THIS IS NOT MEANT TO COVER EVERY OOLONG OUT THERE.
IF I’VE MISSED ONE, PLEASE NOTE IT IN A COMMENT.
We’ve looked at oolongs from northern and southern Fujian province in China. But oolongs are made elsewhere in China. Most of these are not as well know here in the U.S. The province of Guangdong is one such location. They are home of the Dancong oolongs.
Guangdong province in on the coast of China. Tea growing is largely in the Phoenix Mountains on the eastern side of the province. Mt. Wudong (Wudongshan) is one of the more well-known. It is a tall mountain within the greater Phoenix Mountain area, and is home to the most pure, natural Dancong tea groves and clean processing out of all of the Phoenix Dancong tea regions.
Some Dancong Oolongs
“Dancong” literally means “single-trunk” due to the cultivation method used there, where each individual tea tree is allowed to grow to its natural height and form its own trunk. This is distinct from terraced tea gardens, where row upon row of tea bushes are pruned together, forming a flat plucking “table.” The benefit of the Dancong cultivation method is the tea tree can reach its natural height as well as depth; its roots dig deep into the mineral-rich soils of Phoenix Mountain. Having grown tall and formed its single trunk, the Dancong tea tree will develop “secondary plant metabolites,” which are phytonutrients and aromatic compounds that give Phoenix Dancong tea its rich aromatic character.
Dancong tea trees are planted in groves according to their aroma type, and the cultivars are classified by their aroma type, such as Mi Lan Xiang or Zhi Lan Xiang.
Dancong Oolong teas are famous for their floral fragrance and long-lasting sweetness. The tea liquid thickness is a characteristic highly sought by many tea connoisseurs.
- Da Wu Ye (Big Black Leaf) – Big black leaf pieces (thus the name) with an aroma like sweet apricots. The pale yellow color of the liquid, the fruit blossom aroma, and that floral flavor with a touch of fruity sweetness caressing your tongue is just a build up for steeps to come. It is a very pleasing and unique light-roasted Dancong. This spring tea has the best tasting tea liquid and highest aroma compared to other season’s harvest.
- Huang Jin Pian – An exotic picking of the standard Dancong leaf with a wildly yellow appearance and a much lighter aroma than the typical heavy-roasted Feng Huang Dancong-style pickings. An impressive depth of rich flavors that last through many infusions. A fabulous and satisfying everyday tea that does very when well made gongfu-style as well.
- Huang Zhi Xiang (Gardenia) – The Song cultivar Huang Zhi Xiang is often translated as “kumquat fragrance” (not “yellow stalk” as some think) since Huangzhi is a local Chinese dialect for a type of kumquat. While kumquats are a citrus fruit, this tea does not have a citrusy quality. The gardenia aroma is achieved during processing. The key in part is to use only this cultivar when making the tea, and this accounts for the name “Dan Cong” which means it was made that way. This cultivar was propagated from a live tea tree carbon dated back to the southern Song Dynasty (13th century). It has a natural, strong gardenia aroma that is very unique and pleasing when you smell it and drink the tea. After many infusions, the gardenia aroma still persists and some honey sweet taste is detectable on the palate. This tea is a medium-roasted tea. You may store it at normal temperature for a long time.
- Jiang Hua Xiang (Ginger Flower) – Mmmm…that natural ginger flower aroma is quite enticing and takes a really skilled tea master to process the leaves just right to bring it out. The tea possesses a very unique aroma and taste. It is very hard to make this natural ginger flower aroma, as it requires a tea master with long years of experience and tremendous expertise to produce that aroma. During the production process, they must stay up all night through this tea-making season.
- Mi Lan Xiang (米蘭香, “Honey & Orchids Fragrance” or “Osmanthus Fragrance”) – The name is translated by some as “osmanthus fragrance” and by others as “honey orchid” due to its sweetness. The floral aroma is achieved during processing – nothing added. This cultivar was propagated from a live tea tree carbon dated back to the southern Song Dynasty (13th century). The farmers growing this tea live on Mt. Wudong where the tea is from. It is a high-elevation tea, making it more delicate and nuanced. The locals often drink it for health reasons. ‘Mi’ is from Shui Mi Tao (a variety of peach) and ‘Lan’ means orchids, and these aromas and flavors that show up in each steeping.
- Xing Ren Xiang (Almond Aroma) – Dark pieces that are mostly whole and exuding a light nutty aroma. The light honey mixed with strong almond creates a complex mouth feeling after sipping the tea liquid and a deep throat feeling. The higher the altitude that tea trees grow on the mountain, the smaller and thinner the Dancong tea leaves become, meaning the dry leaves are tight and thin. Due to high mountain tea leaves and skillful production techniques, you will notice that even after infusing several times in your gaiwan, the tea leaves are still quite twisted and not open yet; this is another good characteristic of high-mountain tea combines with masterful production technique.
- Yu Lan Xiang (Magnolia) – A unique and very natural magnolia aroma compliments the honey taste. No added flavorings needed. Its unique, natural magnolia (Yu Lang flower) aroma and honey taste is pleasing and lingers on the senses for a long time. While it belongs to orchid aroma category, its aroma and taste is quite different from Da Wu Ye (big black leaf) tea. A light-roasted oolong.
- Zhi Lan Xiang (Irises & Orchids Fragrance) – The tea liquid has a sweet honey flavor and orchid aroma with no bitterness or astringency. After each sip, your whole mouth and palate are filled with the aroma mixed with a sweet taste. However, the aroma and taste is quite different from Da Wu Ye (big black leaf). The leaves are lightly roasted during processing, and the tea farmer must be extremely skilled in the tea-making process in order to attain the correct aroma and taste from the tea.
Notes on Infusing These Teas
These teas are by their very nature more delicate and sensitive to water temperature during infusion. If you get the water too hot, you may create a more bitter cup of tea. Use a water temperature of around 175°F. And be sure the water is of high quality, preferably spring water or filtered tap water. Start by using approximately one teaspoon (5 grams) per 100 ml of water, and then feel free to experiment. A higher amount of tea leaves will give a stronger flavor. Infuse for 1 to 3 minutes depending on your preference. These teas may be infused many times (6-8+), so don’t throw away your tea leaves too soon.
Next up will be oolongs from the island nation of Taiwan off the coast of China.