Tea Trekker included this as a free sample with my last order from them a month ago. I had ordered 4oz of their aged 2008 Mi Lan Dancong Oolong, and a 15g sample of their curious Wuyi Shan Phoenix Oolong hybrid tea. I wasn’t expecting to get extra free samples because they offer ample-sized samples for purchase, so it was a pleasant surprise to receive this Dancong Black tea along with another free sample of their Shui Xian. After sampling all of these teas, I’d say that 3 out of the 4 of them definitely interested me enough to consider ordering more of them in the future. The outlying 4th tea was also interesting, and enjoyable, but just not suited to my tastes for regular drinking; I’m sure others would find it great though. Anyway, it all further nurtures the trust, sprouted from reading Robert and Mary Lou Heiss’s books, that they know what high quality tea is and are really striving to offer only that in their shop.
Anyway, this note is about the Fenghuang Dancong Black tea, which I found very enjoyable. The prevailing characteristics are a little hard to compare to other black teas. The main body of the flavor is unlike Keemun, Laoshan or Yunnan blacks. “Soft, sweet and fruity” is a pretty apt description on the part of the vendor. Those familiar with the basic Dancong profile will recognize its presence after the liquor has settled on the tongue for a couple seconds, or after a few sips. It’s a woodsy fruitiness that I’m very fond of.
In the more generic Dancong oolong this comes through as a fruitiness reminiscent of apricots, peach, and grapefruit floating over a distinctive woody base note. But here, when the leaves are fully oxidized into black tea, these characteristics take on a darker palette and the fruitiness reminds more of black plum, black cherry, black grape, and touches of pear. Heiss describes “currants” and this is probably on the mark from what I can remember of their flavor, but I haven’t tasted currants more than a few times in my life.
I got to try this two times in my gaiwan, steeping probably 10+ times each session. Honestly, I was sad when I reached the end of the sample, and took a mental note to watch out for other representatives of this one in my tea adventures. I’m very fond of this profile and like how it plays in a fully-oxidized context. Chinese black teas are typically the go-to thing for me to drink in the morning, and I like to have a variety of them on hand. Bring Dancong characteristics into the picture, and I’m going to keep coming back. I would happily add this one to my regular rotation.
On another note entirely… I’ve been MIA from Steepster for a little while, for a number of reasons, but most notably because I’ve just taken on a new full-time job that was extended to me shortly before the Xmas holiday, and I officially started it last Thursday. So I’ve been super busy. And if perhaps you’re wondering why I haven’t assigned a rating score to the present tasting note, it’s because my new job is in the tea business. I’m now the Business Development Manager for Verdant Tea, and as I now have a professional stake in the tea business I’ve decided to no longer participate in the score/rating aspect of Steepster for reasons of fairness and ethical accountability. I have no interest in manipulating the rating system in our favor or against other tea businesses. The ratings I put up before working for Verdant will remain, as they only reflect my personal opinions as a tea drinker, but I clearly can’t offer an unbiased score anymore and I don’t want to make any secret of that. In any case, I do hope to continue writing helpful and interesting tasting notes without ratings from time to time, for our teas and teas that I enjoy from other businesses. These will probably be fewer and far between though, as I’m much busier now than I used to be, and I’ll only be able to contribute here on my personal time. So that’s it… I’m a professional tea man now. Tea has truly, at last, conquered me.