Dan Cong tea is a type of oolong that grows wildly in the mountains of the phoenix mountain in the Guangdong province of Southern China. These teas are semi-oxidized, which make the leaves perfect to steep more than twice in one sitting. They have a floral, sweet, creamy taste with a slight earthiness.
The word “dan cong” means single bush, because of the way they’re grown and cultivated. They were never grown in a tea garden where all bushes are short and the same size, and cultivated mostly all year –they grow wildly and as tall as trees.
No one dan cong tea is like another, because of how sporadically they grow. The trees are over hundreds of years old, and may have saved an emperor’s life.
The emperor Zhao Bing escaped to the Wu Dong mountain during a war in the Song Dynasty. He was extremely young and malnourished when local farmers found him. They gave him tea leaves to chew on, which gave him enough energy to get treated.
After his passing at only 8-years-old, this led to the fall of the Song Dynasty, and centuries later during the Qing Dynasty, finally the dan cong tea got the recognition it deserved. The emperor Jia Qing supported the tea production financially, which allowed farmers to plant more bushes.
Oolong teas are semi-oxidized and range from green tea (not oxidized) to black tea (fully oxidized), and grow in many different regions.
Dong cong is grown on bushes that are hundreds of years old, and even new ones are planted near old ones in order to attach to their root system. The phoenix mountains have a range of altitudes, but the highest mountain at 1,390 meters, the Wudong shan is where don cong is mostly cultivated.
Don cong is one of 4 oolong teas. The other 3 are: Tie Guan Yin (southern Fujian), Taiwanese, and Wuyi rock (northern Fujian).
There are currently over 10 popular types of dan cong oolong tea, and new ones are almost always being discovered. Each one tastes different than the next, so when a new one is discovered a farmer will take good care of it. They are usually labeled with their flavors or fragrance -”xiang”.
The 10 other varieties of don cong tea are:
- Mo Li Xiang
- Ye Lai Xiang
- Gui Hua Xiang
- Rou Gui Xiang
- Mi Lan Xiang
- Yo Hua Xiang
- Yu Lan Xiang
- Xia Ren Xiang
- Zhi Lan Xiang
- Po Tua Xiang
- Huang Zhi Xiang
With as many fragrances as there are for dan cong to have, is it a surprise that there’s a duck shit aroma oolong? Although it has a natural honey-suckle smell and sweetness, it was renamed “duck shit” oolong as a joke, but also as a tactic.
A wise tea master once said “Sometimes no good things bear nice names. Look deeper and beyond the surface if you want to find real treasure.” Farmers gave Ya Shi Xiang the new name, because they told the heavy amount of tourists that the yellow color is from all of the duck feces in the dirt, hoping to keep them away from stealing leaves.
Mi Lan is another popular oolong, which is extremely light and sweet in flavor with a honey scent.
All dan cong oolong teas can be steeped multiple times, but can be easily oversteeped. They only need a few seconds to release their strong flavor, and will get bitter after that.
For about 5 g of tea leaves, pour boiled water of 205 fahrenheit over them to open. Immediately pour the water out, and add more. Steep for 3 seconds for the first and second steep, and any steep after that will only need an extra 5 seconds.
These are usually recommended to enjoy on their own, no additives, but sometimes honey would be used as a sweetener to enhance that sweet taste.
The delicate dan cong tea can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge, and are best stored in a tin, iron, or porcelain can. The canister should be filled in order to reduce oxidation.
Generally, most oolong teas may be stored for up to 24 months away from heat, light, sun, and other common tea and spice storing factors.
In about a cup of tea, dan cong may have a moderate amount of caffeine, around 38 mg, which is about 20% less than coffee. Depending on what type of oolong or dan cong oolong, there will most likely be half the amount of caffeine in a cup compared to coffee.
In an 8 oz cup of oolong tea there are about 90 calories, and no cholesterol. This would have about 24 g of carbs also.
Many oolong teas are known for their antioxidants from the vast amount of vitamins in it. There have been studies that show the fluoride content is similar to what dentists recommend to avoid cavities.
It also has manganese, magnesium, potassium, niacin, and sodium. There may be 10 mg of sodium per 8 oz, and 23 g of sugar.
With over 10 varieties of dan cong oolong teas, it’s bound that everyone can find one to love. They’re all named after their scents which can range from pomelo, other fruits and flowers, honey, orchids, almonds. They have light and fruity flavors that fill cheeks and linger on the tongue.
After farmers saved a young emperor’s life with these tea leaves, it deserves to live on for another hundred years. Each new plant grows on the phoenix mountains and on the roots of the ancient hundred year old trees.
They also take seconds to bloom and steep, and can be used steeped repeatedly with each brew tasting more sweeter and fragrant than the last –and kept in storage for a long time.