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Phoenix "Dan Cong" Oolongs

November 15, 2016

 

The deliciousness of a tea is multi-fold. For me the story behind any tea is as much part of its character as the growing condition under which it thrives.

 

Dan cong teas hold a special place in my heart, Chaozhou and the Phoenix Mountain being my father's ancestral home, and therefore playing an important role in my journey to reconnect with my Chinese roots. 

 

Feng Huang Shan, popularly known as Phoenix Mountain and located in the southern province of Guangdong, produces some of the most unique tasting and sought-after oolong (semi-oxidized) teas. Picked from a handful of centuries-old trees that grow tall without as much of a trim, their history goes as far back as the Song Dynasty, though this style of tea is only about 300 years old. Called dan cong (meaning "single tree"), the tea produced from the mother trees are not only the most authentic but the most expensive of their kind. The production is also relatively small. As a result, this premium dan cong oolong is bought by collectors long before the leaves have had the chance to cool down from hours of roasting, and therefore rarely, if ever, leave China.

 

Today, the term dan cong is used to describe tea, which is plucked from a single tree and comes from Feng Huang Shan. The dan cong in our collection comes from Wudong Village which sits at the top of Feng Huang Shan at an elevation of 1400 meters, producing a most desirable tea. Only a very few families own the area and can harvest from these trees, which makes this tea extra special. Our dan cong tea is not picked from the actual mother tree, which is about 900 years old. The leaves, however, are harvested from wild, untrimmed, single trees that are over 120 years old, and directly related to the mother tree. The result is some incredibly flavorful leaves that provide a long lasting finish with each steep

 

Fruity with deep floral and nutty characteristics, dan cong teas can also be an acquired taste for some. In general, they are bold and bittersweet, settling down on the tongue while floral and nutty notes are gently coaxed out. Prepared mindfully using the gong fu method (highly recommended here), for seconds (not minutes), produces several pungent yet balanced "soups" that are truly a pleasure to sip. Take your time with these and try to connect with the leaves. They require a light hand, to be sure. Incidentally, the gong fu style of preparing tea is believed to have originated in Chaozhou. Needless to say, when you drink dan cong, a bit of history in the making of a beautiful tea practice flows through your veins. 

 

We recommend our Zhi Lan Xiang, Mi Lan Xiang, Xin Ren Xiang, or Yashi Xiang, each of which will give you at least 5 steeps. In fact, I've enjoyed as much as 9. If you are unfamiliar with dan cong oolongs, try our Phoenix Oolong sampler so you can see which one(s) you connect with best before investing in buying larger quantities. Note too that these teas age rather well, so do take your sweet time, for they will only get better. 

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