As we all know that Da Hong Pao is a flagpole of Wuyi rock tea, but what is Xiao Hong Pao?
This is what I understood according to the information I found about Xiao Hong Pao:
- some said it is a product under the strategy of ‘diversity creates a new market’ from some tea traders (this is very likely)
- basically Xiao Hong Pao was not exist before 2000, because can not find any documentation or written in the Wuyi tea directory before 2000, so it should be a ‘new product’ after 2000
- some people claim it as ‘generation’ from Da Hong Pao, but there are many sources said it actually is a marketing strategy for a type of carefully blended tea; the reason why they use the name which is very close to the Da Hong Pao because
a) the genuine Da Hong Pao is very expensive that not many people can afford
b) many people actually don’t have enough knowledge to judge the difference between Da Hong Pao vs. Xiao Hong Pao, so choosing the similar name can easily mislead consumers (this explanation seems very possible in the reality).
Personally I think the 3) is more honest and accurate explanation about Xiao Hong Pao: Xiao Hong Pao is a blending of young leaves from different Oolong tea trees from Wuyi.
The price of Xiao Hong Pao is much lower than Da Hong Pao, by knowing the unique characteristics of those
Wuyi tea tree cultivars that use the young leaves from different information sources, then I tend to agree —> Xiao Hong Pao does not taste bad as well but still it is not able to compare with Da Hong Pao.
The challenge that we are facing either in Europe, America, Asia, China or Taiwan is most people probably know Da Hong Pao by its names but not necessary have sufficient knowledge and/or experience to judge the difference by the look, flavor and taste.
In those areas where they have inherited the tea culture in the past thousands of year, it’s normal there are more experienced tea people but still the majority are inexperienced. The fuzziness of interpretation can not only confuse many consumers but also us as well. This vague definition gives tea traders who care only about volume and profit margin a huge imaginary space to tell fancy stories and put on a sound too good attractive marketing program.
On the other hand, we can’t criticize tea traders faking or cheating, even though they use the same “Hong Pao 紅袍”, but they changed the Da (大) to Xiao (小). So we can only said is a market strategy.
This has again confirmed what I keep saying that tea is not just a tea business but it is a corner stone to challenge us of how to put our moral as well as ethical principles in actual practice.
I am still amazed me how many people think the title of ‘tea sommelier’ or ‘tea master’ can be earned by sitting in the classroom and draw the conclusion based on the limited selections they can taste.
I am still learning and still enjoying the learning from every cup.
Copyright Mei Lan Hsiao 14/1/2016