May 15, 2010

Fragrant Orchid Dan Cong Oolong

It wasn't all that many years ago that I remember thinking that Dan Cong Oolongs were just about as good as it gets when it comes to Chinese tea's. Ive since changed my ways. I occasionally will pick up a small quantity just for a change of pace. I bought this at my favorite local tea shop "The Steeping Room"  I still enjoy the ocassional Dan Cong but "a little go's a long way"  in my book. I think the best thing Dan Congs have going for them are their aroma's.

This Dan Cong is no exception, the aroma's are not shy in the least. Osmanthus florals, spice, honey and bitter hop's. Dan Cong's that are not heavily oxidised / fermented before being roasted tend to have a greener finished leaf. It's those green leaves that are providing the bitter hop's flavor and aroma. It's a good thing the hop's are there because otherwise this would be a really one dimensional tea. The bitterness is providing a contrast to the sweet floral's in the cup. The flavors follow right along with the aroma's. Honey sweet  florals and spice. Aromatherapy in a cup!  Brews to a deep golden color with good clarity. Not all that durable, by the fourth infusion it's well on it's way out. And by the way, there is no mistaking a Dan Cong that's on it's way out, the flavor doesn't just fade out gracefully as with most tea's. It typically becomes quite astringent and puckery with a chalky mouth feel.

What I realized about Dan Cong's after drinking them for so long is that they are all flash and seldom is there anything substantial underneath, no depth what so ever.  In other words there is very little in the way of complexity in the cup. Now.......I,m not talking smack about em or anything, just calling it how I see it. I admit that there has been exceptions and Ive had some sublime Dan Cong tea's but for the most part they are a really good smelling cup of uninteresting, superficial tea.


  1. I've definitely tried some dan congs that, like you described, were "all flash"...a strong but somehow fleeting aroma with little to back them up.

    On the other hand, I also found that I thought these teas lacked depth and complexity when I wasn't steeping them long enough. I can't remember who it was, but I definitely remember reading on a tea blog someone describing their favorite ways of steeping dan cong, and they were describing steeping lengths of 12 to 15 minutes for many teas.

    Curious, I went back and tried this and I was surprised to find some new depth come out of the same teas that I thought were mostly just aroma. Surprisingly, I've found some of these can hold up to multiple very long infusions...most other teas are completely spent if you brew them as long as 15 minutes.

    How long are you steeping these?

  2. Hi Alex, Dan Cong tea's have a reputation as being tricky to brew and it really varies from one tea to the next as to how to approach them. Most Dan Cong's I use the traditional gong fu method, lot's of leaf and very quick infusion times. Your right in that some tea's can tolerate extended steepings and bring out flavors that would other wise remain undiscovered, some tea's cannot tolerate this. This particular tea is one that is a good quality but nothing really special. Dan Congs can be weird in that the aroma's and flavors can be sublime but at the very core of it there is just a dry and astringent, puckery backbone. Once that initial sweetness has been exhausted it's finished, further infusions become harsh and unpalatable. But having said that, I still appreciate a good Dan Cong every once in a while. Jing's Tea Shop has some exellent examples of top notch Dan Cong's, if you can stomach the price.