What is Dong Ding Tea?

Picture of Dong Ding Tea
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If you’re an adventurous tea drinker and aren’t afraid to try a not-so-average flavor profile, then you’ll want to keep reading. We’re going to dive deep into a Taiwanese oolong tea that’s like no other.

So what’s dong ding tea and why is it so unique? This tea has been described as toasty, caramel-like, and nutty, thanks in part to the way the tea leaves are processed. These complex layers of flavor make for a hearty, but very drinkable cup of tea, that will keep you coming back for more.

The origins of dong ding tea

As with many tea varieties, dong ding tea gets its name from the area where it was first grown. Dong Ding Shan (or Dong Ding Mountain) is located in central Taiwan. Although dong ding tea is also grown in areas outside of Dong Ding Shan today, it still pays tribute to its origins with its name.

Dong ding, also known as tung ting, means “icy peak” or “frozen summit,” though the temperatures where the tea is grown aren’t actually that cold. In fact, dong ding tea isn’t even considered a high mountain tea since it’s grown below 1,000 meters above sea level. 

Dong Ding Shan has earned its name due to the mountain’s slick conditions. Dong Ding Shan is cloudy, foggy, and gets a lot of rain. Though it isn’t icy, the terrain can become so slippery that it can feel as though workers are walking on ice.

Dong ding tea dates back approximately 150 years when the qing xin cultivar was first brought to the Dong Ding mountains from China. Residents quickly realized the plant could thrive in the mountains’ conditions and both the farmers and tea drinkers haven’t looked back.

How dong ding tea is harvested

You rarely get a first-hand account of a particular tea’s harvest, but that’s exactly what I was able to find from Wang Family Tea, a family-owned tea vendor based in Taiwan. With pictures and a detailed look at exactly how their dong ding tea is harvested, you’re able to get a full appreciation and respect for the immense amount of work and precision that goes into cultivating this delicious drink.

At their tea farm, tea leaves are harvested early in the day, from around 5 a.m. to noon. No pun intended, but you could say this process is back-breaking work. That’s because one basket of collected leaves can weigh over 65 pounds, which workers must carry on their backs to the road.

Once the leaves are collected they must be dried and processed to induce the oxidation process. Oxidizing the leaves is what differentiates oolong tea from green tea, which is not oxidized at all. But they must take care to not oxidize too much or they risk the tea becoming too dark. Once it has been processed, it can be packaged and shipped across the world.

It is truly eye-opening to read and understand all that goes into harvesting tea and getting it to your door. I highly recommend you take a look at this blog post from Wang Family Tea to not only get a better appreciation for all the hard work that is done to cultivate this tea but to also learn more about the area from which it originates.

A unique taste

If I didn’t get your attention with a description of dong ding tea as, “toasty, caramel-like, and nutty,” then, first of all, I’m surprised you’re still reading. Second of all, there are dozens of other tasting notes out there that may pique the interest of the more adventurous tea drinkers.

  • Hearty, complex, and robust
  • A bouquet of roasted vegetables, pine, and smokiness
  • Sweet corn, nutty and fruity notes
  • A tangy, heady finish with some astringency

It sounds like more of a Thanksgiving meal than a cup of tea, but that’s what makes it so intriguing! It can be enjoyed all year long, but makes for an especially appropriate drink in the fall and winter months and especially around the holidays.

Tea with benefits

Not only is dong ding tea delicious, but it actually boasts some health benefits too! It may be the perfect drink for the holidays, but for these benefits, I just may have to drink it year-round.

Reduces inflammation

Your immunity can get a boost thanks to the vitamins and antioxidants in dong ding tea, helping to lower the risk or effects of infection and inflammation.

Accelerates weight loss

Dong ding tea isn’t a weight-loss potion, but drinking it can give your metabolism a jolt and actually reduce the amount of fat your body absorbs. It’s also a zero-calorie drink, so you can sip it without worrying about it adding to your waistline.

Better digestion

Dong ding tea can be great for improving digestion, especially if you experience indigestion.

The best way to brew dong ding tea

Brewing dong ding tea is quite simple and doesn’t require any special equipment, though you are welcome to use a clay pot or gaiwan if you have them. The rule of thumb for dong ding tea is to use 6 grams of tea leaves for every 8 ounces of water. You’ll want the water to be around or just under boiling, which is 212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius.

Brewing can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes, depending on your preference. You’ll get about 3-4 uses out of the tea leaves before having to start fresh. Once the tea leaves have fully uncurled, you’ll know you’ve had your last steep.

Don’t pass up the opportunity to try this tea

If you’re ever offered dong ding tea or have the ability to purchase it for yourself, it will be well worth the cost. It is easy enough to find from online tea retailers or you may even be able to find it in a local cafe or tea shop. If it doesn’t end up being your thing, it makes a fantastic gift for the tea-lover in your life!