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Recent Tasting Notes
I bought this tea mistaking it for the ‘commercial’ version of a Honey Orchid Phoenix oolong that I had been enjoying so much, and was brought up short by some harsher notes it expressed on first brewing. I looked again at the label and realized this was the single-bush Dan Cong version, and unsurprisingly it demands a bit more respect.
Tonight I am brewing it in the Chao Zhou pot I bought from Tea Habitat, and it is lovely. It’s flavors are sharper, spicier, and sweetness is more honeyed and distinct. It is like the prior tea brought into sharper focus.
So far I am on about the 9th or 10th infusion, and anticipate plenty more infusions are left in it.
I used about 2 grams of tea in the 60 mL pot, and infusions from 30 seconds at first to 1-2 minutes now, water 195 degrees, give or take 5, and the entirety of this gongfu session has been delightful.
Today was the first time I brewed this up in the Chao Zhou pot I got from Imen. I am not sure if that was what made the difference, but the tea was definitely sweeter, mellower, more rounded, almost too much so.
I clearly need to do a head-to-head with the same tea in a gaiwan.
Dan Cong tea is shrouded in seductive mystery for me, thanks in part to Imen, proprietor of Tea Habitat, and her blog Tea Obsession. As I understand it, each single bush of the ancient “originals” had a singular scent that often seemed to mimic other flowers. The Communist Party organized some of these fragrances as generic categories to use for labels for commercial teas, so a lot of different teas can be “Ginger Flower.” I don’t think this Po Tou is claimed to be from a “mother tree,” but it is claimed to be from a single bush or group of bushes derived from the old one. This is not your commercial PG Tips (it’s nearly $50/ounce).
I got this tea because of Teaddict’s helpful recommendation (thanks!). This tea is really worth spending time with. The aroma is like fresh flowers after a rain and just underneath definite stone fruit flavors like nectarines. The flowers and fruits seem inseparable. The spices demand attention at the edges of your tongue. Swallow and you get this pleasant back-of-the-throat feel. Joyfulness unbounded! Later infusions are sweet and mellow. The spice subsides and the nectar of the flowers remain, very round, still with fruit flavors.
Dan Cong is reputed to be difficult to brew. I followed Teaddict’s brew and it was perfect. Preheat the pot to enjoy aroma of dried leaves. My 120ml pot was half full of the long leaves. Water almost at a boil. I would suggest that the first infusion may be slightly longer than the next to open up the leaves. But too long will definitely produce some bitterness. I’m not sure you have to rinse this tea. I drank the first rinse straight from the serving pitcher — I couldn’t stop myself!
This has been a tricky tea for me. It has very strong spicy flavor and astringency that can easily overpower the lighter floral notes. But when I get it just right, like tonight’s infusion, it is sweet, spicy, floral, with that extra complexity that just makes the best Dan Cong teas sing. And tonight, it’s doing a floral aria on my taste buds.
I wish I could give coherent brewing suggestions, but I can’t, because I lightly and thinly scattered the leaves over the brewing screen of my Kamjove, poured through water from my Pino set to about 190 degrees but didn’t check the temps before the infusions, and then didn’t pay attention to brewing times—1 minute? 2 minutes?—and mixed the two infusions together.
I was trying to prepare a pint of nice brew to share with some colleagues working late, so needed a larger set of infusions than I easily get from my small gaiwans, and tasted along the way rather than measured. Anyway, this came out so nice that I am going to let this tea out of the ‘doghouse’. Will try to get the same results with a more measured brewing and report back; I’m thinking maybe 0.5 grams in my 60mL gaiwan or the 60 mL Chao Zhou pot to start.
I make this by filling a 120ml pot about 2/3 full of tea leaves, then I use water at fish eyes and first infusions very fast, a minute or less. I get the most amazing floral aroma and the taste of peaches or nectarines. I actually get giddy drinking this tea it is so good. Imen’s teas are expensive but well worth the investment. I’ve tried 8 immortals Ba Xian teas from other vendors and they can’t rise to this level. Highly recommended.
Probably the mellowest of the Dan Congs I first tried from Tea Habitat. It is hard to make this one harsh, and the mellow delights just keep coming, infusion after infusion, tart & sweet, and a little spicy.
I start with a modest leaf to water ratio (0.5g per oz/30mL) and infuse over and over, 15-20+ times.
This is a wonderful, brilliant tea. Spicy, fruity, sweet, and with complexity and depth to carry through many infusions.
I have generally given up before the tea has, somewhere around 20 to 25 infusions.
The dry leaves are long, twisted, and open up into reddish green when infused. They don’t smell like much until they hit the prewarmed infusion vessel, and then the scent starts to grow strong and exotic. The spicy scent remains in the leaves after many infusions, promising more goodness to come.
I use about 1 gram of leaf per ounce or 30mL water, use a small yixing or gaiwan, and keep infusing over hours or leave the leaves overnight, do a flash rinse with boiling water, and keep going the next day. Water 185-195 degrees, and infusions that start at about 15 seconds but later extend to a couple of minutes. You do have to watch this one—it is not quite as friendly as the Honey Orchid “commercial” Dan Cong I got at Imen’s recommendation as a ’beginner’s Dan Cong’—this one can get bitter if you abuse it. But if you work with it gently, such a wonderful, wonderful tea.
So today I was a little testy. You know, not quite in a good mood, and trying to get through to Friday, smiling. About mid-morning, I needed a pick-me-up, without a lot of caffeine. I dumped a small heap of this in a mug, and it saw me through a rough patch.
Something about drinking tea flowers is uplifting. It’s not overly sweet tasting, but you feel a little sweeter afterward.
I always really enjoy this. It’s wonderful, and the people I share it with agree. It’s not hard to brew, either. Good to the last possible sip, and the aroma in the cup is still something I linger over, when it’s done.
I use a Brita filter on my faucet, and for many things, it’s fine. But for the oolongs I have been exploring, the water seemed to be getting in the way. I’m so over bottled water, and I don’t live by a stream……So lately I have been using a piece of bamboo charcoal in the kettle, when I boil water for tea or miso soup. It seems to act as a filter, and also mineralize the water, to some extent. It’s made a huge difference, with the results being amazing pots of tea. Should have tried this long ago.
This is a deeply sensual tea, aged to complexity, that can be steeped more than 20 times, and keeps on giving flavorful cups. It took a while for me to be able to get any decent flavor in this at home. If you try it, don’t give up. The water needs to be just off boiling, not cooled, and I steep no less than a tablespoon, mostly a bit more, at a time. Best in my smallest guywan.
I have tried all different ways of brewing and drinking this. The flavor I brought out was wonderful, but nothing like the depth and richness brewed into it by Imen, at Tea Habitat. I clearly haven’t learned to brew tea yet.
Brewed from water stored in a clay vessel, and into a clay water pot, over a small clay charcoal stove, into a teapot made from clay from the same region as the tea…..well, it creates a layer of flavor and depth to the tea that must be tasted to be believed.
Earthy, full, and grounding. 10 plus infusions still yielded a tea that still had wonderful flavor, as it lessened in color. Brewed Gongfu style in a Yixing tea pot, it is said to be able to take 20 plus infusions and still be flavorful, even when brewed clear in color. The effect of this tea is felt on the whole body, as you drink each infusion you may notice different effects.