I want to try something different for this review, no round by round detailed description. I'll mostly just clearly describe one main, complex flavor aspect. In a sense that should be easy, but to some extent only people already familiar with something very similar might completely get it. I'll also cover a bit about how I think this tea being compressed changed things, about the infusion cycle, and differences in comparison with aspects present in loose Wuyi Yancha Da Hong Pao oolongs. I didn't know this actually was DHP initially (the brick itself isn't labeled, and I didn't look it up), but I expected that's what it was (it would be that), and tasting seemed to confirm it, then reviewing the actual product description during editing did.
The main flavor first: it came across as similar to a sweet version of leather, like a bomber jacket might smell, just a bit towards molasses from that. Of course different people would express that in different ways. It could seem like aromatic woods instead, or it's a bit of a stretch but maybe like sweet dried fruit and spice. It was complex, so a touch of the rich and savory but still sweet sun dried tomato range might work for description.
To me that's not atypical, but the way it was presented was. Some good DHP is like that (with "good" all relative; really high quality versions tend to be more subtle and aromatic versus flavor intensive), with versions not quite as good more towards a plainer version of wood or even cardboard, or heavier on char. The way that sweetness and complexity was expressed it seemed slightly more oxidized than is typical, towards a sweet, rich black tea, with some limited degree of toast input but not enough that you could really place it. The character was typical of DHP in one sense but parts weren't typical, which I interpreted as being related to being compressed. It's funny how the sweetness, earthiness, and mineral stood out, parts that can relate to a tea being roasted more, but this didn't have much of the explicit "char" effect. Maybe a year + of aging dropped out some that had been present?
it takes some doing to get it started
an early round, a little light
Some of the same themes played out in evaluating a compressed Yunnan black a year and a half back (Shai Hong, a reference to being sun dried). I loved that tea, and I really liked this version too. They're quite different, so I don't mean that they're close in character or flavor profile, but some of the sweet, rich range overlaps. It's a step towards being jammy, like a cooked and reduced fruit, but it stops in an earthier place in this oolong version. That would be cool to comparison taste them together, not for the 2000 word round by round write-up, but just to experience that.
To be clear there is a different lighter, more subtle, more structured aspect range Wuyishan area oolongs can express, even if they are earthy and a bit sweet, in the leather leaning towards dried fruit range. This tea version (the aspect range) seems a little unrefined, a bit basic, but in a way that really appeals to me. Yunnan black tea drinkers would totally get it. There is mineral range as a base context, and thickness of feel and after taste I've not described to also appreciate; it's good tea. But one related general Wuyi Yancha oolong range of character types is fruity, and another earthy or even towards spice, and another liquor-like, all potentially quite straightforward and flavor-forward (like this one is), or more aromatic and subtle instead.
The last post about a really nice version of Rou Gui works well as a contrast in styles; that was completely different in character, much more refined and distinctive. I appreciate teas for what they are, with some styles clicking better, matching preference. Green teas tend to fall outside the main part of that range, with good Longjing an exception, and umami-intensive Japanese greens interesting in their own way. This tea clicks, in a basic, flavor-forward style that I like. It seemed blended more than that one (with that one a better than average example of a smaller batch tea), giving up refinement and pronounced subtle aspects in exchange for picking up flavor-range depth.
a little further along
I brewed a chunk gongfu style in a 100 ml tasting gaiwan, or it would be fine in a clay pot seasoned for Wuyi Yancha oolong (cue some people rejecting that it would match other typical style closely enough, and throw off the residual effect).
That sweetness and the way that the earthiness played out reminded me a little of a Fu brick hei cha awhile back, for being sweet, straightforward, and novel, with that a little more towards prune from sweet leather.
There's always more to say, a different take on flavor, more about a secondary aspect, some consideration of how this would age (I don't know, but I'd expect it wouldn't be fading much over a few years, if anything probably developing instead), but that's already a basic take. I'd expect this isn't costly tea but if it was above average for pricing for type and style (as good tea but not a great tea) to me it would be worth it, on character and novelty both (I was actually shocked about that part; see the next section reference).
I really didn't even know for sure this was Da Hong Pao, but it's good that it was, since that saved me some explaining for getting it wrong. It might still be Shui Xian; that's how that can go, with DHP used as branding for a style of tea (a character type) that's often a blend or else all that other tea type. It was and is a plant type too, related to those six plants that are still standing, covered in more detail in this post. This is dead on a typical good version of normal Da Hong Pao style so I don't mean that as an accusation, just background context.
Moychay's description is cited here:
“Big Red Robe” is squeezed from fragments of leaf (middle and small fraction), sorted during production of high-grade Dahongpao harvest 2017 (various batches). It was the heat of the fires.
100 grams of tile, compressed sufficiently tightly, but easily brokens into segments (12 pieces). The aroma is deep, with smoked pastry notes. The infusion is transparent, with dark amber hue. Baked tea; the aroma is deep and viscose, complex. It is a bit tart.
Brew tea with hot water (95-100 ° C) in a porcelain gaiwan or a teapot of porous clay. The proportion is 1 cube for 200-250 ml. The time of the first steeping is about 10 seconds. After that for short seconds (for 2-3 seconds), increasing steeping time for each subsequent step, if necessary. You can steep the tea up to 6-8 times. Also it is well revealed in cooking on fire.
The price stood out to me more than anything in that description; they're selling it for $7.50 for 100 grams. How to put this? If you like standard range DHP at all you should buy it; if you already love the novelty of varied compressed teas picking up two bricks might make more sense. I don't remember ever suggesting that someone should buy a tea that directly, since it's bad form for a blogger to do so, but this tea would be a really good value at double that price. That's just related to aspect range; I love novelty in teas and this is a little different in character too.
To critique their description a bit I wasn't really picking up tartness. It is possible that a year of aging rounded off the flavors to subdue that, or it could just be that I'm interpreting it differently. That "smoked pastry" does make perfect sense. It's odd saying a tea tastes like leather, which I had it pegged as closer to, or like any non-food item, but regular drinkers of DHP variations should be able to make sense of the intended description range, even if it's not easy to place in ordinary concepts.
The last part, about "cooking on fire" brewing may relate to using a samovar (this is a Russian vendor). Unless I'm way off that relates to using a long brewing process not all that far off simmering a tea for a long time, or at least an extended brewing time where the water doesn't go cool after a half dozen minutes. This probably would be good made that way.
samovar in use at a dogsled camp we visited in Murmansk
It would work well grandpa-style too; brewed in a tumbler or tea bottle, filled and refilled with hot water, drinking the brewed tea with the leaves still in it. A broad range of different infusion strengths would still be pleasant, which is a main criteria for that.
Oddly Chinese people tend to use that style for green teas, which are the opposite, getting quite astringent without balancing the time and infusion level, but then aspect preferences do vary. Vietnamese people love astringent hot-brewed green teas too. They also use that brewing approach for rolled lighter oolongs, per my understanding, the other main "common-man's" tea in China, which makes a lot more sense to me. I like shou mei (compressed white teas) and mild black teas prepared that way and this falls into that general range, even though the flavor profiles for all three are different.
in that camp break-room, with more on travel in Russia here