23 April, 2007

2006 Songzhong Dancong, 2006 Wudong Baiye Dancong

From Royal Tea Garden (RTG), these samples arrive courtesy of CB - many thanks! In fact, they are two of a set of six samples, the remainder of which will appear as we taste them.

[C.f., the RTG eBay store.]

Dancong, of course meaning "single bush", refers to the ideal that one tea derives solely from one bush, without blending leaves from its neighbours. As with many pseudo-appellations in the world of tea (e.g., the infamous "thousand-year-old wild trees" from pu'er), it is used in an uncontrolled fashion, and can be unreliable.

These teas originate from the Fenghuang [Phoenix] mountain area of Guangdong Province, which often causes Western vendors to sell them under the name of "Phoenix Soandso".

This tasting comprises a Songzhong ["Song-dynasty type"] tea, referring to its derivation from either original Song-dynasty plantations, or plantations created from offcuts thereof. Again, take this as a guideline rather than a guarantee.

For comparison comes Wudong Baiye ["Wudong mountain White-leaf"]. Both teas appear at the upper end of RTG's pricing scale.

The Songzhong and Wudong Baiye will be A and B, respectively, and appear in photographs upper and lower, respectively.

10cl gaohuo [high-fire] wulong pot; Caledonian Springs @ 90C; 2 scoops; 1 rinse.

Dry leaves:
A: 3cm, dark, little aroma. Very staid.

B: deep chocolate in colour, darker than A. Typical roasted aroma.

15s, 20s, 25s, 35s, 45s, 50s:
A: An interesting yellow-peach colour in the soup, of fine clarity. Smooth fruity beidixiang turning into a lovely sweet-sour lengxiang.

This is gentle and smooth, with almost no bite. A gentle note of sourness runs throughout, which is a welcome contrast to the light, fruity aspects. The roast (not heavy, by any means), is evident in the aftertaste.

There is a final tang akin to a decent dark chocolate, the only evidence of roasting in this highly sweet tea.

B: More yellow in colour than its cousin. It has the fruits of the other, but appears a touch spicier and more sour. "More complex; higher, more mature aroma." It carries the sourness of tealeaf, with a hint of coffee in the mid-taste.

There is a hint of dryness in the finish that one would welcome from a fine white wine. "A twist of elegant creaminess."

Leaves:
A: Not a great grade, consisting of large segments of larger leaves, with a fair number of bare stalks. The leaves are difficult to unroll, and crumble easily due to their thinness.

B: A fair grade, compared to A. Very green, with a sharp transition to the red oxidised edges.

Overall:
A: Fruit excellence for the first few infusions, fading rapidly around the 4th infusion to a pleasant background of gentle, sour flavours, at which point the roast takes over. This is a stable, robust tea, built of stable, robust leaves, which exhausts its delicate brilliance a touch too early.

B: Complex for the first few infusions, with spicy fruits and butter, balanced with a complementary roast. The entire spectrum of flavours of this tea gradually dims with time, rather than rapidly losing any one aspect. Some teas collapse in one part of the flavour, while this is more a graceful and gradual recession into the water - indicative of a skillful balance of roast and oxidisation on the part of the producer. Enjoyable.

7 comments:

MarshalN said...

Ugh, light dancongs....

I can't say I like that stuff. It's too light for me, regardless of the quality of the tea itself. I can't justify paying that kind of prices for that type of tea. There's always a sort of artificial-ness to the lighter dancongs, for some reason.

Hobbes said...

You know, if anyone was going to dislike a light dancong, I could have guessed who it might be. ;)

Having said that, I think I agree in terms of personal preference - I wouldn't buy light dancong myself.

The association with artificial flavours is interesting - it does remind me of those old stalwart stocks flavoured with jasmine-oil, so I can see where you might be going, though I'm sure the floral notes in these is solely due to the oxidation of the leaf itself.

The genre itself isn't one of my favourites, but these teas were certainly very enjoyable - if not quite noble. Certainly a welcome lightness of a morning.


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

MarshalN said...

Hehe, it's obvious, isn't it?

When are you coming to Beijing?

Philippe said...

Hello,

Nice pictures, nice blog !
I add you to my own blog called "La Galette de Thé" (sorry it's in french...) :http://lagalettedethe.blogspot.com/

Hope you will do the same.
Long live to The Half-Dipper and don't hesitate to write some comments on my blog.

Regards,
Philippe

iwii said...

I have to say I feel a little bit like MarshalN about dancongs...
The fragrance of these teas is interesting, but they are a little thin for my rough and unsubtle tastes :-)
I am always a bit wary when I am finding pineapple notes or other kinds of yellow fruits in a tea, so I understand what MarshalN means by "artifical-ness". It is fun to smell, but I am not too eager to drink them.

Hobbes said...

Marshal,

Amber is definitely coming over Mid-May to Mid-June; I think I'll be skipping this visit, and coming back next time (perhaps autumn or wintertime). It'll be great to catch you if you find yourself back in China around then.


Philippe,

Many thanks for the link! I'm getting back into the mode of reading French after reading Stephane's blog, so I look forward to keeping up-to-date with yours.


Iwii,

Thin they can be, but I don't think I've come across a really good grade of dancong, yet. CB reckoned that these were probably grade 2 (as graded by RTG). It would make an interesting comparison to see how they differ with their grade 1. The chunkier, solid segments from larger leaves certainly becomes evident around the third or fourth infusion.

Then again, a more tippy rgade is going to be *even more* delicate, and thus even more unattractive to you and Marshal, I suspect. ;)


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

MarshalN said...

I have no problems whatsoever with a roasted and reasonably oxidized dancong. It's the green to the hilt stuff that I can't stand...