A cup of Big Red Robe tea. The Oolong variety tea can be very costly if it comes from one of the ancient tea bushes it was said to have started from. – Tina Johansson photos
by Long Hwa-shu
Looking to seek greater variety of our tea collection, I recently came across “Big Red Robe” tea in a Chinese grocery store.
Intrigued, I bought a jar of this Oolong variety and inquired about the mystery surrounding the name. I learned, to my delight, the tea came from the rugged Wuyi Mountain in the coastal Fujian Province.
It was so hard for tea gatherers to harvest the tea leaves, I was told, so tea plantation owners trained monkeys to do the job – climbing the mountain and gathering the leaves deftly and fast. The problem was how plantation owners could differentiate their monkeys from those of other owners.
One owner solved the problem by clothing monkeys with red robes – hence the name.
There is another legend about the naming of the tea, but I prefer this one.
We brewed the tea, it was red and robust, bursting with sweet aroma, and it had a delicious flavor. We added slices of ginger, it was just what we needed to keep going in the morning.