Oolongs: part 3 (Dan Cong Oolongs)

Guangdong Dan Cong Oolong: In addition to being childishly gratifying to say aloud, oolong tea from this Chinese growing region is truly a treasure. Tea leaves are picked from wild tea bushes; intentionally ill-maintained bushes, sometimes upwards of three hundred years old and twenty feet tall, grown from seed. These teas are a medium to dark oolong, and because of the aged trees, the leaves have many strong aromas and flavours. Ageing tea from this region is not uncommon, and some of the most appreciated oolongs come from this location. Dan Cong translates to One Bush, and it refers to a trait which makes this tea post a challenge to do thoroughly; each tea is processed differently, depending on the tree. In other words, there are as many Dan Cong teas are are Dan Cong trees. For that reason, I am going to list only the most popular ones. These teas are most known for their ability to naturally imitate flavours and scents of flowers. These teas are usually a tricky brew, and I would not recommend trying unless you’re confident in your skills – especially because they can be expensive.

Feng Huang: Translates to Phoenix Mountain. Honestly, this such an umbrella term, it almost covers the whole category of Dan Cong itself. These teas are grown at a high altitude – more than fifteen hundred metres – and apparently, leaves are reserved in advanced by rich connoisseurs with connections. That being said, they are not impossible to come by at all, however, they can be expensive. A good tea will have a strong, lasting aftertaste, and a good Feng Huang meets this requirement if steeped correctly. These teas can be aged, which is something to note, as ageing is usually not done outside of Chinese dark teas (more on these at a later post.) Fragrances and tastes are usually very floral, but a specific flower such as a honey orchid. It all depends on the kind of Dan Cong. I don’t want to discourage any of you, but these types of teas are usually a difficult brew to the point in which you have to start worrying about the water’s PH levels, how long the tea has been aged, and an apt knowledge of water temperature and steeping theory (again, more on all of those in later posts.) A misstep could ruin the steep, leaving you with a bitter taste, and will probably just end up frustrating to you. If you haven’t done a lot of gong-fu style steeping before, I would recommend you start with some Anxi oolongs and work your way up.

Mi Lan Xiang: Translates to Snow Orchid. According to  Seven Cups, this is the most popular Dan Cong. This tea involves a growing method which excites me the greatly. Seriously, I’m pretty sure I tell everybody about this. Because I apparently assume plants excite others as much as they do me. In the winter months, orchids grow right next to these tea bushes. As a result, this tea has a natural orchid fragrance and taste, just because orchids grow in the proximity of this tea bush. This is a dark oolong.

Huang Zhi Xiang: Translates to Yellow Sprig. This tea is usually a bit less expensive, so it’s a good introduction to Dan Congs. It is a champagne oolong, and quite mellow.

Recommended Tea Dealers:

Tea Habitat

Tea Trekker

Seven Cups