The Art of Tea is one of the resources that devoted disciples of tea should have in their library. The magazine is one of the most in-depth sources of information about the origins and development of teas and teaware printed in English. In its pages, one can learn the differences in the authentic tickets placed in pu’er cakes from decades past. There are articles on the craft and inscription styles of yixing teapot masters.
However, one does want to still read the articles with a healthy dose of skepticism. Respecting and quoting a famed master’s opinion without question should not take the place of scholarly or scientific research. It is possible to discover a “because I said so” attitude when reading between the lines.
That said, it is still valuable until something better comes along.
For example, issue number 12 gives us these interesting facts(?) about Da Hong Pao:
DHP’s original home is believed to be the valley of Jiulongke 九龙窠.
The large Chinese characters carved in the rocks near the oldest mother plants was likely cut into the stone between 1925 – 1930.
Although there are a couple of popular myths about the origin of the name, another more natural origin of the name may come from the red sprouts that cover the bush during spring flush.
Da Hong Pao declined in production for several decades. It returned to what is considered a significant level of commercial production in the 1980’s. Something worth knowing if trying to determine the veracity of extremely aged da hong pao.
The resurgance of da hong pao is the result of cuttings from key mother plants being distributed (and sometimes redistributed) to several key growing areas. Cuttings from mother trees were distributed during in the 60’s and then cuttings from those distributed daughters were brought back to Jiulongke. Variations and location names, like Beidou, are now associated with da hong pao.
Most of what is considered commercial grade da hong pao is likely to include a blend of non- da hong pao tea varieties.