Big Red Robe is one of China's most famous oolong teas. Thanks to Wuyi University's Arts Department, the legend behind the tea has been illustrated. I thought I'd share the story here for those who haven't heard it before.
During the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD), a scholar and his young companion passed through Mount Wuyi on their way to the capital where the scholar was going to sit for the imperial examinations. Due to the hot weather and the long trek, the scholar passed out on the roadside. At this same moment, an old Buddhist monk passed by. The old monk picked up the scholar and carried him to the temple to care for him.
At the temple, the old monk called over his trained monkey and handed him a bamboo basket. The monkey immediately went off to climb a high mountain to pick some tea leaves and hurried back. With the fresh leaves, the old monk brewed some tea and gave it to the scholar to drink.
After the scholar drank the tea, he quickly recovered. The scholar thanked the old monk for his care and bid him farewell, and the scholar continued on with his journey to the capital.
After arriving in the capital to sit for the imperial examinations, the scholar not only passed the exams, but got the highest marks of all. Now an imperial scholar, he decided to return to Mount Wuyi to formally pay thanks to the old monk for his kindness. Upon their second meeting, the old monk took the imperial scholar to the mountain to show him the tea shrubs that saved him, and gifted him a package of the shrubs’ tea leaves.
Later on, the imperial scholar saw a public notice from the emperor. The notice proclaimed that the empress had fallen seriously ill and urgently needed the help of someone with great medical skills. The imperial scholar decided to take the tea leaves he was gifted and pass them on to the imperial palace. After the empress drank the tea, she was cured from her illness.
Everyone in the emperor’s palace was jubilant, and the emperor sent out a red robe to clothe the tea shrubs that saved the empress's life.
The red robe flew over a thousand mountains and ten thousand rivers before landing on the tea shrubs, illuminating the shrubs in a red glow. From then on, the tea shrubs came to be known by the people as “Big Red Robe”.
About the Author
Jaq James is the Founder of The Artisan Tea Hut and is a Contributing Editor for Tea Journey Magazine. She splits her time between China's tea regions and Australia's capital.