There are lots of tea vendors in the world who have Dancong Oolongs for sale. But that’s just the problem. They are listed as plain old “Dancong Oolong” teas. The teas infusing here in our 3-way gaiwan face off are Phoenix Dancong from Mt. Wudong, one of the key peaks in the Phoenix Mountains area. And it is made from the shui xian cultivar Mi Lan Xiang, which is generally translated to be “honey orchid” and has a lovely sweetness to the aroma of the tea leaves as well as to the infused liquid. We also offer this particular oolong in three quality levels: Premium, Imperial, and Nonpareil. We never blend the better one with the lesser ones, like some vendors do. This brought up a spirit of competition between 3 of the gaiwans from our personal arsenal of steepwares. They practically jumped out of the cupboard and grabbed the teas to start infusing.
From left to right: Imperial, Premium, and Nonpareil. We put that first level tea in-between the two higher level teas sort of to make him feel better.
The 3 gaiwans (all 200cc capacity) who participated in this infusion face-off:
- Chrysanthemum Flower Gaiwan – 200cc
- Clear glass gaiwan
- White gaiwan with mother-of-pearl glaze
The 3 teas who participated in this infusion face-off:
- Imperial Mt. Wudong Mi Lan Xiang (Honey Orchid) Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong – apricot/raisin/honey aromas in the dry leaves. Middle quality level.
- Premium Mt. Wudong Mi Lan Xiang (Honey Orchid) Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong – nutty rich aroma with a touch of fruitiness in the dry leaves. First quality level.
- Nonpareil Mt. Wudong Mi Lan Xiang (Honey Orchid) Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong – raisiny and honey-like aroma in the dry leaves. Top quality level.
The little glass sipper cups didn’t show the tea liquid colors as well and I would have liked in that photo, so I retook in these white sipper cups:
Note that #3 is lighter in color, which matched the lighter flavor that is smooth and with no roasty quality to clash. Even #1 and #2, despite being slightly roasty in character, still have that honey-like sweetness plus a floral quality.
As for those three gaiwans, all proved to be great at infusing the tea. However, since I know that many of you are concerned about scorched fingers and dropped gaiwans when you try to pour out the liquid, I will say that the white gaiwan (#3 above) functioned the best. There are two “handles” on the sides, a good-sized knob on the lid that doesn’t get hot, and strainer holes in front of the spout. I held the gaiwan in my left hand, with my thumb on one handle, my index finger on the knob, and my next two fingers on the other handle. No scorching and a great pour into the sipping cups. As for clean-up, they are all equally easy and tend not to stain. That means no residue to taint the flavor of the next tea you steep.
One final note here: for those of you about to embark on your own gaiwan face-off, take a moment once the tea has steeped to raise the gaiwan lid to your nose and smell the underside. The tea’s aroma awaits you there.