Big Red Robe (Da Hong Pao in Chinese) is one of the most famous and exclusive teas in the world. It is designated both a ‘Chinese Famous Tea’ and a ‘The Four Great Bushes’ tea. It is a long leaf oolong tea with a sweet aroma, a unique woodsy character and fruity muscatel tones. It has a robust taste, but generally no bitterness.
Da Hong Pao is the most expensive tea sold on the global market and is usually reserved for honored guests in China. Only a few of the original bushes remain and they are highly guarded. These days, most Da Hong Pao on the market is produced from clippings of the original bushes, resulting in similar grades.
Where to buy
This tea can be found in many specialty tea shops or through a number of online vendors. If you are unsure where to begin, you can check out some of my recommendations below.
How to Prepare Big Red Robe Oolong Tea
The preparation instructions given here are for loose leaf teas. For tea bags, you can just follow the instructions given on the box.
The ideal brewing temperature is 90-95ºC (194-205ºF), which is just below the boiling point. You can just boil the water using a simple stove-top kettle and then let it cool for 30 seconds.
If you plan on trying a lot of varieties of tea and/or coffee it might be worth it to invest in a water boiler/warmer (like the Zojirushi water boiler reviewed here)or an electric kettle with a variable temperature setting. Personally, I recommend this Cuisinart kettle, because it has presets for every type of tea, so you always get the perfect temperature:
- Fill both the teapot and the cup about halfway with hot water to preheat them. Tilt them a bit so that the water creeps up the side and then rotate them so the insides get wet all the way around. Then pour the water out.
- Put 2 teaspoons of tea leaves into the teapot. If using a different vessel, use 2 teaspoons for every 8 oz. (236 ml) of water.
- Fill the teapot with 90-95ºC (194-205ºF) water.
- Place the lid on the teapot and let the tea steep for 1 minute.
- Pour the tea into the teacups and enjoy your tea!
- You can get 4-6 infusions out of most varieties. Increase the steeping time 30 seconds to 1 minute for each infusion. How many infusions you do depends entirely on your taste. Experiment.
Use the amounts given in these instructions as a rough guide. If you find the resulting tea too weak, add more tea leaves; if it is too strong, reduce the amount of leaves used. Similarly, try increasing or decreasing the steeping times.
Many people already have an account with Amazon.com so it is probably the easiest place to buy tea online. Their selection of Big Red Robe teas was always severely lacking, but they have finally added some good ones recently. The Da Hong Pao from Best Leaf Tea is the best of them.
The best value I’ve found is the Organic Da Hong Pao from Teavivre. This tea has a brisk, thick taste with a long-lasting sweetness and a complex texture. It is not bitter at all and has a fruity, floral aroma.
Finally, Teavivre also has a much cheaper Wuyi Rock Big Red Robe Tea, that costs half as much as the one above. Naturally, the quality is also a bit lower, but if you’ve never tried Big Red Robe tea before, this might be a more affordable way to sample one of the world’s most expensive types of tea.