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Recent Tasting Notes
I had an absolutely incredible tea experience today. I recently found out that Imen, who owns and runs Tea Habitat, offers private tastings in the Los Angeles area. Imen is considered the foremost authority on Dan Congs outside of China. We talked for 2 hours about tea, and tasted 6 different varieties- 2 blacks, a pu’er, a Wuyi oolong, and 2 Dan Cong oolongs. I ended up purchasing this one and a black that we tried. The tasting itself was only $25, and considering the quality of the tea, and the time she spent with me, an absolute steal. I got to enjoy a nice dim sum lunch at one of the most popular dim sum spots in LA, so it was a nice afternoon.
As for this tea, I was surprised by how much I loved it, as I thought I would prefer the Dan Congs we tried. But, this was incredible. It has a rich, spiced wood flavor that I could not get enough of.
3g in 225ml gaiwan
boiling water poured on sides, avoiding leaves
uncovered & sipped grandpa style
Dry Leaves: light brown leaves large, mimicking flaked layers of wood chip
Dry aroma: sweet, very ripe fruit
Wet Leaves: olive green, fat stemmed leaves & twigs
Base: sweet ginger
Throatiness: fiery and lasting
Quenchless: punchy, bursts in the cheeks, on the roof mouth, tip of the tongue, bowl of the tongue, back of the throat, glowing ball in the belly
Chaqi: rush up to eyes and makes the hair stand on end, keep drinking to be the center of world spinning
2014 Lao Cong Honey Orchid dancong, from Tea Habitat
Prep: 60cc gaiwan, full of leaves, boiling flash infusions at first. After infusion 5, dropped temp to 190 and increased steeps out to chase flavor
Sessions with this tea: 4
Taste/fragrance: I’m going to start combining these categories for dancong reviews because what’s even the point of reviewing the taste of a dancong, is all about the aroma.
When I was growing up in North Carolina I used to have to walk to the bus stop through my little town. Half my walk was along the edge of the woods, and there were these big honeysuckle bushes that grew by the road. On spring mornings there would be dew covering everything, and when the sun was coming up the flowers would put out this thick sticky sweet smell which went with the humidity in the air to create a feeling like being trapped in a fragrant patch of thickened air. I would walk over and pick some of the flowers and pluck the stamens and lick them as I stood and waited for the bus.
This tea has the real deal. It’s thick and layers in the room. I can smell a citrusy fragrance pervading the room, when I put the soup in my mouth and inhale I get the honey, almost like tupelo honey, or honey with little bits of orange rind chopped in. As the tea steeps out the citrus fades into the stickier sweet honeysuckle bush. If you let the tea soup cool down, this is the flavor of the tea as well. I didn’t much enjoy this sticky sweet flavor, so I just drank it very hot.
Body: light and smooth together, very effervescent mouthfeel and “bright” energy
Summary: Easygoing but really good dancong
Prep: 100cc gaiwan full to brim with dry leaf, boiling water, flash infusions at first. About 10-15sec for 4 and 5, and then dropped temp to 190F and steeped out as long as necessary to chase the flavor.
Sessions with this tea: 6
Taste: I don’t understand the flavor, because I’ve not had anything really comparable. At first I wanted to say lemon-lime like 7-up. Plus it had that effervescent and high fragrance feeling of dancong. Then it settled down to like fresh pear with some spices mixed in. It was fresh and floral the whole way without being overly sweet, which is nice.
Body: medium, effervescent feeling, bright. Really delayed buzzing energy.
This tea steeped out for a really long time. I would say this is relatively beginner friendly, but the price! Also I don’t know if this one is still available.
1g in 120ml gaiwan lasted 3 days drinking it per:
1, preheat utensils (cup or pot)with boiling water
2, add dry leaves IMMEDIATELY upon emptying and cover lid
3, shake utensil in circular motion (not up and down) occasionally for 1 minute
dry leaves gave up the smell of peaches & nuts
tasted like http://www.teanerd.com/2009/03/2008-da-wu-ye-jiang-hua-xiang-dancong.html
“Fragile ginger flavor and a sweet aftertaste”
“Gentle brewing seems to help with this tea”; so my mindless random steeping times led sometimes to astringency
“wonderfully delicate … not the most complex or the most powerful tea, but it does not waver in its subtlety or clarity of flavor.*
“Phoenix tea is one of the most difficult tea to brew. No matter a light, medium or high fired; aged, new harvested; Ming Cong, plantation; High mountain, low river side; Rock based, or just plain red earth….etc. " teachat Postby TIM » Jan 7th, ’09, 16:20
宋種 (Song zhong) varietals = 鳳凰 (Feng huang)
水仙 (Shui xian)
Class (by quality) :
1) 单枞 (Dan cong), meaning single bush, is the highest grade due to careful selection from the vast number of Phoenix Shui Xian trees. In the past, these single bushes were harvested and processed one tree at a time. Today, single bush processing is still very much practicing and strong, averaging 3 lbs production per tree, the tea doesn’t travel out of the country across the sea much, if at all.
2) 浪菜 (Lang cai), good grade of fresh leaves were used, and processing is slightly more complicated during the fermentation step than for Shui Xian.
3) 水仙 , low grade of fresh leaves. and less careful processing.
This review is for the 2014 harvest.
While this is a dancong, it resembles a pouchong because of the floral notes and brightness. Yet at the same time it as the characteristics of a roasted oolong because of the color. The darker color doesn’t add any notes you would expect though which was quite a surprise as I was expecting a stronger tea. To be honest: This is one of the most gentle cups of tea I’ve had in a long time. Between the mouth feel and taste, this is a beautiful leaf. The liquid has little aroma and the taste is very delicate. This is one of those teas you have to drink slowly and think about the taste right after to realize exactly what you just tasted; unlike stronger teas that kind o punch your taste buds.
Tea Habitat being included for the 2nd or 3rd group buy in 2016… maybe :)
Years ago I was given a jasmine oolong from Guangdong, that was one of the teas that set me on my tea journey. It was wonderful mix of jasmine scent and oolong fruitiness. Over the years I have suffered through many jasmine scented teas looking for that tea. They are always the same — over powering jasmine perfume that completely covers the tea. Until now. This tea is what I’ve been looking for all these years and its not even a scented tea — jasmine never touched this tea. The fragrance of the liqueur is like walking through a garden and catching the smell of jasmine in full bloom. But the taste is a slight cream with the orchid taste fans of Dan Cong oolongs love. Jasmine flavor follows, but the quality of the tea shines through. Mouth feel is wonderful with long satisfying after taste. A gaiwan will make the jasmine more pronounce while a clay pot gives you more fruit and a subtle jasmine — a Chao Zhou pot gives you a wonderful balance of fruit, cream, jasmine, & orchid.
I have tried all different ways of brewing and drinking this. The flavor I brought out was wonderful, but nothing like the depth and richness brewed into it by Imen, at Tea Habitat. I clearly haven’t learned to brew tea yet.
Brewed from water stored in a clay vessel, and into a clay water pot, over a small clay charcoal stove, into a teapot made from clay from the same region as the tea…..well, it creates a layer of flavor and depth to the tea that must be tasted to be believed.
Earthy, full, and grounding. 10 plus infusions still yielded a tea that still had wonderful flavor, as it lessened in color. Brewed Gongfu style in a Yixing tea pot, it is said to be able to take 20 plus infusions and still be flavorful, even when brewed clear in color. The effect of this tea is felt on the whole body, as you drink each infusion you may notice different effects.
I always really enjoy this. It’s wonderful, and the people I share it with agree. It’s not hard to brew, either. Good to the last possible sip, and the aroma in the cup is still something I linger over, when it’s done.
I use a Brita filter on my faucet, and for many things, it’s fine. But for the oolongs I have been exploring, the water seemed to be getting in the way. I’m so over bottled water, and I don’t live by a stream……So lately I have been using a piece of bamboo charcoal in the kettle, when I boil water for tea or miso soup. It seems to act as a filter, and also mineralize the water, to some extent. It’s made a huge difference, with the results being amazing pots of tea. Should have tried this long ago.
Just got started with this one, a little late in the day, so it’s going to have to wait overnight for a full tasting. The first couple of infusions, leaf enough to fill my little yixing Dan Cong pot about 60% full at this point, and water about 195 degrees, were quite brief—pour in, pour out. They show layers of sweet floral flavor, peach and lychee, quite delicate and lovely, and promising for more tomorrow.
Several more infusions, still mostly quite brief—had to dilute on accidental minute-long infusion several fold to get back to the concentration that makes me happy, and it did make me quite happy. Sweet, fruity, floral, but not the degree of spiciness that I associate with my favorites of the Dan Congs. More when I’ve reached the bottom of this tea….
Edit again: I never finished the post, but I did finish the tea—the leaves stopped making interesting infusion somewhere between the 20th and 25th infusions.