Tea cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao

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Tea cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao

by john.b » Oct 20th, '15, 02:30

Any thoughts on the tea cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao? At the level of information one encounters from vendors Da Hong Pao is both a plant type and a final tea type, but a little research has indicated that's not the case.

I've written a blog post on this I'm still working on, but I'll go ahead and list the two most likely candidates for cultivars that I've turned up: Qi Dan and Bei Dou (also referred to as Pei Tou, but then of course those are both transliterations, and the accepted system for transliteration to Roman lettering did change awhile back).

It seems there may be no one answer, or then again there may; different references or authority sources will certainly cite just one as correct, although I've also ran across the idea the right answer may be that more than one plant type could correctly be called Da Hong Pao. Of course the reality is any number of tea plant types would be, and regularly are, so the idea here is to turn up the right answer. More on all this in a write-up later.

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Re: Tea cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao

by Noonie » Oct 20th, '15, 06:05

Yesterday I was reading the most recent 'past' issue on the globalteahut website and what seemed an in-depth article about Wuyi tea, and there was information on Da Hong Pao. Have a read and let me know what you think.

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Re: Tea cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao

by john.b » Oct 21st, '15, 00:06

It's not easy to search that site, or rather without any search functions or labeling related to past issues contents it seems not possible, but Google did turn it up:

http://www.globalteahut.org/resources/jun15elec.pdf

The article is worth a read if someone is interested in the subject; I can't really summarize much of it here. Per the cultivar question they say that "bei dou" is an area designation, not a plant type (or rather it's probably both, but they don't say that, they refer to "the first generation tea from the Bei Dou area"). Related to Da Hong Pao plant type (page 19) they say that plant types and genetics aren't clearly separated, it's not a matter of there being simple answers, so really only the original six bushes would be Da Hong Pao. The others are variations of that, closer or further from it to the degree the plants themselves vary (their lineage, more or less).

That matches what I've read separately, and what I've heard that I didn't include in that blog post (it was never supposed to be a final answer, and there's a limit to how well hearsay can work as supporting information). Most answers tend to move towards more definition by type than just saying the genetics vary but the complete right answer may really be as unclear as that. Such an answer would also include a lot more information about locations relating to plant types, about cuttings and derivations from those plants, which they go into in very general terms in that article.

In searching I did also turn this up, something else:

http://walkerteareview.com/dialog-authe ... -red-robe/

Per that source the cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao is probably Bei Dou, which is one of the two answers I turned up. I really can't say the degree to which Bei Dou and Qi Dan are closely genetically related, or not, which may inform a more complete review.

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Re: Tea cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao

by puyuan » Oct 21st, '15, 00:10

Someone more knowledgeable may be able to correct me, but it seems all the original "mother" bushes are hybrids and different between themselves. So technically the original dhp is sort of a blend.

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Re: Tea cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao

by wyardley » Oct 22nd, '15, 13:08

You'll see different ideas about this even in Chinese writing; in the English language spheres, you see a lot of misinformation repeated over and over, most likely from the same source.

You may want to look into yao yue ming (姚月明, I believe), who was the one who took samples of the mother bushes and is behind bei dou yi hao cultivar. There are some conspiracy theories about this, but I don't know the details well, so don't want to spread misinformation here.

As best I understand, que she (sparrow tongue) cultivar is also from one of the mother bushes. So, in my (very limited) understanding, when we're talking about unblended dahongpao, qi dan, bei dou #1, or que she could all be considered "dahongpao". And of course, a lot of tea sold as dahongpao may be blended, with or without one or more of those cultivars.

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Re: Tea cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao

by Noonie » Oct 23rd, '15, 06:52

When I first got into tea and started reading, I came across DHP and my initial searches led me to believe it's the best of the Wuyi teas (certainly had a lot of information and many grades of this tea on vendors websites). So I ordered some along with other Wuyi tea from a few different vendors. I ended up enjoying the other teas I purchased more than DHP. For example, the Shui Jin Gui I had was far better. I have had both teas from another vendor more recently, same thing (didn't like the DHP). So I do more more reading, and I learn about the misinformation surrounding this DHP. I'm still confused as to why, if there are the 4 famous teas, does DHP get so much attention. But whatever the reason, the attention has led to a lot of intentional misinformation by vendors looking to fool wary buyers :(

Now I avoid this tea, and purchase other Wuyi teas. So far I've enjoyed the ones I've purchased.

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Re: Tea cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao

by john.b » Oct 27th, '15, 07:09

This reminds me of a point I was considering recently, that even if I had tried a lot of examples of a certain type of tea unless I really had tried a good version, an authentic example of a good grade, I wouldn't know that type of tea. Da Hong Pao is the type that made this clear to me.

It never really seemed a problem that I'd tried a lot of Da Hong Pao that wasn't the same, because grade varies for any tea type, and it's commonly known that some types tend to get branded as something they really aren't more than others. One could expect some variation for different reasons, maybe a lot if they were trying teas from different types of sources.

To make a long story short I just tried a Da Hong Pao that I would have thought was a Rou Gui, based on everything I'd tried before, but that happened because my experience of grade differences was mixing with that of cultivar differences (and probably level of roast, or plants from different micro-climate origins, and maybe other factors). I've tried a dozen examples of good Wuyi Yanchas this year (good being quite relative), so it's all starting to come together to some extent, along with trying a few examples of not so good versions, which are less informative.

Taste memory also becomes an issue, and to be honest what I thought was good a year and a half ago would be a different thing. Or maybe different again in another year, hard to be sure. After all that it really could be I prefer lighter levels of roast (kind of just an example, but I sort of seem to), so what I'm interpreting as grade, better tea, is actually something else, a personal preference about minor product differences that take more skill to separate. Too much rambling yet? Tea preparation styles can also be based on raw leaf potential, what growers know tea plants from a certain area are better suited for, or could even be used to cover flaws, so things really do get complicated.

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Re: Tea cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao

by kuánglóng » Oct 27th, '15, 12:49

Here's a link to some DHP based on the Qi Dan varietal:
https://sevencups.com/shop/qi-dan-origi ... ulong-tea/

I'm tempted to snatch up a few ounces to compare them against other DHPs in my stash.

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Re: Tea cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao

by john.b » Oct 27th, '15, 23:48

Austin Hodge is the name that came up related to someone researching this in the West, the owner of 7 Cups, that vendor just mentioned. From that article, about the original Da Hong Pao tea plants (or plants that are said to be):

These bushes are estimated to be more than 300 years old – much older than is common for a tea bush. They are sustained in their uncommon old age by the spring water and rich soil provided by the weathered rock. Researchers say of these five bushes, there are three distinct varieties. One of them is named Qi Dan.


This supports there being three correct answers for plant types. The interesting part is about how genetic variation in plants works, so that separating them into clear types and cutting off changes over time as categories seems to not fully capture how such changes go. I'm drinking a Da Hong Pao from Bei Dou now, supposedly from second generation plants, so it would be interesting to compare the two. Of course it's a nice tea, nice flavors, but really interesting aroma and feel.

Here is a reference about a different oolong type, Dan Cong, that talks a bit about that: http://hojotea.com/en/posts-43/

Due to a few hundred years of cultivation, the cultivar of Phoenix tea trees have undergone years of natural hybridization or mutation, where such biological changes brought diversify to the flavors of respective trees. Tea leaves plucked from different trees will produce different flavors, even if the processing methods or techniques were the same. The name of various Phoenix Dan Cong oolongs was given based on the flavor of tea leaves produced from its original tree.

That article is a better description of the type than anything I'd write, with an interesting section on processing steps, but there is more from other sources about this type of variation in my last blog post on that tea type:

http://teaintheancientworld.blogspot.co ... tains.html

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Re: Tea cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao

by kuánglóng » Oct 28th, '15, 07:34

john.b wrote:Austin Hodge is the name that came up related to someone researching this in the West, the owner of 7 Cups, that vendor just mentioned. From that article, about the original Da Hong Pao tea plants (or plants that are said to be):

These bushes are estimated to be more than 300 years old – much older than is common for a tea bush. They are sustained in their uncommon old age by the spring water and rich soil provided by the weathered rock. Researchers say of these five bushes, there are three distinct varieties. One of them is named Qi Dan.

This supports there being three correct answers for plant types. The interesting part is about how genetic variation in plants works, so that separating them into clear types and cutting off changes over time as categories seems to not fully capture how such changes go.
I have lived and worked in Darjeeling and Nepal for some years and visited most of the gardens up there. Similar story, even with the comparatively young clones - at some point or another down the road categorization doesn't make much sense anymore, other than satisfying the needs of the human mind ("label machine"). Nothing against that, but once in a while an uncommented direct sensorial experience or blind test isn't a bad thing at all.
I'm drinking a Da Hong Pao from Bei Dou now, supposedly from second generation plants, so it would be interesting to compare the two. Of course it's a nice tea, nice flavors, but really interesting aroma and feel.
Re. 'supposedly' - with regards to tea - or the darker side of it - be it from China or any other region - what can we be sure about at all? Slightly OT but I'm personally more concerned about pesticides and any sort of synthetic additives (e.g. flavors) in my teas than genetic aspects. It's not only that often we don't know what sorts of varietals have been processed for the average DHP or any other variety these days, but what has been sprayed on those plants and added later in some production phase. The one thing I miss the most in the world of tea, especially at the consumer end is transparency.
Here is a reference about a different oolong type, Dan Cong, that talks a bit about that: http://hojotea.com/en/posts-43/
Interesting article, I've read it a while ago. Regarding Dan Cong Phoenix oolongs I found Imen's writeups (tea obsession/tea habitat) and of course her teas pretty interesting too.
Due to a few hundred years of cultivation, the cultivar of Phoenix tea trees have undergone years of natural hybridization or mutation, where such biological changes brought diversify to the flavors of respective trees. Tea leaves plucked from different trees will produce different flavors, even if the processing methods or techniques were the same. The name of various Phoenix Dan Cong oolongs was given based on the flavor of tea leaves produced from its original tree.
From how I understand it the categorization of Phoenix oolongs is based on the aromatic aspect or fragrance - you've mentioned it too in your blog article - see below (Xiang1 - 香). Since they are my favorite oolongs, right next to decent medium roasted Wuyi Shui Xians I can't wait to visit the area but first I feel I need to explore some more single tree varieties (xy and counting) and learn more Mandarin (yeah, it's Guangdong, but I can't learn all the dialects and had to make a decision a while ago).
That article is a better description of the type than anything I'd write, with an interesting section on processing steps, but there is more from other sources about this type of variation in my last blog post on that tea type:

http://teaintheancientworld.blogspot.co ... tains.html
Great article and review of yours, John, thanks for the link. That Wu Dong Dan Cong you've reviewed looks pretty interesting. Any info/idea regarding the cultivars that have been used? Judging from the tin and the price it doesn't look like a single tree or varietal to me but more like a blend but I could be wrong of course. I wonder if any of those guys in the shop speak english (I have no idea what language you've conversed in) and do ship their tea.

Lovely thread, more on varietals later :D

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Re: Tea cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao

by theredbaron » Oct 28th, '15, 08:00

Noonie wrote:When I first got into tea and started reading, I came across DHP and my initial searches led me to believe it's the best of the Wuyi teas (certainly had a lot of information and many grades of this tea on vendors websites). So I ordered some along with other Wuyi tea from a few different vendors. I ended up enjoying the other teas I purchased more than DHP. For example, the Shui Jin Gui I had was far better. I have had both teas from another vendor more recently, same thing (didn't like the DHP). So I do more more reading, and I learn about the misinformation surrounding this DHP. I'm still confused as to why, if there are the 4 famous teas, does DHP get so much attention. But whatever the reason, the attention has led to a lot of intentional misinformation by vendors looking to fool wary buyers :(

Now I avoid this tea, and purchase other Wuyi teas. So far I've enjoyed the ones I've purchased.

Good Da Hong Pao is more or less unobtainable on the net. Even in real life it is very very difficult to get, and very very expensive. But it is a great tea, if you ever have the chance to try it. When buying from online vendors you are better off with more common Yancha such as Shui Xian or Rou Gui. Mid grade common Yancha are better than low grade or fake Da Hong Pao or other rare types of Yancha.
Good Yancha is not just the plant, but also the skill in making. Top grade Yancha are hand processed all the way, and have to be expertly roasted.

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Re: Tea cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao

by kuánglóng » Oct 28th, '15, 08:46

theredbaron wrote: Good Da Hong Pao is more or less unobtainable on the net. Even in real life it is very very difficult to get, and very very expensive. But it is a great tea, if you ever have the chance to try it. When buying from online vendors you are better off with more common Yancha such as Shui Xian or Rou Gui. Mid grade common Yancha are better than low grade or fake Da Hong Pao or other rare types of Yancha.
Good Yancha is not just the plant, but also the skill in making. Top grade Yancha are hand processed all the way, and have to be expertly roasted.
Anyone interested might want to check out those leaves:
https://www.essenceoftea.com/tea/oolong ... i-hao.html

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Re: Tea cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao

by john.b » Oct 29th, '15, 04:33

This latest point is one place the discussion gets interesting: how many vendors claiming to sell "good" and authentic Da Hong Pao really are? Of course the question comes down to a matter of degree.

It's easy to find 100 vendors online claiming that the version that they sell is exceptional, separate from what one routinely finds, much better. It's hard to say if it matters if there is some additional specific claim that it's more genuine, for example if they can see their way to use the terminology for the types, Qi Dan or Bei Dou, or make more specific claims about growing locations. And it is a given that there is a grade level of the tea that won't find it's way out of China, that a limited amount of it is so spoken for that no amount of advance ordering or paying an insane price is going to obtain it, at least not by an American or European that doesn't have the type of connections essentially no one outside China has.

It seems a little odd to me that the place this would naturally leave off is for people to drink Rou Gui or Shui Xian instead. The exact same grade issues relate to those; nothing changes. Either way your source needs to connect back to a producer in China that is growing and processing high quality tea. It might involve buying more directly, but it's hard to say how it matters who or how many people have owned your tea before you did. In general you might pay less if less people did, or maybe not, but price is no guarantee, be it a higher or relatively lower one.

I suppose it is a given that if you are buying a tea for under $10 for 50 grams, standard commercial rate for more middle grade tea, it's could hardly be a great tea, but paying $25 or $50 instead doesn't guarantee anything. One would have to take reviews, and certainly vendor marketing, with a grain of salt as well. This isn't really heading towards me saying how to make it all happen, unfortunately. One could only keep finding the best sources they could and see how that goes, and when you finally reach your breaking point and absolutely must have the best tea get on a plane and spend a month talking to farmers in China about that.

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Re: Tea cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao

by theredbaron » Oct 29th, '15, 08:37

john.b wrote:
It seems a little odd to me that the place this would naturally leave off is for people to drink Rou Gui or Shui Xian instead. The exact same grade issues relate to those; nothing changes.

That is quite wrong. Much more Shui Xien and Rou Gui is grown, it is far cheaper, and higher quantities in better grades for more affordable prices are available in the market. Of course the best qualities are never cheap, and one needs good friends to get them.

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Re: Tea cultivar used to make Da Hong Pao

by theredbaron » Oct 29th, '15, 08:40

kuánglóng wrote: Anyone interested might want to check out those leaves:
https://www.essenceoftea.com/tea/oolong ... i-hao.html

I have never ordered from essenceoftea, but i believe that they might have the same source i get my best quality Yancha from. Which would mean that their Yancha is very good.

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