shui Xian, some Rou Gui)
Family: Ms. Cindy Chen
The trees are located in Zheng Yan, a designated national reserve and tea growing zone within the famous Wuyi Mountain range. It is the rocky, mineral rich attributes of the soil that impart the distinctive Yan Yun, or “rock rhyme” that makes Wuyi oolongs famous. The tea bushes are much older, and more unhurried in their growing than plantation raised, being as they are acclimatised to thriving in rocky soil. Though only a relatively small amount of tea can be plucked during the growing season, the quality is both extraordinary and exemplary.
This is a blended tea product, with the ratio of leaves and the cultivars selected by Ms. Chen’s family to be representative of the market’s expectation for value and taste.
It is not what some would call a “true” Da Hong Pao, the likes of which are often eye-wateringly expensive, and being of the Bei Dou cultivar or growing region. The tea here is said to “taste and smell of the citrus spray that flies off an orange as it is peeled ”.
According to Ms. Chen, the style is processed more authentically to the way of the locals of Chaozhou, the birthplace of gongfu cha.
In practical terms, this means multiple sessions of deep roasting over charcoal — a total of four times at 12-16 hours each time — with an interval of about a month and half between sessions.
Although considered by Ms. Chen as a medium roast, we are assured that is deeper and more prolonged than usual. Baking over charcoal completes the processing and ensures the tea achieves mellowness ready for consumption.
This batch has been a part of our private collection for several years, to allow it to mellow, as per the producer’s directions for our taste preference. We’re glad to be able to offer it for you to enjoy.
How to brew
Tobacco, dark chocolate, smooth mineral
The excellent processing and the ageing over several years of storage has ensured mellowness while maintaining complexity of flavour. The taste lingers on the palate long after the final infusion, teasing with an unctuous texture and mineral finish. After many sips, a hint of preserved stone fruit becomes clearer and resistant in the throat.
When brewing with gongfu cha style, a quick rinse of the leaves will relieve some of the initial bitterness from the taste. Hot (just off boiling) water and a slightly longer first steep followed by shorter steeping was well suited to my taste. Up to six infusions were delicious prepared in this way.
Pair this tea with:
Dry-aged beef, pork medallion with thyme and rocket
Dairy-rich semisweet chocolate, lemon-scented pound cake
Roasted Jerusalem artichoke, beetroot and sweet potato salad
Candied pecan, walnut, Masala wine soaked raisins
Passionfruit, dried longan or barbequed mango cheek