When I decided to get my first Yixing tea pot, I wanted to be a purist and dedicate it to only one special tea. Inspired by a famous watch commercial my mantra is: “You don’t own a Yixing tea pot, you merely look after it for the next generation.”
My goal is to turn this into a generational piece for my kids. I had to think long and hard about which tea to choose. I wanted it to be a tea where I know as much as possible about it, down to the individual farmer who made it.
My pick finally went for a Chinese Oolong tea, Huang Zhi Xiang Dan Cong (Gardenia Dan Cong). I truly enjoy Dan Cong teas, the tea of ‘many tastes’ and I have tasted several varieties over the years. There are 12 main varieties of Dan Cong teas with different aromas and such beautiful names like Honey Orchid, Ginger Flower, Almond, Gardenia and Magnolia.
I picked a tea that is complex, has an interesting aroma and flavor profile and it will be interesting to see how the flavor profile develops over time (and hopefully generations) while using the same Yixing tea pot. I am fascinated by the mystery and the depth of Chinese Oolong teas. I have a similar passion for Wuyi Shan Oolongs.
This is a tea, which I do not drink when I want a quick cup in the morning, but I drink it together with my family in a gong fu tea ceremony. When prepared correctly, with calm and patience, it becomes part of a tea journey elevating the senses which each infusion.
I am fascinated by teas which come from older tea plants with a long root system as I believe that the age of the plant adds to the complexity of the tea and further concentrates the flavor in the leafs. Together with high altitude and an interesting terroir, this makes for an amazing combination.
During some tea ceremonies we enjoyed 8-9 different infusions and the flavor was still rich and complex. The tea has a very balanced and smooth mouth feel and keeps lingering long after we finished drinking it. It almost feels as if the tea tries to build a bridge from one infusion to the other.
This particular tea, made by farmer Li Dongya, comes from the Phoenix Mountain region (Fenghuangshan, 凤凰山) in Guangdong from 100 year old trees and has a sweet and floral aroma.
Going through the infusions, this balance tends to shift, sometimes even towards an orange flavor. That constant change between gardenia, sweet honey and fruity orange flavor makes this tea so interesting.
The tea comes from a higher altitude near Wu dong Shan, where the leaves have been picked several years ago and have been re-baked in a charcoal oven to add to the interesting flavor.
An important part of the Dan Cong tea is the 3-4 hours sun withering process setting the stage for the next, complex steps in the making of this tea.
I appreciate the fact that this tea is coming from a region where tea processing is done on a small scale in a family setting with careful attention to every detail based on ancient traditions.
The dry leaves pay tribute to the name Oolong, like twisted dark dragons with a beautiful and rich floral aroma. As they steep and release their aroma, the room is filled with sweet smells and transmits tranquility and relaxation as we enjoy each step of the tea ceremony.
The infused leafs are fresh and release a vibrant aroma ready for the next infusion. The liquor has a wonderful deep golden and copper color and seems to perform a dance in the mouth while drinking.
I hope I will be able to enjoy many more tastings of what I call my ‘ceremonial’ tea.