This time we will take a look at the intricate history of this indeed well-known aromatic tea, as well as the processing methods.
When it comes to Chinese tea, there are few and far between which beat the strong aromatic qualities of Dan Cong Oolongs.
Even if you haven’t yet had a chance to try this wonderfully fragrant tea, learn all about it together with us!
What Is Oolong Tea? (In A Nutshell)
Oolong refers to a category of semi-oxidized teas. This means they are between un-oxidized green teas and fully oxidized black teas. They can only be made from certain types of tea bush varieties growing in specific geographical regions.
Phoenix Dan Cong, also known as Fenghuang Dan Cong, is an oolong tea from China’s southern Guangdong province.
Dan Cong Oolong didn’t gain popularity throughout China until the 1980s
The Legend Of Dan Cong Oolongs
The First Legend
This legend begins with one of China’s ethnic minorities, the She people.
It is believed that the She people originated in the Phoenix Mountains of Guangdong province, which is nowadays regarded as the birthplace of oolong tea.
The story stems from a myth of the She people’s ancestor — a part dragon-dog-human being, who had a family with a princess. The mystical creature died by tripping on a vine, which was, in fact, his transformed brother, called Wu Long (Black Dragon), hence Oolong tea.
As a consequence, Wu Long once again morphed into his new form — a tea tree, so that he could sustain his perished brother’s family.
Although She people have eventually migrated to other provinces of China, there is still an estimate of 260 people living in Feng Huang to this day.
The Second Legend
This legend tells of a phoenix bird, which used to live in the Phoenix Mountains, providing tea leaves as food for the ill-fated last emperor of the Song Dynasty.
The oldest tea tree growing in the Phoenix mountains, which is approximately 700 years old, is allegedly from the original “bird beak tea tree” of the Song Dynasty. Nowadays, this ancient tea tree is a popular tourist attraction.
Dan Cong Oolong Production Method
Picking — only the youngest tea leaves are picked.
Wilting — the tea leaves are left out to wilt in the direct sunlight for a couple hours, then further withered in the shade.
Shaking — the tea leaves are shaken to lose more moisture. While traditionally tea leaves were hand-shaken in woven bamboo baskets, nowadays, it is done mechanically. The tea leaves are shaken roughly 5 times, once every hour.
Kill Green — the tea leaves are quickly fired in a hot wok. This step is necessary for getting rid of the grassy green taste that green teas have.
Rolling — the tea leaves are rolled into their iconic twisted shapes. Read more.
Baking — the tea leaves are spread out evenly and baked until dry.
Roasting — the tea is roasted over charcoal up to 10 hours, this is what gives many darker oolongs that slightly toasty taste.
So what makes Mi Lan Xiang taste like sweet honey? Or what gives Ye Lai Xiang that strong jasmine fragrance? The oolongs are never flavored, the aromatic qualities come solely from the tea bush variety, which is what makes this tea type so prized!
Be careful of teas with other unnecessary ingredients. Pure tea should only have the tea leaves (and, in some cases, fruits or flowers), with no artificial flavorings.
How To Make Oolong Tea
Interestingly enough, the gongfu brewing method originated in Chao Zhou city, Guangdong province, not too far from the Phoenix Mountains.
Dan Cong Oolongs commonly have tannic, slightly bitter notes, which they are also favored for. When brewed correctly, these notes are in perfect harmony with the fragrance and sweetness of a quality Dan Cong oolong.
When brewing the oolong tea, decant the brewed tea almost immediately after filling the gaiwan/teapot with water of 195℉.
Of course, the vessel should be packed with tea leaves. For a gaiwan use about 6 grams of tea leaves. After the first few brews start increasing the time by 5-10 seconds. Dan Congs are famous “long-brewers” and can be brewed over 10 times in most cases!
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