Da Hong Pao is a famous oolong tea that originates from the beautiful and scenic Wuyi Mountains in Fujian Province, China.
In the category of age tea, despite there being many different types of tea there exist similarities that define this unique group of tea. To understand the nature of age tea and how these teas develop with time a tea drinker must drink widely. Having covered age puerh and old versions of Liu An and Fu tea in this entry I present the first age oolong - Da Hong Pao. The heavy roast employed in the production of Da Hong Pao makes this tea a good candidate for aging. I find that time can enhance a young Da Hong Pao by softening the strong elements of the newly roasted tea. The fire elements, astringency and stiffness of the new tea will settle with time and the character of the tea will open up to greater complexity. An age Da Hong Pao can develop smoother and more rounded characters, increasing in sweetness and becoming more viscous when brewed.
This age Da Hong Pao represents a common grade used for a daily drink. The tea has aged reasonably well during approx. 10 years of storage. The brew displays a heaviness upon entering the cavities of the mouth, being smooth and soft with only a mild astringency. There is noticeable development by way of an emerging sweetness (not so much in taste) but in a feeling at the back of the throat. Whilst the nose lacks the charming bouquet in aroma of a top grade Da Hong Pao there is a solid and satisfying dark complexity (although slightly murky) consisting of age characters, old books, smoke, wood, coals with some similarities to Shu Hsien tea. As the steeps tail off a touch of sourness surfaces, not unpleasant. The drinker is left feeling nicely calm and relaxed but the feeling is not deep and does not have the profound effect that makes such experiences memorable.
Brewing Tips: In order to achieve the best results with this tea I will pack my teapot with between 30% to 40% full of dry leaves. High heat is a priority therefore choosing a good heat retaining teapot of Yixing and using hot boiling water is recommended. Preheating the teapot as part of the gongfu brewing will assist with maximizing the heat generated in the steeps.
It should be noted that old Da Hong Pao is especially prone towards becoming unpleasantly sour if not well kept and stored. Specialized teashops that sells old Da Hong Pao of 20 and 30+ years will often re-roast the leaves periodically to prevent them from accumulating moisture and turning sour.