The first time I encountered Dancong Style Oolongs was at the most posh tea house in Qingdao, China. This was the kind of place that you go to be seen- When you go in the massive double doors carved from solid walnut, you are greeted by an entire limestone stalactite formation meticulously transported from a cave in Yunnan to be the waterfall feature here. On the left is a Ming Dynasty fishing boat turned into a tea pavilion on the indoor pond.

Even though I was there on grant money to do research on tea culture, from the humble farms of Laoshan to the high-brow teahouses like this, I felt humbled and asked for a table in the least fancy-looking part of the building. When the menu came, it was a rolled string of bamboo strips with the tea names carved in wood. Starting my research in a city obsessed with Laoshan green tea, and Tieguanyin, I had never before come across Dancong. I saw it on the menu and ordered.

It was prepared for me in traditional Southern China gongfu ceremony with gaiwan. The taste kept me sitting for hours getting the tea re-steeped. They were probably wondering when I would head out or order a different tea, but the taste was so intriguing.

I found Dancong to be elusive, a shapeshifter just slightly out of reach. My tea vocabulary was smaller then, but the apple notes and the texture were wonderful. After that, I asked all around the tea markets about Dancong, but nobody had any.

Only recently was I reminded of this experience by Steepster friends logging Dancong tasting notes. I asked a friend in QIngdao to have her tea friend in Guangzhou send some Dancong samples for me to try again. She ended up sending about a dozen, all of which were mind-blowing.

In the first round of tasting, I actually picked out a Mi Lan Dancong over this, because it had more of a “smack in the face” intensity that you couldn’t ignore. Then I came back to the Huang Zhi Xiang. It was a more quiet tea. I realized that if you are willing to listen, willing to taste, this tea had much more to give then any of the other samples. It is about two dozen teas in one. It recaptures that “shapeshifter” experience I had with my first Dancong.

I have found myself brewing Dancong every day without fail since the last shipment came in, and I still love it. I love it so much that I am actually re-assigning one of my favorite Yixing pots from Big Red Robe to Dancong. That should be an interesting flavor experiment v. gaiwan steeping. What I love about this tea is that it always has something new to offer. It is the essence of a multi-dimensional tea. It is a challenge to rise to. It holds my attention like an aged sheng pu’er might.

I hope that other tea lovers will fall head over heels for this like I have. I know that I will be requesting another 50+ samples to try to pick out another type of Dancong to expand the line- that is, if I can find one to live up to this Huang Zhi Xiang.

Geoffrey

Great rumination, David. With regard to the last thing you mention here, I for one eagerly await the prospect!

Kashyap

I so wish more people to weave more tea tales that spoke of their experiences and reflections while drifting within the hues of a cup of tea….thanks for sharing

chadao

I actually just posted a tasting note on this tea before I read your note on it, David. I am surprised that we have very similar things to say about it, except that you say it with much more eloquence and insight. We definitely come from different places when it comes to tea drinking, but seem to have similar tastes. I definitely look forward to learning more about tea through interacting with your offerings and insights.

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Geoffrey

Great rumination, David. With regard to the last thing you mention here, I for one eagerly await the prospect!

Kashyap

I so wish more people to weave more tea tales that spoke of their experiences and reflections while drifting within the hues of a cup of tea….thanks for sharing

chadao

I actually just posted a tasting note on this tea before I read your note on it, David. I am surprised that we have very similar things to say about it, except that you say it with much more eloquence and insight. We definitely come from different places when it comes to tea drinking, but seem to have similar tastes. I definitely look forward to learning more about tea through interacting with your offerings and insights.

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Bio

I fell in love with tea while doing work on classical Chinese language in China. I loved it so much that I went back for a year to research tea instead! Over a year and several summers in China I have had the chance to train in gongfu tea ceremony, and test the limits of my palate in tasting competitions. I was privileged to spend large chunks of time with farmers on their tea gardens, and was exposed to some of the smallest and most honest operations out there. It only made sense to go into business and deepen my relationship with tea and the farmers who make it with such care and humility. Now I own a small, but unique tea business importing the best teas that my farmer friends in China have to offer. Some of these teas are from regions that have never exported before. All of them have a story.

I will review teas on Steepster, because I think this is an awesome site, and a great community, but I won’t give them a numerical rating, as I don’t want to skew the system. I am having a great time here, and look forward to meeting more tea folk.

Location

Minneapolis, MN

Website

http://www.verdanttea.com

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