Tea Review: Wan Ling Tea House Bei Dou Da Hong Pao

Wan Ling Tea House Da Hong Pao Oolong Tea

I’ve had a great interview with James Grayland at Wan Ling Tea House in the previous post. James was kind enough to send me a few tea samples to review on my blog. Among them was Bei Dou Da Hong Pao which is one of my favorite oolong teas, therefore deciding which one to review was not a tough decision at all.

Da Hong Pao (aka Big Red Robe) is undoubtedly the most famous rock or cliff tea. As you know, Da Hong Pao comes from Wuyi Shan in northern Fujian which is one of the main tea-producing regions of China. Da Hong Pao is among the perfect examples of highly oxidized, strip-style oolongs.

Dry leaves of this week’s tea are slightly curly/stripped style. They are mostly composed of dark brown and somewhat black tea leaves. Some of them were broken and some of them were whole-leaf style.

I brewed it Gongfu style using about five grams of tea. Following a quick rinse, I brewed it about 15 seconds for the first infusion. It cupped out deeply golden, an orangish liquor which was slightly cloudy. The classic wuyi rock mineral taste, alongside with notes of fruit and spices, was the first thing to hit my palate. It’s a lot more bitter than I expected but not something that bothers me. With the second infusion, it got sweeter which created a better balance between sweetness and bitterness.  The liquid also developed itself into more reddish tones. The mouthfeel was thick and rounded. The third and fourth infusions were quite similar to the second infusion both flavor and aroma-wise. In the fifth infusion, it got a bit watery but still quite enjoyable.

Wan Ling Tea House Da Hong Pao Oolong Tea Wan Ling Tea House Da Hong Pao Oolong Tea Wan Ling Tea House Da Hong Pao Oolong Tea Wan Ling Tea House Da Hong Pao Oolong Tea

Tea Interview: James Grayland of Wan Ling Tea House


Wan Ling Tea House - Wan Ling-James

Wan Ling Tea House is UK based tea company selling premium loose leaf teas and tisanes through their website. They also have a brick and mortar store located in Shangai. Although the tea house was founded by Wan Ling, it’s run by a mix of part-time and full-time tea lovers including James, Tom, Emma and others. We’ve been in contact with James for some time to do this interview. James has been living in Shanghai and married to Wan Ling.

Q1- Can you tell us briefly about Wan Ling Tea House?

Wan Ling Tea House is truly a meeting of tea lovers from East and West. Wan Ling Tea House is a physical location in Shanghai, but also a collective of tea lovers who are on a tea journey and love sharing their different perspectives and experiences.

Wan Ling herself is passionate about tea and it is the focus of her life. Whether visiting tea regions, exploring the many tea books old and new available, sharing her knowledge and passion through her training programs, tea is ingrained in everything she does.

Wan Ling Tea House - Wan Ling-James
James and Wan Ling – Courtesy of James Grayland

Q2- What’s your favourite tea?

Favorite? One of the many great points of having your own tea business is that you get collect such a wide range of different teas. Whether these are ones you have sourced for the shop or have been given by tea friends. Increasingly we find ourselves enjoying teas that age, whether these are black teas, puer, white or oolong. Teas develop different characteristics over time and it is a joy to appreciate this aging process.

Different teas also appeal at different times, in different seasons and depending on the weather or your mood.

Q3- What’s the best tea moment of your life?

I guess we would have to say that our meeting was the most important moment in our tea life. The initial meeting seemed so ordinary. However, that meeting has grown into a beautiful relationship, given us beautiful children, introduced to friends from all over the world and opened up so many opportunities to continue our tea journey.

Wan Ling Tea House - Wan Ling-James-Freya
James, Wan Ling and their beautiful daughter Freya – Courtesy of James Grayland

Q4- What’s your favourite brewing vessel and why?

Each of the team has different preferences. In the tea shop, tea is almost always brewed in a JingDe Zhen gaiwan or a Yixing zisha teapot.

Yixing teapots are very special. Over time they become like tea friends; friends you have shared many happy hours and great cups of tea with. The way the zisha seasons and seems act as a reminder of those times, almost like a diary or an album.

Q5- How did you get started with Wan Ling Tea House?

Wan Ling moved to Shanghai from Fujian with a large Chinese tea chain she was working for. Shortly after she met me while on a business trip in Shanghai. After a couple of years Wan Ling knew that she wanted to do something herself with tea, hence the birth of Wan Ling Tea House.

Wan Ling Tea House
Courtesy of James Grayland

Q6- How do you source your tea ?

The majority of our tea is sourced direct. It is important for us to know the source of our teas. It helps us understand the tea, but also gives us confidence about the tea and the people who have dedicated themselves to the tea’s production.

One of the reasons for being based in Shanghai is the convenience of travel. We are able to get to Fujian by train and plane, similarly Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Jiangxi and Anhui are all easily accessible by train. Yunnan can be accessed by air directly to Jinghong.

Typically, we travel throughout the year to different regions. Traveling out of season is as effective as traveling during harvest. Sourcing is about understanding and building relationships. Tasting the tea is important, but often during the harvest, farmers are very busy and have to manage so much. Furthermore, we are working with existing farmers and gardens, so it is a case of developing the relationships and exchanging ideas, whilst improving our knowledge of the region and the changing ‘environment’.

Traveling at different times of year means that you start to get a better understanding of the land and the environment too. Moreover, less rushed times with locals and the farmers can also yield additional information that you may have not discovered during the busier harvest trips.

Q7- Have you ever had any chance to drink Turkish tea or engage with Turkish tea culture?

Unfortunately, we have not. We have enjoyed tea in many countries across the world in as diverse places as Saudi Arabia, India, Malaysia and Australia. May be Turkey next?

Q8- Any suggestions for those who would like to improve their experience of tea?

Try more tea. There are so many different types and variety is truly the spice of the tea life.

Q9- Where can tea lovers buy your teas?

The easiest way is to buy online through our worldwide website and we have a special offer of free worldwide postage for all new customers who sign up for an account. Once you have signed up you will receive an email with a code which can be used when you check out.

For those in Australia and New Zealand check out our Wan Ling Tea House Australia site.

And finally if you are in China or planning to visit, come and see us in Shanghai. We also have a TaoBao shop for those based in China.

Wan Ling Tea House
Courtesy of James Grayland

Tea Review: Ocha & Co Organic Genmai Matcha Green Tea

Ocha & Co Genmai Matcha Green Tea

Previously I reviewed an organic sencha tea from Ocha and Co. which was quite good. This week I’ve written about their Organic Genmai Matcha Green Tea which is quite unique because in addition to brown rice and sencha leaves matcha powder is used to make this tea.

Genmaicha literally means brown-rice tea and produces very strong toasty aroma. It is a very unique Japanese green tea which is produced by combining either bancha or sencha tea leaves with roasted brown rice. Continue reading “Tea Review: Ocha & Co Organic Genmai Matcha Green Tea”

White 2 Tea Club 2016 Mengsong Black and Raw Puerh Tea

White 2 Tea Club Mengsong Black and Raw Puerh Tea

To be honest I’ve felt quite ambivalent to review White 2 Tea Club June shipment of 2016 Mengsong Black and Raw Puerh tea in the same post. First of all I’ve never done comparative tasting of two different categories of tea before. Secondly and more importantly, having black and sheng puerh at the same time was a bit unusual. That’s said I’ve found it quite challenging and educational. Because both teas were made by the same farmer using same tea, one is processed as black tea and the other as sheng puerh. So it’s perfect opportunity to see how processing can change the outcome. Continue reading “White 2 Tea Club 2016 Mengsong Black and Raw Puerh Tea”

Tea Review: Ocha & Co Organic Sencha Green Tea

Ocha&Co Organic Sencha Green Tea

This week’s tea, Ocha & Co Organic Sencha Green Tea, is coming from Shizuoka prefecture of Japan. The leaves were picked in the Spring of this year and then blended to make this tea. Ocha & Co which was founded three years ago source their teas from tea plantations with an altitude of between 400-600m above sea level. Continue reading “Tea Review: Ocha & Co Organic Sencha Green Tea”