83

Ok! Giving this one another shot with better parameters this time. I used about 4g of leaf for 250ml of water in my basket infuser.

First infusion (30s/205F)
There’s a light, honey-like aroma to the cup. Delicious! There’s a sweet and malty sort of honey flavour, with an oolong aftertaste. Quite good (and a big change from last time!)

Second infusion (35s/205F)
There’s now a light, almost floral aroma. The brew is stronger, richer, and kind of woody with more astringency than I would like; I probably shouldn’t have increased the infusion time. My bad – I thought it smelled too much like hot water at 30s, and it was a split second decision! It’s definitely still drinkable though.

Third infusion (45s/205F)
There’s a similar aroma to the previous infusion. However, the flavour changes here – there’s less astringency, and I’m getting almost a fruity sort of flavour here. Actually, perhaps it’s wheaty. A flavour I would imagine that sweet dry hay might have (although I have no familiarity with it, just an impression of it in my mind). It’s hard to place exactly what it is. I prefer this infusion over the second, which is just too astringent for me.

Weird! There’s a bit of a lingering sweet aftertaste with this infusion too. Kind of like what fennel can leave behind, but more pleasant.

Fourth infusion (35s/205F)
This time, I cleverly(!) sipped from my cups prior to the next infusion to make sure things were tasting ok, so after tasting the third infusion I decided to drop the time back to cut the astringency (I missed taking a sip between the second and third though, otherwise I would have dropped the infusion time back down then!)

This one tastes much like the third to me, minus the astringency. Maybe I’ll be able to figure out the flavour now?? …nope.

Ok, so this time things were MUCH more successful, and I may have yet another go with the leaves I left downstairs. I realize I made a couple of judgment errors while infusing here, but I think that I need to stop with this tea until I acquire a gaiwan and learn how to use it. Also, I need to take some sort of palate-training course or something, so I can say more than “ok, so this steep is definitely different than the previous but uh, not exactly sure how…”

I’m going to hold off on officially rating this one again, because I still don’t think I’ve experienced all it has to offer. It would currently garner a rating in the low 70s according to my scale, but I believe it’s worth more than that! Looking forward to my future attempt(s).

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec
Missy

Hah you always crack me up. I do enjoy reading your reviews. I feel much the same way when trying to explain what I am tasting.

smartkitty

Hehe I always struggle finding that perfect steep with new teas. But that feeling when I finally nail it? Swoooooon~

Geoffrey

I like your perseverance with this tea Krystaleyn. Dancong oolongs are kind of notorious for being demanding of careful preparation. But I figure, if you can nail the moody brewing needs of Dancong, brewing other teas well will seem easy. Dancong oolongs are among my top favorites of all teas, so learning the optimal brewing of them was something I was willing to work hard to gain. It took a number of mistakes for me to get consistently good at brewing them well, but sometimes I still fumble a steeping if I’m distracted.

I’m going to offer you a suggestion, which may seem like going out on a limb, but I think it might offer you the results you’re looking for with this tea, or at least get you closer. I did a lot of research to find out how the locals of Chou Zhou brew this tea, which is the main city near the Phoenix Mountain range. There are people who purport that gongfu brewing started in this area, and given the sensitive nature of the tea they had available to them, it seems to me a reasonable probability that such techniques in tea preparation could have come out of the necessity to get a good cup of the local tea…

So what I do with Dancong is use a small amount of water for each steeping. My gaiwan holds about 100ml, which is roughly 3 ounces of water. I typically use anywhere from 4-7 grams of leaf, which ranges from 1/3 to 2/3 the capacity of my gaiwan. It really depends on my mood wether I use more or less, but I would suggest starting with less like the 4 grams you mentioned using last time. The Chao Zhou natives go full-tilt and literally stuff their gaiwan with leaf until it’s coming out the top, but they’re going for a very bright and intense flavor that is appreciated more for the aftertaste it leaves than for the taste of the liquor. I imagine this would be experienced as bitter for people unaccustomed to it, much in the same way that very spicy food is too much for people who don’t eat it often.

Anyway, try 4 grams with half the water (around 120ml) for each steeping, and steep for only 15 seconds. I always do the first 8 or so infusions of dancong at around 15 seconds. And that’s counted from the moment the water starts to touch the leaf to the moment it all has poured into my serving pitcher. About 15 seconds is apparently the traditional guideline for dancong brewing in Chou Zhou. Here’s a great little youtube video of a guy preparing dancong at a Chou Zhou tea house. You can count on your fingers how long he does each of the two steeping shown, and each time it is about 15 seconds from the time water touches the leaf to the time it’s all poured out. Also, look at how much leaf he’s using. Crazy! I don’t recommend trying that, but it’s illustrative to see how they like it. His gaiwan is probably about the same size of mine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqUFY6SpJZU

Now, I want to say another thing to help you here. You don’t really need a gaiwan, pitcher and small cups to brew tea this way. If you have a brew basket, all you would need to do is fill it with the 4 grams or so of leaf, and then fill the 250ml cup you brewing in to only about 1/3 – 1/2 of its capacity, then pull out the leaves after about 15 seconds. You could then probably do this at least 7 times without needing to add time, only when you start to taste the tea weakening a little, add another 5-10 seconds. When it weakens further, you can venture out into longer steep times without making it go bitter.

David and I just finished filming the next video for the Verdant TV series and it’s going to explain, much like I have here, how to simulate gongfu tea with whatever you have on hand. When the editing is finished it will go up on the website. We hope that it will help people feel more comfortable trying this traditional Chinese way of preparing tea without the barrier of not having all the paraphernalia. Really the main goal of gongfu has always been about making the best cup of tea possible, and we do believe that it does produce better tea as a rule. I hope you find this comment helpful, and I look forward to seeing how your future experiments go. Don’t give up! All the work to brew a great cup of tea is worth it. Happy drinking!

Bonnie

Proud of your perserverence!

Dylan Oxford

Very informative piece Geoffrey, thanks! Watching that video though… I have no idea how that guy doesn’t burn his fingers. Yowza, he just throws that hot water everywhere!

Geoffrey

@dylan – he’s got mad heat calluses for sure. that guy’s like a gongfu heavyweight. doesn’t even flinch. I’d be crying!

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Missy

Hah you always crack me up. I do enjoy reading your reviews. I feel much the same way when trying to explain what I am tasting.

smartkitty

Hehe I always struggle finding that perfect steep with new teas. But that feeling when I finally nail it? Swoooooon~

Geoffrey

I like your perseverance with this tea Krystaleyn. Dancong oolongs are kind of notorious for being demanding of careful preparation. But I figure, if you can nail the moody brewing needs of Dancong, brewing other teas well will seem easy. Dancong oolongs are among my top favorites of all teas, so learning the optimal brewing of them was something I was willing to work hard to gain. It took a number of mistakes for me to get consistently good at brewing them well, but sometimes I still fumble a steeping if I’m distracted.

I’m going to offer you a suggestion, which may seem like going out on a limb, but I think it might offer you the results you’re looking for with this tea, or at least get you closer. I did a lot of research to find out how the locals of Chou Zhou brew this tea, which is the main city near the Phoenix Mountain range. There are people who purport that gongfu brewing started in this area, and given the sensitive nature of the tea they had available to them, it seems to me a reasonable probability that such techniques in tea preparation could have come out of the necessity to get a good cup of the local tea…

So what I do with Dancong is use a small amount of water for each steeping. My gaiwan holds about 100ml, which is roughly 3 ounces of water. I typically use anywhere from 4-7 grams of leaf, which ranges from 1/3 to 2/3 the capacity of my gaiwan. It really depends on my mood wether I use more or less, but I would suggest starting with less like the 4 grams you mentioned using last time. The Chao Zhou natives go full-tilt and literally stuff their gaiwan with leaf until it’s coming out the top, but they’re going for a very bright and intense flavor that is appreciated more for the aftertaste it leaves than for the taste of the liquor. I imagine this would be experienced as bitter for people unaccustomed to it, much in the same way that very spicy food is too much for people who don’t eat it often.

Anyway, try 4 grams with half the water (around 120ml) for each steeping, and steep for only 15 seconds. I always do the first 8 or so infusions of dancong at around 15 seconds. And that’s counted from the moment the water starts to touch the leaf to the moment it all has poured into my serving pitcher. About 15 seconds is apparently the traditional guideline for dancong brewing in Chou Zhou. Here’s a great little youtube video of a guy preparing dancong at a Chou Zhou tea house. You can count on your fingers how long he does each of the two steeping shown, and each time it is about 15 seconds from the time water touches the leaf to the time it’s all poured out. Also, look at how much leaf he’s using. Crazy! I don’t recommend trying that, but it’s illustrative to see how they like it. His gaiwan is probably about the same size of mine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqUFY6SpJZU

Now, I want to say another thing to help you here. You don’t really need a gaiwan, pitcher and small cups to brew tea this way. If you have a brew basket, all you would need to do is fill it with the 4 grams or so of leaf, and then fill the 250ml cup you brewing in to only about 1/3 – 1/2 of its capacity, then pull out the leaves after about 15 seconds. You could then probably do this at least 7 times without needing to add time, only when you start to taste the tea weakening a little, add another 5-10 seconds. When it weakens further, you can venture out into longer steep times without making it go bitter.

David and I just finished filming the next video for the Verdant TV series and it’s going to explain, much like I have here, how to simulate gongfu tea with whatever you have on hand. When the editing is finished it will go up on the website. We hope that it will help people feel more comfortable trying this traditional Chinese way of preparing tea without the barrier of not having all the paraphernalia. Really the main goal of gongfu has always been about making the best cup of tea possible, and we do believe that it does produce better tea as a rule. I hope you find this comment helpful, and I look forward to seeing how your future experiments go. Don’t give up! All the work to brew a great cup of tea is worth it. Happy drinking!

Bonnie

Proud of your perserverence!

Dylan Oxford

Very informative piece Geoffrey, thanks! Watching that video though… I have no idea how that guy doesn’t burn his fingers. Yowza, he just throws that hot water everywhere!

Geoffrey

@dylan – he’s got mad heat calluses for sure. that guy’s like a gongfu heavyweight. doesn’t even flinch. I’d be crying!

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I have always been a tea fan (primarily herbals and Japanese greens/oolongs) but in the last year or so, tea has become increasingly more appealing as not only a delicious, calming drink, but as a relatively cheap, healthy reward or treat to give myself when I deserve something. I should clarify that, however; the reward is expanding my tea cupboard, not drinking tea – I place no restrictions on myself in terms of drinking anything from my cupboard as that would defeat my many goals!

My DavidsTea addiction was born in late 2011, despite having spent nearly a year intentionally avoiding their local mall location (but apparently it was just avoiding the inevitable!). I seem to have some desire to try every tea they’ve ever had, so much of my stash is from there, although I’ve recently branched out and ordered from numerous other companies.

I like to try and drink all my teas unaltered, as one of the main reasons I’m drinking tea other than for the flavour is to be healthy and increase my water intake without adding too many calories! I’ve found that the trick in this regard is to be very careful about steeping time, as most teas are quite pleasant to drink straight as long as they haven’t been oversteeped. However, I tend to be forgetful (particularly at work) when I don’t set a timer, resulting in a few horrors (The Earl’s Garden is not so pleasant after, say, 7+ minutes of steeping).

I’m currently trying to figure out which types of teas are my favourites. Herbals are no longer at the top; oolongs have thoroughly taken over that spot, with greens a reasonably close second. My preference is for straight versions of both, but I do love a good flavoured oolong (flavoured greens are really hit or miss for me). Herbals I do love iced/cold-brewed, but I drink few routinely (Mulberry Magic from DavidsTea being a notable exception). I’m learning to like straight black teas thanks to the chocolatey, malty, delicious Laoshan Black from Verdant Tea, and malty, caramelly flavoured blacks work for me, but I’m pretty picky about anything with astringency. Lately I’ve found red rooibos to be rather medicinal, which I dislike, but green rooibos and honeybush blends are tolerable. I haven’t explored pu’erh, mate, or guayasa a great deal (although I have a few options in my cupboard).

I’ve decided to institute a rating system so my ratings will be more consistent. Following the smiley/frowny faces Steepster gives us:

100: This tea is amazing and I will go out of my way to keep it in stock.

85-99: My core collection (or a tea that would be, if I was allowing myself to restock everything!) Teas I get cravings for, and drink often.

75-84: Good but not amazing; I might keep these in stock sparingly depending on current preferences.

67-74: Not bad, I’ll happily finish what I have but probably won’t ever buy it again as there’s likely something rated more highly that I prefer.

51-66: Drinkable and maybe has some aspect that I like, but not really worth picking up again.

34-50: Not for me, but I can see why others might like it. I’ll make it through the cup and maybe experiment with the rest to get rid of it.

0-33: It’s a struggle to get through the cup, if I do at all. I will not willingly consume this one again, and will attempt to get rid of the rest of the tea if I have any left.

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