While in Florida my sister gave me a small bag of Da Hong Pao light roast oolong. It was a cloudless eighty degrees at the time of this transaction, but this morning here in Mass it's only four, or negative six if you go by the mysterious "feels like" scale.
My bedroom window looked like this.
The first thing I did was brew some Da Hong Pao.
My former roommate Mark once invited me to help him work his way through a mixed case of bottles of red as he tried to discover his favorite. They were all pretty good, but when he opened the Bordeaux, I thought "yes, that is red wine." It perfectly matched my preconceived notion of what red wine should taste like. (In contrast, my first taste of whiskey was a huge letdown. As a kid I concluded that it must taste like butterscotch based on the way adults talked about it, but when I tried it, it just tasted "like burning.")
This tea is to oolong what that Bordeaux was to wine: it tastes like what I think oolong should taste like. Roasted, toasted, slightly sweet and woodsy. Like licking a drop of caramel off of seasoned cordwood.
It has none of the complexity of peachy dan cong or the floral effervesence of my beloved tung ting, which could mean that it's a fake, but it's delicious either way, and for anyone unfamiliar with this kind of tea, this could be your oolong 101.
The name Big Red Robe is said to come from an incident in which a grateful emperor sent fine garments to protect bushes whose brew had healed him from an illness. I don't know if that actually happened, but I do know that when I drank the tea on this bitterly cold morning, I felt robed.