Dancong Oolong Tea
Dancong Oolong teas are kind of a “science of their own”. This applies both within the wide and diverse world of pure teas as such and within the smaller, but not less complex world of Oolong teas in particular. Therefor, in order to describe, explain and quality-wise position our Zhi Lan Xiang Dancong Oolong in a comprehensible manner, we first need to shine some light on the background and concept of Dancong Oolong teas in general.
Classic Oolong Tea Origins
The four classic regions of origin of oolong teas are the following:
- Wuyishan , in the north of the Chinese province of Fujian, with its famous rock oolong teas (also: ‘yancha oolong teas’). Beispiele für diese sind Da Hong Pao Oolong Tea, Rou Gui Oolong Tea, Shui Xian Oolong Tea, etc.,
- Anxi County in Fujian’s south, with its no lesser famous Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea,
- Taiwan with its large number of renowned Oolong Tea Cultivars. Examples for these are
- Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea, Four Seasons Oolong tea, Jin Xuan Oolong tea, Dong Ding Oolong tea, Ruan Zhi Oolong Tea, and many more, and
- thee ‘Fenghuangshan’ oder ‘Phoenix’ Mountains in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, where Dancong Oolong teas are cultivated for more than 600 years now.
Classic 4 Regions of Origin of Oolong Teas – click map to enlarge
History and origin of Dancong Oolong teas
Center of the relatively large Phoenix Mountains (‘Feng Huangshan’) tea cultivation region is the mountain range’s highest peak, Mount Wudong, located near the town of Chaozhou, where the documented history of Dancong Oolong teas began about 600 years ago. In addition to literature references, this is clearly evidenced by the existence of a still living and productive ‘Huang Zhi Xiang’ variety Dancong mother bush of this very age.
The Dancong varieties represent an evolutionary intermediate stage of the tea tree’s spread from Yunnan into other regions of South and Central China, marking an imaginary center point between the large-leafed, up to 20 meters high Yunnanese ancient tea tree and the small-leafed tea varieties growing in the form of bushes. The Dancong “half-tree bushes” therefore combine features of both ends of the development line. Accordingly, the Dancong tea tree reaches heights of up to 6 meters, with relatively large and robust leaves.
In the old times, Dancong Oolong teas were highly valued ‘tribute teas’ at the imperial court, with its best qualities worth their weight in gold.
Dancong Oolong Cultivars – individual and shared features
Originally, the proliferation of the first existing, probably largely homogeneous Dancong Oolong tea bushes was done through their seeds (instead of ‘cloning’ of the bushes through cuttings). This caused a number of different Dancong Oolong tea varieties to develop already at an early stage. These differ in terms of taste and aroma characteristics, in the context of Dancong tea bush varieties often referred to as ‘fragrances’. Today, tea connoisseurs distinct between at least 10 such ‘fragrances’ or Dancong oolong cultivars. Here are some of the most famous varieties:
- Mi Lan Xiang (‘Honey Orchid’ fragrance),
- Ba Xian (‘The Eight Immortals” fragrance),
- Huang Zhi Xiang (‘Gardenia’ fragrance),
- Tong Tian Xiang (‘Heavenly’ fragrance’),
- Jiang Hua Xiang (‘Ginger Flower’ fragrance),
- Yu Lan Xiang (‘Magnolia’fragrance),
- Zhi Lan Xiang (‘Orchid’ fragrance), and
- Fan Shu Xiang (‘Sweet Potato’ fragrance)
The main shared property of all (genuine) Dancong Oolongs is a mineral ‘rock tea character’, infused by the rocky grounds of Phoenix mountain. Then, there’s a certain flowery astringency to Dancong Oolon teas that is significantly more pronounced than in Wuyi rock teas. The latter is something that quite some newbies to Oolong teas might first have to get used to, while any die-hard Dancong Oolong tea lovers will consider it as both a Plus and an indispensable Must. However, whoever will take on the thorough exploration of the broad and complex flavor spectrum of Dancong oolong teas, will soon discover the pleasant sides of this highly individual type of tea.
‘Dancong’ means “single bush”. The term goes back to a time when picking tea from individual Dancong cultivars separately and producing single variety teas accordingly was a matter of course. In nowadays mass production, however, economic considerations outweigh “single variety” as a quality factor. Accordingly, most Dancong Oolong teas on the (mass) market are blends of different cultivars. Well, not so our Zhi Lan Xiang Dancong Oolong, which is not only single-variety, but also “single-garden” and “single-invoice”.
Zhi Lan Xiang Dancong Oolong
In Chinese, “Zhi Lan” means orchid or iris flower fragrance. This aptly describes both the fragrance and the taste of this tea.
The Zhi Lan Xiang Dancong tea bushes thrive in the Fenghuangshan (Phoenix) Mountains near Chaozhou, Guangdong. Only here does the special volcanic soil nourish the individual Dancong Oolong tea’s characteristic fragrances and complex flavors.
Due to the warm climate in southern China, picking of this tea starts quite early in spring already. This is about the beginning of April, with the picking period lasting for a few weeks only. Picking standard for this tea is the top (youngest) 2-3 leaves plus one bud, corresponding to the best picking standard for Dancong Oolong tea.
The processing of our Zhi Lan Xiang Dancong Oolong follows the process typical for Phoenix Dancong Oolong teas. Accordingly, the dried tea leaves show a medium degree of oxidation. Another essential processing feature is the conduct of several roasting runs. For this purpose, top grades require using charcoal of the lychee tree, which is particularly low in smoke.
Taste, Fragrance, Appearance
As a result of this processing, the particularly long, slightly curled dry tea leaf has a typical dark color. As the name suggests, it exudes an orchid-like fragrance. Together with the mineral notes typical of rock teas, this also dominates the complex taste of the clear, reddish-amber-colored infusion.
Well, preparation instructions are always a bit difficult, especially for oolong teas. This is mainly because the Chinese way of preparing Oolong teas deviates considerably from western tea preparation standards. However, for our Lao Cong Fan Shu Xiang Dancong Oolong tea, we strongly advise you to follow the Chinese approach of a series of shorter infusions. This is because a single prolonged infusion won’t live up to bringing this tea’s subtle notes and nuances to your well-deserved attention.
Accordingly, we recommend a dosing of 4g tea leaves on 2ooml water. And for most pleasant taste, use an infusion temperature of about 85-90°C. Then, for a first steep, infuse for 1-2 minutes only. Subsequently, choose a slightly shorter infusion period for a second infusion and 1 minute each for follow-up infusions. This way, Lao Cong Fan Shu Xiang Dancong will produce a prolonged series of delicious, full-value infusion. And each of these will come with a distinct individual flavor profile.