This is another delicious Wuyi tea from Red Blossom. I prepared this gongfu style using a porcelain gaiwan. I would love to do a side-by-side tasting against come of their other Wuyi cultivars to find out why people consider it to be so special, but I only had a small sample and decided to appreciate it on its own and not to try to analyze the experience.
Heritage Beidou (Grand Scarlet Robe)
So named because a Tang Dynasty scholar on his way to the Imperial examinations made tea from its leaves – and was the only scholar out of two hundred to pass the exam and awarded the imperial scarlet robe. In gratitude, the scholar wrapped the tea plant in those same robes.
Grand Scarlet Robe, or “Da Hong Pao”, is the holy grail of Wuyi oolongs. There are only a handful of mother trees in existence, producing scant kilograms of tea each year. Very rarely does this tea make it to the open market, but when it does, auction values can reach $900,000 per kilogram, as in 1998. As tea buyers, we search incessantly for tea trees that are the closest in genetic make-up to these rare mother trees.
In May of this year, we found a “Zheng Cong” grove in the Wuyi Mountains. The cultivar is “Beidou”, one that many in Wuyi Shan agree is the direct descendant of the original Da Hong Pao plants. We acquired several kilos of the tea, had it carefully hand-crafted using strictly traditional methods, and then took the result to our roaster to receive several layers of traditional “heritage” charcoal roasting.
The result is our best Da Hong Pao to date. The initial brew releases the intense toffee and caramel notes from the charcoal roasting. But it’s the balance of the tea that sets the Heritage Beidou apart from other Wuyis: at the same time rich, viscous, sweet, floral, fruity – each characteristic distinct, but balanced and in harmony with the others.