Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wuyi Da Hong Pao from Harney & Sons

Da Hong Pao PicturesClass: Oolong
Origin: Wuyi Mountain, Fujian Province, China
Year: 2006 (?)
Vendor: Harney & Sons
Price: $18.00 (2 oz) / $128.00 (1 lb)
Verdict: 8/10

As you may have noticed, I have a good deal of Wuyi yancha (yancha means "cliff tea," referring to the landscape where these teas are grown) lying around. I guess I can't hide it anymore— I love this stuff. This Da Hong Pao from Harney & Sons was purchased after a recommendation from Salsero.

According to the product description, this tea is about 40% oxidized. To be honest I haven't paid all that much attention to oxidation percentages so I have no idea what this number means in terms of taste/wet leaf color/etc, but it's good to know I guess.

The dry leaf is dark, either black or dark chocolate brown. The aroma is surprisingly strong, smelling strongly of rhubarb, as well as some chocolate and raspberry. Unlike most dark roasted teas though, there is almost no charcoal aroma whatsoever. I'm not really sure what this means— I guess it's indicative of a lighter roast, but I don't really know. If any of you have any thoughts, I'd be happy to hear them.

The liquor is nice, with flavor echoing the tart rhubarb from the dry leaf fragrance. There is also a pleasant caramel sweetness, a mild dry spiciness, a light but long-lasting chocolate aftertaste, and a decent amount of body. While this tea has a lovely, round flavor profile, it seems a bit adolescent and awkward in that it is conflicted about whether its roundness should be centered around younger, brighter flavors or deeper aged ones. Still, it's good stuff, and certainly interesting despite its bold flavor. Overall, I'd give this tea an 8/10. With a bit more age (and maybe a re-roasting to give it more of a fired flavor), this tea could develop quite spectacularly.


MarshalN said...

Looking at the leaves... doesn't look too much like a dark roast, although it's hard to tell since the pictures aren't big.

Although heavily roasted doesn't always mean strong charcoal taste.

ankitlochan said...


my favourites are da hong pao's, i really love them - they are just the best - given below is what i feel when i drink mine...... if you felt the same - you have the right tea.

normally the leaves are hand-rolled into the customary twisted Yan Cha form and pan-fired at their aromatic peak to arrest oxidation. then they are charcoal-fired in small batches to produce the deep color and rich flavor. da hong pa is fragrant and reddish gold. the first sip is normally smoky with astringent undertones that quickly round out to a smooth richness with a very long, mellow finish. the colorful aftertaste sweetens the mouth, charms the drinker, and begets the second cup.

Hobbes said...

Dear Brent,

A good read as ever - I'm glad that you're writing again!

Here's my quick take on oxidation; I'd welcome some more thoughts:

Oxidation is the quantity of the leaf surface that is allowed to react with the air - it starts the minute that the leaf is picked. 40% means that it's 40% of the way to being completely oxidised (hongcha). Wulong processing can include bruising the leaf in a rough basket (or mechanical equivalent) in order to break the structure around the edges and at the vein, releasing the leaf's fluids which increase the rate of oxidation in those areas. A more natural version of this can be seen in some Dongding wulong, where insects nibbling the outside of the leaf do the same job of exposing the juices to the air.

The oxidation can be seen on the leaf's surface as a redness.

Increasing oxidation means more fruity flavours. 0% is lucha, of course; Baozhong are a oxidised only a little, the range wulong increasing in oxidation (with Oriental Beauty / Dongfangmeiren at the upper end of the scale), before becoming hongcha at 100%.

Roughly speaking. :)



Brent said...


From my lesson in the signs of heavy/light roasting from VL on teachat, I think you are right that this didn't have a strong roast.


That is indeed a poetic description of da hong pao! I would have to disagree with one thing though: the charm of a good da hong pao also begets a third, fourth, fifth... :)


Thank you for the tip. Though school has taught me some of the science of oxidation, how oxidation affects my enjoyment of tea eludes me from time to time. Also, thank you for your kind words. Hearing "as good a read as ever" from a writer of your caliber is a great compliment!

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