The charm of phoenix dancong oolong: ever-changing fragrances and aromas in a cup.
This Winter oolong comes from the varietal Phoenix Dancong. We refer to Dancong oolongs that are picked and crafted in the Winter as “Snow Flake.” All Dancong teas are known for their unique and heightened fragrance, however Winter seems to bring out these essential qualities to the fullest extent: Snow Flake is the most intensely expressed and focused Dancong one can drink.
This Snow Flake is from Qipan Village on Dazhi Mountain, the eastern side and the third highest peak of the Phoenix Mountain range. It is the area where the Dancong varietal originates from; there are still thousands of Dancong tea trees, all more than 100 years old, scattered throughout the tiny villages that populate the mountain range. The peak of Dazhi Mountain has an elevation of 4200 ft.The village of Qipan is located about halfway up, at an altitude of 2300 ft, where the temperatures are more mild. The soil in this area is unique: a type of oil shale that is rich in kerogen and minerals, which produces the particular aroma we find in the Dazhi Mountain teas.
Because the tea is harvested in winter, only tea farms that are located in the middle of the mountainous region, like those in Dazhi, are able to produce a Snow Flake, (the Winter temperatures at the higher elevations are so low that the tea trees do not sprout). During the winter months, the tea leaves are large and thick, that is why we see, in this robust harvest, more concentrated and aromatic qualities than the spring harvests. Snow Flake from Dazhi Mountain is very precious. It is the most well known area for producing this type of oolong, and the conditions it requires are not easily come by.
This Snow Flake is grown and crafted by the family of Lin Zhenfu. They are generational inhabitants of Qipan Village. Lin’s mother and daughter-in-law harvest the tea leaves, and Lin’s brothers craft the tea together. The tea is grown naturally, without fertilizers or pruning, and the leaves are charcoal roasted, then sorted by hand. The craftsmanship of Dancong usually takes more than 24 hours, beginning in the early afternoon, and lasting until dawn the next morning.
There is indeed a glacial clarity to this Phoenix oolong. The scent is distinct and floral, and it carries a sweetness on the palate that lingers for a long time. It is a clarifying tea that seems to etch itself in the mouth like cold air.
It is worth noting that preparing this tea connects us with a very deep part of Chinese tea culture. Chinese tea ceremony is inherited from the city of Chaozhou, where tea is brewed everywhere in the streets, gongfucha style. Phoenix Dancong is the tea traditionally used in Chaozhou gongfu tea. And so, if we would like to consider it, this varietal brings a great history of enjoyment with it, every time we place Dancong leaves in a gaiwan.
The experience of drinking this tea reminds us of a painting by famed Buddhist monk and painter, Shi Tao 石涛, “Returning Home”. In the painting, a boatman rows his boat forward with nothing around him but mountain peaks high above and wild grass far below. Beautiful and poetic, yet sparse with empty space and room for the mind to wonder and contemplate, much like this tea.
This tea has notes of milk custard and cotton candy on the nose. On the palate, notes of muscat raisins, sugar tangerine and macadamia nuts, with a long lingering sweet aftertaste.
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|Steep time||10 - 60 sec|
|No. of infusions||8