Phoenix Dancong tea
Fenghuang Dancong tea (or Phoenix Dancong) is a type of oolong tea from Guangdong province in southern China. Each type of tea has its own history and characteristics, but what makes Dancong special? Well let us tell you...
Firstly, what is oolong tea?
Firstly, a quick mention about what exactly is oolong tea. Many are only familiar with green or black tea as that's what's most widely available in cafes, shops and supermarkets around. Oolong tea however is another type of tea and in simplest terms, can be described as a semi-oxidised tea that falls somewhere between green and black tea.
If green tea is characterised by zero oxidation in its leaves and black tea is 100% oxidised, depending on the type of oolong tea and where it is produced, oxidation levels can be anywhere between 20 to 90%. This partial oxidation along with a few extra steps in the production process results in one of the most complex types of teas around in terms of depth and flavour profiles.
What makes Dancong so special?
Within the world of oolong tea, there are four main types – Tie Guanyin from southern Fujian province; Wuyi rock oolongs from northern Fujian; Taiwanese oolongs; and finally, there's Dancong from Guangdong province.
What makes Dancong special is the unique aroma sub-varieties available within Dancong. There are said to be at least 10 different aroma sub-varieties of Dancong, each with their own unique taste and flavour profiles. And in general, all these sub-varieties fall into 1 of 3 main categories – fruity, floral and herbal aromas. We currently stock the Honey Orchid, Gardenia (or Dawuye) and Almond Fragrance sub-varieties but there are others such as Ginger Flower, Iris Flower, Jasmine and the list goes on.
But the key thing is, and what makes this all so amazingly awesome and special is – there are no artificial flavours, additives or essential oils added to create these flavours. All of these different flavours and varieties come straight from the tea leaves only. One ingredient, no other additives.
Huh? So it's all the same but different?
I guess that's one way of putting it. The word "Dancong" literally means "single stem." If you look at an actual Dancong tea plant, you'll see it differs from your standard tea plant in that they're all single trunk trees as opposed to being long interconnected tea bushes. The whole idea of Dancong teas is that all varieties stem from a series of "mother trees". The mother tree cultivar is the Phoenix Shuixian, or water sprite/water fairy oolong. Most Shuixian oolongs in the market are from the Wuyi mountains in Fujian, however, despite having the same name, the flavour profiles of the ones from the Phoenix Mountains in Chaozhou are quite different. We'll delve into this a little further in a future comparison post.
Wild Dancong trees
So the story goes, back in the day, there was/are a series of mother tree Shuixian cultivars, grown wildly all around. As these grew, got picked and produced into some wonderful teas, the farmers started to notice that certain crops or batches seemed to have developed a particular and unique flavour profile. These farmers would then take a graft from the best trees in the crop and cultivate them until eventually, certain flavour profiles became more pronounced. These flavours then got assigned names such as honey orchid, gardenia, almond fragrance etc. There are constantly "new" aroma varieties being discovered and cultivated but exactly how different they are to the existing varieties is still up for debate.
When we tasted our first Dancong a few years ago, we were amazed by the flavour of the tea and pleasant aftertaste. We noted a lovely, fruity flavour that tasted like lychees and a long lingering finish to the tea. What surprised us even more though was that the tea didn't have any flavourings or essential oils added to it. When we decided to go back to the source of Dancong and visited the Phoenix Mountains in Chao Zhou, we soon discovered that there are so many other different varieties of Dancong teas, each with it's own unique flavour profiles. We've dived head first down the rabbit hole. Our eyes and palettes have been opened to the wonders of Dancong and there's no turning back now.