One Minute Tea Tip: Dahongpao Tea from China
teatip is reprinted from
SpaChina Magazine, where it appeared as
part of an article I wrote last year. We just got some Dahongpao oolong
which is exquisite. This piece sets the stage for it's origin.
The Trip to Wuyi
From Fuhzou I drove five hours to get to Wuyishan, a visually stunning
mountainous preserve in the northernmost part of Fujian. I stayed at
the Yunan hotel, right beside the river with splendid views of the
mountains. I walked around town after dinner and checked out the many
bustling shops on the small streets selling tea, dried fruits and
mushrooms, snakes in bottles -- whatever you wanted.
Tempted by the scenery along the river I wanted to trek inside
the preserve to see where the rock teas grow, the famous dark oolongs
that are so coveted in China and abroad.
Off the Beaten Path
Although it was lightly raining, I headed out with a translator and a
man named Mr. Lee, a local tea dealer. We drove into the mountains in
an old pickup truck and parked after an hour. We opened our umbrellas
and rolled up our pant legs, as it was muddy and wet, and followed a
footpath up a steep incline. Rounded cliffs were dripping with water as
we came upon a thin crescent shaped valley that dropped into the
distance. Mr Lee owned this land and planted it with the several
traditional oolong varietals. I rounded a bend and found myself in an
incredible box canyon with steep vertical rock walls full of lush
greenery and tea plants. The tea plant varietal here was aptly named
"Never See the Sky!"
The Original Dahongpao Plants
Later that afternoon Mr. Lee gave me a sample of tea from this spot. It
was one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been in my
pursuit of tea. We continued along, my questions being translated
through the underbrush, clouds of ignorance receding.
We left our small trail and merged with a tourist trail that was much
wider and easier to walk on. Mr. Lee described the characteristics of
the rock teas as we passed
through small plots of tea plants. I saw the "mother bush" that growers
take cuttings from for a varietal called "Old White Cock's Comb," as
well as the original Dahongpao oolong plants that grow high up on a
sheer wall. Deep red characters chiseled into the rock here identify
the place or spell out poems at important spots along the trail. In
some places the trail shared the bottom of a deep crevice with a
quickly moving stream, rock walls on each side, a sliver of daylight
After our hike, the three of us returned to Mr Lee's shop in town where
we drank more tea and had dinner. It was an incredible feeling to drink
the tea grown in a region, and a privilege to learn its subtleties from
a local master.
- Sebastian Beckwith 2007