dan cong - quality, favorites and vendors (yunnansourcing?)
since my go to vendor is usually yunnansourcing i was wondering how you – more experienced teaheads – would rate their dan cong quality.
since i cannot really afford dan cong from teahabitat i am looking for alternative sources. just got a new 65ml chaozhou teapot so im eager to try some decent dancong and brewing it CZ style. it doesnt have to be highest tier quality but it should be on some level with my CZ teapot. (whats the point in spending 100$+ on CZ teapot if you brew cheap tea in it)
i have also read that many dan congs get (secretly?) flavored nowadays. do you think this is the case with dan congs on yunnansourcing? are there better alternatives in a similar price range?
also which ones are YOUR favorite specific samples?
thanks in advance for an answer
I haven’t had as many Dan Congs as I’d like, partly since they’re pricy and partly because, like you, I’m concerned that they’re artificially flavoured.
I think Yunnan Sourcing sells middle-of-the-road Dan Congs. I haven’t had any of their high- or middle-mountain offerings, which typically sell for $1 or so per gram. Of their more affordable Dan Congs, I’ve enjoyed the Ling Tou Village Bai Ye, Wu Dong Chou Shi, regular Ba Xian (there’s a high-mountain version I want to try), Hou Zhong, and Jiang Mu Xiang. I was less impressed by their Zhong Ping and Rose Aroma Dan Congs. I have no idea whether these teas are artificially flavoured, but they don’t go flat after a couple steeps, which is supposedly a sign of tampering.
I’ve had nice Dan Congs from Camellia Sinensis (their 2010 Mi Lan and 2017 Man Lou Xiang), a reasonable Ya Shi from What-Cha, and a solid Mi Lan Xiang and Almond Aroma from Tao Tea Leaf. I also just purchased a Mi Lan Xiang, Old Bush Ya Shi Xiang, and Ba Xian from Wuyi Origin, which I look forward to sampling. The owner sells these teas directly from her farm, which should mean they’re of decent quality.
I’ve heard that other good Dan Cong sources are White2Tea, Bitterleaf, Verdant Tea, and Tea Hong, but haven’t had any of their products.
Enjoy your Chaozhou teapot and feel free to post some notes on your Dan Cong adventure here on Steepster!
I forgot to add that if you like black teas, you should give Yunnan Sourcing’s Bai Ye Varietal Black Dan Cong a try. It’s full of citrus, sweet potato, and brown sugar and is well worth the price!
Honestly, I generally like Yunnan Sourcing’s dancongs, though they can be a bit hit or miss from offering to offering and from year to year. Are they the highest grade Dancongs you can get? No, for the most part, they probably are not, but if you are new to Dancong, you don’t need to worry about blowing a ton of money on stuff that is supposedly the highest quality available. Instead,focus on getting a grasp of as many types of Dancong as possible. Yunnan Sourcing’s dancongs would be fine for that purpose or as reliable daily drinkers. That being said, some of their stuff is a little higher end, but if I were you, I would just focus on picking up some solid value offerings that will help you get your feet wet. Personally, I would start off with some of the more common dancongs. Yunnan Sourcing’s King of Duck Shit, Da Wu Ye, and Honey Orchid Mi Lan Xiang would be good for someone just getting started with Dancong. I’m also a big fan of their Song Zhong, Bai Ye, Cao Lan, Ju Duo Zai, Old Tree Shui Xian from Feng Xi, Zhu Ye, and Zhi Lan Xiang.
Also, remember that quality is subjective. Just because some vendors sell teas that are ridiculously highly priced and supposedly of the highest grade available does not mean that you will enjoy those teas or that they are what they are marketed as being. Try what you can afford in order to discover what you like. Drinking tea shouldn’t be some elitist race for hipster credibility where you try to search out the rarest, most expensive, and supposedly highest grade teas so that you can lord your spending power and so-called sophistication over the masses. Not saying you’re trying to do that, but I see this sort of pathetic, geeky snobbery a lot in tea drinking circles. What’s the point of spending tons of money on small amounts of a few teas you’ll probably blow through quickly when you can get a lot of reasonably good or better teas to try over a longer period of time? Choosing the second approach allows you to familiarize yourself with more varieties so you can get a better idea of what you like and what you don’t, and it also won’t eat through your wallet. With regard to dancongs often being secretly flavored, I have heard that’s the case, though I have also seen a number of vendors, wholesalers, and other industry folks dispute that claim. Basically, unless you were right there while the tea is being finished, you will never know. Supposedly, the practice is so widespread and has been for so long now that even many of the higher grade teas get scented/flavored. Yunnan Sourcing claims that their dancongs (at least the vast majority of them) are not flavored in any way, but again, who really knows? The tea world is full of drama and shady practices. Farmers and vendors will misrepresent the age, provenance, and even variety of teas they sell. All sorts of things (flavoring, blending, etc.) are done to mask the quality of lower grade tea in order to sell it for a higher price. Vendors are also not above trying to get your business by either exaggerating certain questionable practices and accusing their competitors of engaging in them in order to call their integrity into question or by accusing their competitors of being unwittingly duped by their sources, and thus calling into question their experience and competence. These sorts of practices are all too common. Basically, with regard to the flavoring issue, you would never know, and I guess it’s best to just not worry about it.
Eastkyteaguy, I agree with your recommendation to sample a wide array of Dan Congs. I seem to go after the rare varieties without having tried the basics. (Maybe that’s tea snobbery, though I hope not.) Your list of Dan Congs made me check the YS site to see if they were still available. Unfortunately, the Cao Lan, Ju Duo Zai, and Zhi Lan Xiang are all from 2016 or 2017, and the Song Zhong and Shui Xian aren’t exactly daily drinkers, though they’re on my wish list. I hope I can find affordable versions of these teas somewhere or that YS decides to restock them.
I love affordable teas that I can drink regularly, but there’s something to be said for splurging on small amounts of the high-quality stuff, especially if you drink a lot of that tea type. I just had 7 grams of competition grade Tie Guan Yin from Yunnan Sourcing that retail for $5.50, and in my opinion, it was worth it. I think it gave me a benchmark for what good TGY can be, although I wouldn’t want to have it every day. I wouldn’t say the competition TGY that sells for $30 for two ounces is three times better than the premium TGY that sells for $10 for two ounces, but it’s good enough that I’d consider buying it for special occasions. However, if the poster is just starting out with Dan Cong, I think the more affordable options will let them experiment and figure out what they like.
I wish the tea industry were more transparent and that the price better reflected the quality, but I think most businesses exaggerate to some extent.
Wuyi Origin sells really good Dan Cong: https://www.wuyiorigin.com/collections/phoenix-dancong
I can’t compare it to Yunnan Sourcing’s versions because I’ve never tried Dan Cong from them. At a guess it’s much better, but that’s just a guess. Looking around at selections from both the general range of 50 cents / gram isn’t uncommon, with less costly versions also available through YS.
The real question is if their higher end Dan Congs are comparable, and only trying a few would make that clear. Seeing reference to “balanced bitterness and astringency” in their descriptions doesn’t seem promising, to me. It’s commonly accepted that Dan Cong versions have a characteristic astringency, but when you try better versions they tend to be more full-bodied and rich in feel but not astringent. Take it for what it’s worth though, just one person’s opinion. I don’t buy much for teas that cost 50 cents per gram myself, because of how my tea budget works out.