Updated: Nov 6, 2018
In our last blog, we discussed why “Da Hong Pao” is not exactly a tea but a concept of “a brand, a variety and a selection of tea products”. If you haven’t checked it out, we strongly suggest you reading it (click here) before you continue with this blog. Since most Da Hong Pao products are blends of different Wuyi oolong teas, it’s crucial for tea lovers to understand how Da Hong Pao is made. Today, let’s have a more detailed discussion of the making of Da Hong Pao.
The most important thing in the making of Da Hong Pao is the blending of different types of Wuyi oolong teas. In tea-making, this is an advanced technique called “Pin Pei” (Chinese: 拼配, meaning: put together and match / blending). For the purpose of this blog, we’ll call “Pin Pei” as “blending”.
Now, you’re probably now thinking about all those “blended teas” in your local tea shops. We’d like to address that the blending of Da Hong Pao is nothing like that. Most blended teas on the U.S. and European markets are actually herbal blends. Those products are usually a mixture of flowers, spices and leaves, which has nothing to do with tea at all. To understand why a Da Hong Pao blend is different from herbal blends, we need to discuss it from a tea business point of view.
Most Wuyi oolong teas are single-variety, which means that a tea is made with leaves from a single origin. For example, a Rou Gui tea is made with fresh leaves from only Rou Gui plants. Single-variety teas offer tea drinkers the best and the most distinct experience. At the same time, these teas can be heavily influenced by the climate and the weather of the year. Single-variety teas would taste slightly different depending on the year of production. However, for customers and clients (e.g restaurants) that need a tea product which provides a constant taste, single-variety teas have too many variables. This is where Da Hong Pao Blend tea shines. A blend master can design a Da Hong Pao blend structure and make sure the delivery of a constant taste.
This concept is very close to that of French wine. And just like French wine, a blend doesn’t necessarily mean a tea has a lower or higher quality. Before the blend starts, a blend master would have a clear idea of what the final product tastes like. Generally speaking, there is no routine or standard way to blend a Da Hong Pao. Every blend master works in his/her own way. The only process that no one can avoid or change is the endless tasting and testing.
A typical Da Hong Pao tea has 3 requirements: raw materials, ratios, and costs.
Raw materials include a base tea, such as Rou Gui, Shui Xian and other major Wuyi oolong, and several other aroma-elevating teas, such as 105(Yellow Guan Yin/黄观音) and Rui Xiang(瑞香). Blend masters would decide how and what to blend based on teas that are available. When selecting teas for the blend, we need to select teas that have similar harvest time, place of origin, and processing techniques. Teas selected for Da Hong Pao Blend should be exactly the same quality as their respective single-variety products.
After we determine what teas to use, we need to start testing what kind of mixture ratio that can deliver the closest to our targeted taste. This process involves the testing of mouthfeel, aromas, flavors and the ability to endure multiple infusions. We only take a small sample for the testing. After each tasting, we adjust the mixture ratio until we’re completely satisfied.
Finally, the consideration for the cost is something rather unique to Da Hong Pao. Because Da Hong Pao products are highly customizable, we have different blends for different clients, and different clients have different budgets and demands. This is why even the same Da Hong Pao from the same tea producer can have a noticeable difference in taste and quality.
We hope this blog can give you a brief look at the blending of Da Hong Pao. In our next blog (coming Thursday, Oct 18), we’ll have a thorough discussion of the blending process and different blend methods.
We hope you enjoyed today’s blog. As always, if you have questions or suggestions, please leave a comment, tweet us @valleybrooktea or email the author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also follow us on Instagram @valleybrooktea and join our mail list to get our daily tea updates and our latest promotions!
In an early version of this blog, "Pin Pei" was mistakenly spelled as "Ping Pei". It should be "Pin Pei".