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A few years ago when I first tried Phoenix Dan Cong, it was incredible - the leaves were bursting with flavour and life, and for a while after nothing else compared. We've recently started sourcing our Dan Cong from a new farmer (Mr Huang) and so it's only appropriate that we lay down some initial tasting notes.
As always, we're using a 100ml gaiwan and our trusty gong fu cha tea set. This is the traditional method for brewing this tea, but remember you can use a mug or teapot and adjust accordingly. Water is just off the boil (around 95 degrees C) and we've used 7g of tea.
The dry leaves are similar to many Wuyi Rock Teas I've seen - indeed, the processing is very similar. They're quite big leaves (as you'll see below) and well preserved, with a nice dark brown colour mingled with golden streaks and hints of green, which indicates a medium roast. Let's get stuck in!
As always, a short first brew tends to be more rewarding. We steep for about 30 seconds, and I take a huge sniff of the leaves in the teacup. The aroma is sparkly and alive, one of the main reasons I love Dan Cong teas. A pitfall we look out for with this tea (and many others) is a strong aroma that doesn't translate into taste. Our first brew is fairly light, the leaves are still quite tightly wound - I'm getting hints of grape alongside the classic oolong taste, but none of the bad bitter/tannic taste that often ruins Dan Congs. Let's crank this up a bit!
Immediately the second brew is much, much wilder than the first. We steeped for 1 minute this time, and I'm suddenly tasting a huge range of tastes - basil, coriander seeds and turmeric among them. There's a slight dryness coming out, the liquor is a deeper orange this time, and it's packing just the right level of flavour without being overpowering.
The third steep we go the same as the first - the leaves are fully opened now, and it's a re-run of the 2nd brew to be honest. Very strong in flavour, very intense, although this time a bit more 'nasal' (I can taste the flavours predominantly at the back of my nose). It reminds me of a cure that a Chinese doctor recommended for blocked noses - brew a red tea ridiculously strong, and then deeply inhale the steam. I can feel it opening up my airways quite nicely!
This tea is like a walk through a crowded Chinese or Indian city market - noise, colour and fragrances fly at you from every direction, and it's just a pleasure to be in the middle of it all. The tastes are very 'Indian', spicy and piquante - so different from other oolongs which often have milky or woodsy themes. Love it!
Tea for me is all about that "aha" moment when you try a truly great tea for the first time. I live in Fuzhou, China and enjoy anything that helps me appreciate Chinese culture more (currently tea, martial arts and history books!). Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org