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Journal

Here we have an even more unusual tea to continue with our selection of new Taiwanese oolongs.  Yes, you read the title correctly–this tea is billed as Taiwanese Big Red Robe.  But just how close is this tea to Fujian’s most famous rock oolong?


My first question encountering this tea was “Which tea plant cultivar was used?”  After all, even in mainland China, there’s quite a bit of disagreement as to which plant actually constitutes Da Hong Pao.  Our tea source revealed that the Taiwanese farmer who produced this tea actually used Buddha Hand leaves but processed them in the Da Hong Pao style.  I’m not exactly sure what this means, since I can’t call to mind any other examples of Da Hong Pao coming from Taiwan, so it might be that the producer chose the mother of all marketing buzzwords to get people interested in her experimental tea.

Despite its tenuous claims to the title of “Da Hong Pao” this tea is certainly an exceptional experiment.  Though its name conjures ideas of roasted rock oolong, in reality it’s closer to the Red Jinxuan we last featured.  I’d describe this tea as even closer to a black tea–the liquor is a deep crimson color and the leaves are even darker green with much more red present.  Compared with the Jinxuan, the liquor has a more present astringency in the finish, toward the back of the mouth.  What really surprised me in comparison with the Jinxuan was this tea’s up-front fruity note.  Now knowing it’s from the Buddha Hand cultivar, it’s easier to understand, but even for Buddha Hand this is almost a punch-like fruitiness.  Apparently the processing includes organic treatment like our Oriental Beauty and Red Jinxuan, so perhaps there is also some leaf hopper effect happening as well.

This is an extremely interesting tea unlike any I’ve tasted before–we have a very limited quantity, so please stop by soon if you’re interested in trying it out.

Elliot

Check out this recent Wall Street Journal article regarding the famous Wuyi Yan Cha Da Hong Pao. The gist is that Da Hong Pao prices have recently skyrocketed in China because shops and individual people have been speculating with the tea–purchasing it for the purposes of investment. This article is illuminating for a number of reasons; some are obvious and some are not so obvious.


For starters, it reminds us Western tea fans that tea really isn’t “our” beverage–when it comes to Chinese tea, domestic demand almost always trumps exportability. In this case, the market has (rather unrealistically) decided that there’s enough demand for Da Hong Pao that 1000% price increases accurately value the tea. As the article makes clear, though, this price is unsustainable and vendors aren’t able to sell much of the oolong at current inflated prices. Moreover, it’s pretty interesting to see how integral tea is to Chinese culture. What do you invest in when real estate and stocks are unstable and high-risk? How about a rare tea? It’s funny to think about as an American, but this sort of thing (including the 2007 pu-erh market bubble) indicates that some Chinese view tea as a viable form of investment–however, the pacing of this surge also seems to suggest that any potential profit has already been made and that the late-comers are stuck with some (hopefully delicious) unsellably expensive tea.

From another angle, this article is a good reminder that no matter how fun a hobby tea can be, it’s still ultimately a commodity and is subject to even the most basic economic principles of supply and demand. For those of us who don’t reside in China, it’s easy to feel toyed-with when the price increases are piled onto our already marked-up tea prices. Additionally, when a tea’s value achieves such a status, on come the fakes–you can bet there are hundreds of kilos of cheap Shui Xian being sold as “real” Da Hong Pao. Another bad sign for us consumers. What to do? It’s still the best policy to buy from vendors you trust who have as long a history as possible and a close relationship with their tea producers–one of the reasons we count ourselves lucky to partner with Seven Cups, who I’ve just now seen has its own article on the same subject!

Finally, this article provides yet more evidence that there’s a lot more going into your tea cup than just a few leaves from a bush somewhere in the far East. It can be pretty interesting and bewildering to dive down the rabbit hole and find out just how much is going on before the hot water hits the leaves in front of you.

Elliot