Da Wu Ye - 2011 Spring Fenghuang Oolong Tea
Our Da Wu Ye is a very interesting tea. Most Fenghuang (Phoenix Mountain) Oolongs are named by the fragrance of the tea leaves after processing (Yu Lan/Magnolia, Mi Lan/Honey Orchid, etc), but, in this case, Da Wu Ye, which translates as “Big Black Leaf,” is the name of the original Phoenix mountain mother bush, which is several hundred years old, from which cuttings have been taken and grafted to create clones that can be used in more commercial production.
This batch of Da Wu Ye was picked on April 6th (one day after the Qing Ming festival), 2011 from mature trees that are approximately 60-70 years old. It was harvested from trees grown outside a village called Feng Xi on the northeast side of Wudong Mountain, where the altitude is approximately 600 meters (2,000 ft) above sea level.
The appearance of these Da Wu Ye leaves when dry is strikingly large, wiry, thick, and an almost black, dark olive-green color. The dry leaf has a very mild, sweet aroma, and these big, beautiful leaves produce a very clear, yellowish amber colored liquor.
The penetrating thickness of the aroma is what strikes me about this tea first and foremost when I smell the lid of the gaiwan after the first infusion. I can’t help but think that it smells like fresh hot buttered flowers. I can’t exactly place the floral aroma, but it reminds me a bit of magnolia flowers or maybe the amazing East Texas azaleas of my childhood. When drinking the early infusions, the liquor is quite thick and almost oily feeling in the mouth. The flavor is mild, floral/sweet, but it is also pleasantly assertive with a slight but still perceptible good bitterness in the finish. The aftertaste is penetrating and very long lasting with elements of that buttered floral aroma and a touch of the good bitterness common to high quality Fenghuang oolongs. In contrast to our Song Zhong (coming soon) or Mi Lan Xiang Fenghuang oolongs, which are on the bold end of the flavor spectrum, this Da Wu Ye highlights a more soft and subtle side of the amazing teas of this region.
To steep this tea, I would really only recommend steeping it Gong Fu style using a gaiwan or Yixing type teapot. When steeped in a more Western manner, this tea’s subtleties tend to be overshadowed by the more assertive flavors that are in the leaves, although the aroma is still pretty awesome. My preference is to use 6-7 grams of leaf in a 75-100 ml gaiwan, water at about 200 F or a little lower, a flash rinse, and a 15 second first steep. Gradually increase the steeping time in subsequent infusions. If the infusion is too bitter, decrease the steeping time and temperature, or if the infusion is too mild, try increasing the steeping time by a few seconds or upping the steeping temperature.
“Dan Cong” Terminology Explanation and Disclaimer:
Fenghuang/Phoenix mountain oolongs are generally marketed as Dan Cong oolongs both in China and in the West, although “Dan Cong” is somewhat of a loaded term in the Chinese tea industry. Dan Cong means “single bush” or “single tree” and refers to the ideal that true “Dan Cong” should only come from a single bush/tree. A common misconception is that these trees actually have a single tree trunk, but, in reality, they usually have the multiple trunk structure of a more standard tea bush. Most tea sold in the West as “Dan Cong” is probably (but not always) blended from many different bushes, so the term causes a lot of debate and disagreement among purists. Realistically, most truly single bush Dan Cong oolongs are not going to be available in any quantity that justifies the effort and expense of commercial marketing outside of their home area or village, so more commercial mass productions are generally sold as “Dan Cong” both in China and in the West.
Unless otherwise specified, the “Dan Cong” teas sold on this site are not single bush productions, so, when I elect to use the term “Dan Cong” in a product description, I am technically using it incorrectly to refer to teas from the Fenghuang/Phoenix Mountain region in general. I realize this is a very specific distinction to draw, but I feel that it is very important to be completely transparent about the tea we deal with.