Woo! Another dan cong fragrance checked off my list! And a very nice one at that. I’ve wanted to log this one so badly, but this semester’s been pretty intense and I wanted to give this one the proper time to say lovely things about it. :)
I’ll start with the dry leaves. The aroma is unbelievably complex, and it seems I detect some fragrances more than others at different times. To date I’ve accumulated these aromas: dehydrated cantaloupe, banana-nut bread, honey, ripened blackberries (this one is consistent), a bit of cucumber juice, and sweet spices. Of the darker oolongs I’ve had, this is by far my favorite dry leaf aroma. The leaves are also extremely long when dry; sometimes it’s a pain trying to get them to fit in my small gaiwan!
After a wash, the wet leaves explode with more olfactory goodness. It’s so very rich and pungent, with this wine-like tartness that envelops the nasal cavity. It’s like elder berries, grape juice, hibiscus, and a bit of orange blossom. It also has these undertones of that strong, pungent, vegetal quality you find in a good tieguanyin.
On to the liquor. The orange zest of the “orange blossom” (huang zhi) fragrance is very prominent here, but there is a ton more going on in the cup. On the first steep (2 secs), if sipped immediately, the body is very light with slightly subdued flavors of orange, and honey. After cooling a bit, though, everything seems to come together and settle into a fuller body with more prominent orange flavors, a slightly tangy citrus taste, and undertones of apple.
Into the second steep (3 secs), tastes of raw sugar come into play and mix with the previous flavors. The third steep (3 secs), though, is really where everything comes together. The sugar, citrus, and orange blossom notes meld together to remind me of candied orange rinds. Then, tons more fly up from the bottom including flavors of hibiscus, which add a floral tartness, more honey, red grapes, and a bit of ginger, which nicely compliments the orange flavors. The aromas from this cup are quite powerful. That explosive tartness originally smelled in the leaves is now given off by the liquor, and upon taking a sip spreads even further. Sweeter elements chase from behind, until they meet in equilibrium and fade slowly into an aftertaste of thick, tingling goodness.
At this point, the mouthfeel becomes sparkling-like, and is quite light on the tongue. This sparkling texture increases in intensity over time, even into steeps in the ‘teens. For sake of space, I’ll outline the rest of my steeps:
Steep 4 (0:07) – Spices, tartness, and the “candied orange rind” flavor decrease slightly, while malty flavors appear, astringency is less strong, and there is an overall sweetness.
Steep 5 (0:12) – Tartness is further subdued, while sweet floral flavors become most prominent. An orange cream-like flavor also comes into play.
Steep 6 (0:16) – The top flavors (orange cream and florals) again come down, while tartness seems to disappear. Undertones of walnuts and berries appear along with a subtle astringency.
Steep 7 (0:22) – Easy come easy go: walnuts and berry flavors dissipate. However, flavors of cranberries come into play and mesh well with the orange-blossom flavors, presenting something reminiscent of cranberry-orange juice. The malty tones of previous steeps also become difficult to detect. Orange blossom flavors rise….
Steep 8 (0:30) – …and then fall. Honey becomes very apparent again, while tones of apples and the rich earth appear as undertones.
Steep 9 (0:40) – At this point, the body becomes less full, as most of the flavors become subtle. Berry flavors are replaced by some florals, a new “mossy” flavor, and fresh orange. A slight spiciness comes back along with a subtle grape-like flavor.
Steep 10 (0:52) – Ginger spices climb up to be matched with a more woody flavor. Mossy flavor has disappeared and this cup is quite astringent.
Steep 11 (1:10) – Tapioca! I’m either crazy, or this tastes exactly like tapioca. The couple times I’ve tried this tea so far, it always tastes like tapioca at around this point, and continues like this into subsequent steeps, so I’m going with I’m not crazy. It’s quite refreshing and seems to pair very nicely with the orange blossom flavor that has returned in full. There is also a general earthiness to this steep. Also, at this point the tea reaches a maximum of the sparkling texture, which is very strong and tingly.
Steep 12 (1:28) – Orange and floral notes fade and are replaced by notes of ripe berries, earthiness and woody flavors become more apparent. A very minute amount of spice is detected and lingers in the back of mouth long after a sip.
Steep 13 (1:50) – Similar to last, but spices are more pronounced and the mouthfeel is extremely tingly.
Steep 14 (~13 minutes…oops) – Actually came out okay, just a little too astringent and some added bitterness. The body was very syrupy. Tapioca flavors are still most prominent, followed by orange blossom, and an earthy, pu’er-like undertone.
Steep 15 (~5 min) – Same as above.
Steep 16 (~5 min) – Same, but with a few more berry notes.
Steep 17 (~8 min) – Same, with added flavors of honey, making the body thicker.
Steep 18 and 19 (~8 min) – Very juicy. Candied orange rinds becomes the most dominant flavor, while earthy tones and and ginger spice add depth. Still a very sparkling texture.
This tea definitely kept me on my toes. It was quite a fun experience and has caused my love for dan congs to grow further. The only issue I had was that it becomes extremely astringent and bitter if steeped for too long. Other than that, I’ve been steeping it throughout the day and it never disappoints.