Big Red Robe My Love
I am not going to repeat the legend about the poor student drank magical tea, the Big Red Robe, and became champion of the imperial examination. I would like to explore that, if Pu’er Tea that can be aged for a hundred years, what about the aging potential of Big Red Robe as a semi-fermented tea and once believed that it brings dead back to life.
When I first joined the wine trade, most seniors taught me that for a standard bottle of 0.75 Bordeaux, no matter how big the vintage is, as long as it was bottled and left the original cellar, the maximum cellar potential is around 30 years. Large format is another story. Wine fans with more than 10 years drinking history should know that the larger the volume, the wider the drinking window.
Since the famous wine critic from the States has casually evaluated that most Bordeaux standard bottle wine are of half a century cellar potential, who dares object? Anyway, there are a big bunch of collectors most likely with over age bottles on hand unsold; so be it. Then we have this phenomenon; in the wine party, people praises dead wine as heavenly drinks and would rather pretending than telling the truth. I believe that there are modest gentlemen who choose to be ambiguous for not offending the host.
Feng Shui masters may lie to you for ten, twenty years, and wine critics may mislead you for three to five decades. How many years can a tea sales girl like me cheat on you?
My motto is: Trust your own taste buds, make good tea as a teacher. Practise more and gain experience, then no scammer can challenge you.
For beginner’s level, most tea masters say that yellow, white, green tea is best consumed young and should not be aged for more than a year. Blue tea / semi fermented tea can be aged for ten years, yet more enjoyable at young age. Black and dark tea can be aged for decade or even decades.
As I grew old and became more fascinated by tea, I realized that there is horizon beyond horizon. I have tried 28 years old Lion Peak Dragon Well green tea; old but still strong. I drank 10 years old Iron Monk Grand Cru rock tea from Wuyi Mountain, which is a private collection of a good friend’s mother; old but mellowed. I found accidentally a 2007 Wudong Mountain Oolong Tea in 2017 in my own cellar and its orchid aroma is intoxicating.
As a conclusion, there is no absolute rules. To judge the potential of a batch of tea, it all depends on one’s experience acquiring from frequent and extensive tasting.
It is my destiny. I am so fortunate to have 2 tiny handfuls of Big Red Robe from my mentor. We conservatively estimated that it is 60 to 70 years old, one toasted, one not toasted.
For the 9 infusions of the toasted, the notes of char coal is dominating. The aromas evolving sequence is as follows: orchid mingling with red berries and coffee, red and black currents, chocolate, Indian mango, daffodils, green mango, Longnan, caramel, toffee, glutinous rice and coconuts. After the ninth infusions, we extracted the aromas by brewing it with boiling water. It offers aromas of yam. This is the ultimate Big Red Robe I have ever tasted.
The untoasted batch is wonderful. It consists all the above-mentioned merits. It is so natural and pure that “divine” and “heavenly” is not good enough to describe it. Especially the “Rock Notes”, it is as pure as freshly squeezed Guangxi Longnan juice. Imagine the tea is from a primitive forest 70 years ago without the pollution of acid rain. Modern tea is nothing to compare with such purity. You can feel the micro circulation accelerating by just inhaling the steam and spread through your nostrils, throat, and Eustachian tube. You may utter that Christina is exaggerating again. I can only tell you that the refreshing feeling is like having fasted for 7 days.
Good tea is like good wine, experts know that to make wine with the best nurtured top grape, it is wiser not to use oak. Like top tea from Grand Cru, toasting the tea will hinter the natural flavours. The problem is, there are either too few real masters, or too many wine makers compromising to the mass market for good profits. So sorry for those taste bugs of highbrows.
Tea fans know that the original Big Red Robe is auctioned every year. I am just a humble tea and wine broker; how can I have such a blessing to taste. The predecessors who have had tasted told me that when they drank, they immediately felt that their fingers were full. That was the symptom of microcirculation to promote sweating and excretion of fingers. I am mega lucky to have tried this untoasted 70 years Big Red Robe. I know now that myths and legends must have certain facts in behind.