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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Big Red Robe (Da Hongpao)-Wuyi Cliff Oolong Tea

Recently, I introduced a dark oolong called Big Red Robe (Da Hongpao 大红袍)to my friend. He inspired me a lot with his deep and joyful experience of this tea, so I have decided to share some of the experience of the extraordinary and phenomenal flavor and aftertaste of this tea with you.

Big Red Robe was created more than 350 years ago in the Ming Dynasty and is the most well-known of the Wuyi cliff teas in Fujian. Moreover, its aroma and flavor distinguish it from other famous teas in China.

As I brew the tea, the aroma not only fills my nose and mind, but also travels into the whole room and even all the way from the teashop to my home. This is a real experience which happened one week ago. After preparing Big Red Robe at the teashop, I left without washing my hands and took the bus directly home. After more than one hour of travel on the bus, I finally got home. I put down my backpack and rubbed my nose. Surprisingly, my fingers still held the toasty and orchid aroma of Big Red Robe. I was absolutely amazed by the distinctive powerful aroma, although it is hard to imagine such a nuanced, enduring, smokey, toasty, orchid fragrance was from the dark twisted tea leaves.

Enjoying the beautiful aroma is a great pleasure and an important part of the process when tasting a cup of tea. After that, I sip a little of the velvety amber liquor and the complex flavor permeates my entire mouth. The lush, mellow aftertaste with its slightly syrupy finish was so pleasant. There was none of green tea's bitterness or black tea's astringency. The flavor of the tea was vivid, rich and expansive. It was also a flavor of nature - from an earthy, misty cliffside - and filled my senses in a way I cannot express. Chinese people call this special flavor and aroma yanyun (岩韵). Yan means "cliff"; yun has no exact match in English. Its means that something is harmonious, graceful, delightful and meaningful.

My friend sent me an email about his experience drinking this tea. "The second infusion is even more smooth and more powerful. As I sip the second cup, my soul is filled with strong emotions and my mind is in another world. A world free of earthly stress, negativity and all that exists is warmth and artful beauty," he wrote.

Yes, I was his witness. The inspiring aroma and taste also bring me to a peaceful spot, relax my body, calm my mind, stimulate my passion and purify my soul. In other words, if excitement and passion are fire, while relaxation and calmness are water, then I have both fire and water balanced together at the same time. That's yanyun.

Tea leads me to understand more about human nature and to develop a more embracing spiritual life. Savoring a tea is like understanding a human being. Enjoying tea emphasizes the people you drink with, the atmosphere and environment around you. Drinking tea with a peaceful mind, in a quiet place and with a few close friends is the perfect harmony between human and nature. However, sometimes, I still find it hard to believe how so much power could come from a sip of tea in a tiny Chinese cup.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Becky

    Thanks for the great information! You're actually the only person to make some of it available in English. I just have to mention an event that shows how much you've already contributed:

    In January 2011 (last month) I attended a meeting of puerh enthusiasts here in Seattle where you were present and mentioned the concept of yun discussed above. When you asked the host if he was familiar with the concept, he replied "Oh yes! It also means 'harmonious' and 'graceful', right? I've done a little research."

    This made me smile, because the single written description of 'yun' in English - whether online or in print - is here on this blog, and the only prior time I've heard it mentioned was also by you, at an event you led at the Northwest Tea Festival, which the host attended. His "research" consisted of repeating the words of the person whom he was attempting to impress (actually, anyone within hearing was his intended audience, but I was struck by the fact that he evidently forgot where he had gotten his knowledge).

    This indicates how little information about Chinese tea culture is available in English, how ignorant even many of the greatest enthusiasts in the US are about it, and how desperately they want to show they know something. Of course, this general assessment isn't based merely on the single instance mentioned above. It's just an especially telling case in point, because there's nothing sillier than trying to show off what you know to the person you learned it from, especially when you couldn't have learned it from anyone else, as there's only one source - at least that you can access.

    Culture is a living thing. In the case of Chinese tea culture, its riches have been developed over many generations, and we should be grateful to the many dedicated individuals, both known and unknown, from whose efforts we benefit.

    Please continue to instruct us, and thank you. As the saying goes: Mikol melamdai hiskalti. Todah!


About Me

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Seattle, WA, United States
I grew up with tea, and it continues to fill my life with so much beauty and discovery, pleasure, peace and friends. It is always leading me toward a greater understanding of culture, nature, myself and others. It is my hope to use this space to share the joy of tea and tea culture with you.