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Recent Tasting Notes
Burying my nose in this packet of tea struck me with a strong whiff of real orchid scent. It wasn’t overpowering, but delightful and sweet. I brewed up 3g in a 90ml pot for short bursts, and the tea can’t be described with anything but “amazing.” The liquor is a warm gold, with a distinct silky feel to it that I was surprised to detect in such a clear tea. At first, the honey notes bowled me over, but with careful steeping this eventually shifts to airy florals. It is very easy to brew this one too light and get no fragrance, or too long and go too bitter, but dedication is so so rewarding. You can seriously sit all day with this tea, and not be disappointed.
I’m now several sessions in with this tea, and still don’t have a good formal tasting session where I’ve kept track of grams of tea and infusion times. I can say for sure that I can detect the resemblance to osmanthus, that it is floral, sweet, fruity, and tart; that it is possible to get a bitter infusion out of it, but I have to push it very hard, because it is a very forgiving tea; that it can yield many infusions, because I’m sure this batch is probably at least at 15 if not 20 infusions—I’ve refilled the kettle twice to at least the one liter mark, there is still half a liter in it, and it wasn’t entirely empty when I started this one; and that it is delicious brewed in a thin porcelain gaiwan as well as in a Chao Zhou pot from Tea Habitat. Good stuff. I will put the leaves to bed now but if I weren’t going home for the evening I’d try for another handful of long infusions.
Tasting for the first time…
Just picked this up yesterday at Ku Cha House of Tea in Boulder, CO.
By the description, I expected a heavier tea. This is actually quite light, very smooth. I did steep for 2 minutes only – my preferred time for most teas, even black teas. It has a slightly vegetal smell. I don’t taste the chocolate of the description. I taste…a hint of red wine. It’s not at all grassy, but yes a bit malty.
I like :)
My second steep: this time 3 minutes… Still very smooth, no bitterness at all. Still getting a hint of red wine. Am I crazy – have inadequate taste buds?!?!? I don’t care. This is tasty. The color is a rich brown, though not as dark as a black tea (at least in my green/brown glazed ceramic cup).
Gotta recommend this one for anyone who enjoys an oolong :)
I’ve been having trouble with this one: I bought it hoping it would be a little less intense or touchy than the full on Dan Cong versions, and that it might permit some bulk brewing for sharing with a wider group. It works decently gongfu, but not for the bulk brewing. So for the purpose I had for it, the rating should be low, but as the tea is meant to be brewed, its fine but not fantastic.
2008 Song Zhong #5
Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong from TeaHabitat,
A first brewing of a spectacular tea. I was intending to reach for my 60mL Chao Zhou pot, having planned on a small series of infusions, but without really paying attention grabbed a larger pot instead. So there were fewer than anticipated infusions because the tea was really quite dilute. Despite that, it really shone.
Sweet, scent of dried apricots from the long, thin, twisted, quite dark brown leaves
Used 1.5g leaf in 100 mL clay pot—which as you can see is not much for the size of the pot
205 degrees, first infusion 20 seconds—still that apricot scent, floral in the first infusion, and the flavor matches—stone fruit with flowers. Oh my oh my.
2nd infusion, 45 seconds, sweet, floral, fruity, more intense with the longer infusion. A touch of spice—cinnamon, mace—on the back of the tongue, along with the floral.
3rd infusion, 45 second, more of the same—floral, fruity.
5th infusion, 1 minute—spicier coming to the fore, with the fruity/floral notes still rounding out the flavor, felt more at the sides of my mouth and in the sweet aftertaste. I open my mouth, inhale though it, and the sweet floral taste remains. I set a part of this apart in the aroma cup, and when I remembered it a couple of minutes later, it had cooled, but still, wow!, it was brilliant.
6th infusion, probably 2-3 minutes, more floral and fruity, didn’t drink it slow enough to really process the flavors in great detail.
Setting it aside for a while now, before I float away on this pool of tea inside me.
A 7th infusion again needed more patience. Will go away from the next one for a while, but pour water over the pot to try to keep it hot and brewing….
And 8th at about 6 minutes was clearly demonstrating that the leaves were spent. Sigh. They’re still an elegant mix of red edges and green middle.
Can’t wait to do this one again with the Chao Zhou pot and double the leaf.
Link to my web page version with photos
I’m really enjoying this one in my tiny yixing or late evenings at work. The tea is mellow, floral, a little spicy, and I cannot begin to think how it could have inspired someone to think of duck poop as they prepared or drank it. It’s just too nice a dan cong!
Checking the now fully hydrated leaves (at infusion 8 or 10 or so), it looks like I put in enough leaf to fill the pot halfway when fully expanded. I’ve tried this one with denser packing and that risks a degree of bitterness that I do not enjoy, so I go more dilute for full enjoyment.
Edit to add: I forgot to mention fruity! the late infusions, when it is closing in on ‘sweet water’, still retain a delightful peachiness. If this is duck poop, the duck is laying golden peaches instead of eggs.
Never did finish that previous note, though I did infuse the tea many more times that day.
Last night I had another session with this tea, in a tiny yixing pot, having to let the leaf soften a bit in the first infusion before I could fit the lid on without breaking the leaves. The peachiness kept going until well past the 10th infusion, fruity and floral and delicious.
The package is almost empty, and still never a formal tasting session note. I enjoyed this one for 5-6 infusions in the evening, let the leaves sit overnight in the steeper, and then enjoyed another full day of infusions, floral, sweet, fruity, spicy, complex. One of my tea-buddies said, while enjoying today’s Alishan offering, “this one is nice, but that one yesterday [the Kan Tou] was something else…..so nice I want to wear it as perfume!” Another Dan Cong fan is born….
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.
I haven’t had this tea since summer. There was something about the first day of October and the unseasonably warm rain that seemed to call for Dan Cong. I decided to splurge and filled by little pot (120ml Xi Shi from Tea Habitat) about two thirds full (which is a lot for my budget!). Rinsed as quickly as possible. Then shrimp eyed water. I took two deep breaths and poured. Slip into daydream: In the South where I spent childhood we ate ripe peaches with the peeling on. The peeling adds a very slight dryness without compromising the sweetness. This was the aroma coming from my cup. The aroma seemed to spread out and join the warm rain-cleaned air. I can’t remember how the tea tasted. Second and third infusions, same but three deep breaths; I don’t think I ever broke single digits in seconds, though. The aroma gets heavier: ripe peaches and apricots. The emphasis is still on the aroma, but the taste starts to assert itself. But this is interesting: for the fourth and fifth infusions, the aroma seems to shift to something more floral — ginger flower maybe, but I’ve never smelled a ginger flower that I remember. Definitely less peachy and more flower, though. And the taste is now way up front. More wood and nuts and spice. Dry, spreading horizontal to edges of tongue, brilliant feeling in my throat. I wonder if this one, this infusion, is the tea’s “true” character. I took a walk as the rain withdrew and the back-of-the-throat feel stayed with me. I will try more in the morning.
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!
Sadly finished off this tea tonight, a nice set of last infusions, although the leaf seems to have given up a little earlier than I’d have expected. Sigh.
Have finished or nearly finished a few other Dan Congs from Tea Habitat—soon will be able to justify another order!
A near perfect gongfu session tonight—a little tea, a little gaiwan, tap water about 185 degrees, and many infusions of varying lengths demonstrating sweetness, spiciness, fruitiness, floral essences, over and over in different proportions. It’s been a while since my last Dan Cong session—too long!
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.
Tried this last night in my new Chao Zhou teapot from Tea Habitat, and compared it to a porcelain gaiwan. I’d recently tried one of my other Dan Congs in the Chao Zhou, and that particular infusion seemed to lack a lot of the high notes from the tea, so I was a little worried about that. This is a young pot, having been used only perhaps a dozen times since first seasoning, so I suspected it of taking more than giving to the teas.
As it turned out, I could not tell any difference. Both were fruity, sweet, spicy. I will continue to use the pot and work on its seasoning without worries. But I am almost out of the Po Tou, so there will not be very many more infusions to come.
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.
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.
Today I had a delightful time with this tea, brewed in my gaiwan, and enjoyed for a few hours. Yup, hours. It’s remarkable how much it gives and how forgiving it can be (when I remember to not cook it in too-hot a bath).
There’s something about sipping this tea that centers and soothes. I found calm on a Monday.