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The Origin of Our Big Red Robe Tea

The first time I visited the Wuyi Mountains in Northern Fujian province, China, I felt like I was on pilgrimage.  This region is the world’s first known tea terroir, producing some of the very best oolong and black teas.  The most famous of all is Big Red Robe, or Dahongpao, one of the star oolongs in our speciality tea range.

When I first visited the Wuyi Mountains I was studying for a post-graduate diploma in Tea Science in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province. My professors had waxed lyrical about how the rich biodiversity and rocky, red soil of the Wuyi mountains creates the some truly unusual flavours – this is particularly true in the case of the Wuyi’s darkly roasted ‘rock oolongs’, which have been produced in the region for centuries.

It took only a few steps to realise that Wuyi truly is a sacred place for oolong teas. It has an ethereal atmosphere, with mist shrouding the tea bushes and exposed rocks.  The oldest tea bushes here are over 400 years old and devoted Chinese tourists trek through the mountains to see them, perched on a cliff edge. 

They are of such importance to the history of tea that they are protected by the Chinese government and their leaves cannot be picked.  The final big red robe oolong tea that was produced from them is now only available to view in the China National Museum – it is considered to be a national treasure.  A huge number of ancient tea bushes are still used to produce teas, and chiselled stone markers proudly mark them out.  You should always ensure that an authentic big red robe tea is made from the cultivar taken from these original bushes.

The Chinese tea gardens of Wuyi are nothing like the pristine, uniform tea slopes of Japan or Sri Lanka, instead the rows of bushes are dwarfed by the surrounding cliffs, cut into rows of different length and differing heights.  The varied plant life around them is thought to add to their flavour, with tree trunks covered in moss that is said to add light floral notes to the finished Big Red Robe.


The soil itself is exceptionally high in mineral content, and again, this is said to create a mineral complexity unfound in teas produced outside of the region.  It is why the darkly roasted oolong teas produced in the region are known as ‘rock teas’.

I can’t help but drift away to the slopes of Wuyi whenever I drink our Big Red Robe, as it is such a perfect representation of its origin.  Particularly in the miserable weather that has recently graced our shores, there is no better tea, or memory, to indulge in.


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