“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
Mr. Darcy in a letter to Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”
Ah, Fitzwilliam Darcy. He may be handsome and wealthy, but at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice his cold, aloof behavior is not the least bit becoming. No wonder Elizabeth Bennet feels slighted by his remarks when they first meet, and later turns down his marriage proposal. His failures and Elizabeth’s pointed criticisms eventually influence Mr. Darcy to see the error in his ways; and by the end of the novel, even Elizabeth sees that he has changed for the better.
Knowing Mr. Darcy’s complexity, I was curious to see how Bingley’s Teas would reflect his character with a tea. Their choice? Mr. Darcy’s Pride, a distinctive Chinese oolong best known as Da Hong Pao. How I haven’t sampled a Da Hong Pao for Tea Time until now boggles my mind (then again, there are so many kinds of oolongs out there!). So, let’s see how this “pride” brews up, and whether it reminds me of Mr. Darcy.
Bingley’s Description: “Like the man himself, this elegant, dark tea, grown in rich soil, with a bold beginning yet a smooth finish has a complexity of character that will leave you wishing to know more.
Distinctive notes of leather, chestnut and plum in this well respected Da Hong Pao Oolong. Each steeping introduces you to more of its character. Good for 6 steepings Gong Fu style or 3 British style.”
Ingredients: Da Hong Pao oolong tea leaves
Steeping Instructions: Use 3 teaspoons of tea for every 8 oz of water. For the first cup only, heat 2 cups of water to boiling (205 degrees Fahrenheit / 96 degrees Celsius). Pour 1 cup of water over the leaves, then immediately pour out. Pour the remaining 1 cup water over the leaves, and steep for 1 minute. For subsequent brews, heat 1 cup of water to the same temperature, and add 30 seconds to 1 minute for each brew.
Multiple Brews?:Yes, at least 3
Bagged or Loose Leaf?: Loose leaf
Caffeine Level: Medium
Mr. Darcy’s Pride (or rather, Bingley’s Da Hong Pao Oolong) looks much different compared to most oolongs. Instead of tightly curls in shades of green, its leaves are rolled into long, thick, dark brown twists with traces of light brown, russet, and dark rusty red. These leaves could almost be mistaken for Assam or Chinese black tea, except that it’s clear these leaves will be HUGE once they’ve completely unfurled.
As for its scent… Well, that’s also different from most oolongs. It’s warm and strong, reminiscent of roasted chestnuts, seaweed, and (of all things) leather. Yes, Mr. Darcy’s Pride smells a little like tanned leather. A bit off-putting, to be honest. If this hints at the flavor profile for Steep #1, I hope the leather presence tones down somewhat.
Speaking of Steep #1, Bingley’s recommends an extra step when brewing Mr. Darcy’s Pride. In anticipation of that step, I bring 2 cups (not 1 cup) of water to a near-boil. Next, I pour the first cup of water over the leaves and immediately drain it into the sink. This, according to Bingley’s, “awakens the tea to tell its story.” Then I pour the second cup over the leaves and let it brew for about 1 minute.
By the time Steep #1 is ready, the liquid has turned a pretty shade of golden yellow. The scent is similar to the dry aroma, but much lighter and more like chestnuts than leather. The first sip brings a sigh of relief, too. It’s light in flavor, with chestnut and oak flavors and a slightly sweet, mineral aftertaste. The smooth, full body also adds a depth that only oolongs can bring. A warm, pleasant first cup, and surprisingly more gentle than what I’d expected.
Steep #2 (90 seconds) of Mr. Darcy’s Pride isn’t much different from Steep #1. The color darkens, reminding me of a dark goldenrod or yellow ochre; and the tea tastes a little bit lighter and sweeter, with a hint of agave nectar. However, I do notice more “evolving” as I continue resteeping the leaves. The tea gradually grows sweeter in a honey or agave-nectar way, as well as more floral and mineral in flavor. By Steep #7 (3 minutes 30 seconds), the floral and mineral notes still linger, making each sip crisp and clean.
Mr. Darcy’s Pride is an excellent “tea metaphor” for one of literature’s most beloved romantic heroes. Like he and Elizabeth Benet, this Da Hong Pao oolong and I got off on the wrong foot, starting with the tea’s roasted, leather-like aroma. But once brewed, the oolong is very approachable in flavor, and grows softer and more refreshing with each resteep. I wouldn’t rank Mr. Darcy’s Pride / Da Hong Pao as one of my favorite oolongs, but the later brews definitely make up for the first impression.
Grade: 8 / 10
- Tea Drinkers Who: Like oolong teas
- Time of Day and Year: Afternoons year-round
- Possible Book Pairings: Pride and Prejudice, of course! And how about a couple other books where a character starts off proud or unpleasant and then changes for the better? Try a cup with Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, or Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha.
You can purchase Mr. Darcy’s Pride directly from Bingley’s Teas here.
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In addition to being a tea enthusiast, Sara Letourneau is an avid reader and a writer who… well, enjoys writing! Currently she’s working on a novel, and she writes book reviews and articles on the craft of writing. She’s also a published poet with works available in various print and online publications. Visit Sara at her blog, Twitter, Goodreads, or Pinterest.
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