Wuyi teas are sometimes called "rock teas" (yancha) because of the distinctive terroir of the mountainsides where they are grown. Tea grown in the rocky, mineral-rich soil is highly prized. Because of the lower yield produced by tea bushes in such terrain, the resulting tea can be quite costly. Tea made from the leaves of older bushes is particularly expensive and limited in quantity. Da Hong Pao, collected from what are said to be the original bushes of its variety, is among the most expensive teas in the world, and more valuable by weight than gold.Commercial-grade tea grown at lower elevations in the area accounts for the majority of the Wuyi tea available on the market.Commercial Da Hong Pao is made from cuttings of the original plants.
Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) is a Wuyi rock tea grown in the Wuyi Mountains. It is a heavily oxidized, dark oolong tea. According to legend, the mother of a Ming dynasty emperor was cured of an illness by a certain tea, and that emperor sent great red robes to clothe the four bushes from which that tea originated. Six of these original bushes,[not in citation given] growing on a rock on the Wuyi Mountains and reportedly dating back to the Song dynasty, still survive today and are highly venerated. Famously expensive,Da Hong Pao can sell for up to US$1,025,000 per kilogram or US $35,436 per ounce (20g of Da Hong Pao tea from one of the mother plants was sold for ¥156,800 in 1998).
Samples of Da Hong Pao
In recent years, a number of companies have invested in preserving the interest in this tea and other so-called "artisan" teas, which typically are of very high quality and have rich histories as is true with Da Hong Pao. These have an initially high cost of production (and typically are only considered authentic when grown in their place of origin), but, as they have quickly become popular in Western countries, prized selections of the tea are available each year, with quality being consistent because of the increased popularity of the tea.
Cuttings taken from the original plants have been used to produce similar grades of tea from genetically identical plants. Taste variations produced by processing, differences in the soil, and location of these later generation plants is used to grade the quality of various Da Hong Pao teas.
Due to its high quality, Da Hong Pao tea is usually reserved for honored guests in China.