14 July, 2007

2006 Huangzhixiang Dancong

One of the great aspects of tea that, for me, elevates it to the heights of wine and cheese is its variety, and the fun to be had in the exploration of its fascinating sub-genres.

Long-suffering readers (bless you) may recall my encounter with one of the corners of the tea-map, the 2006 Huangzhixiang dancong from TeaCuppa. Today's tea was obtained by CB [thanks again] from Royal Tea Garden, and makes for a potentially informative repeat visit to this most curious instance of the dancong area.

Was the TeaCuppa tea an oddity in itself, or is the huangzhixiang genre really that unusual? This "second opinion" is of great interest to me, in building up a so-called tasting memory for the various dancong types.

For notes on huangzhixiang [Cape Jasmine scent] dancong itself, I refer you to the previous link.

Caledonian Springs @ 90C in 10cl dancong pot; ~5g leaf; 1 rinse

Dry leaves:
Twisted, 3-4cm, with a few stems. This is the "second grade", sold by Royal Tea Garden. Mostly dark, with some more lightly-oxidised parts. A light, sweet, floral scent hangs about the chahe.

12s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 30s, 35s, 40s:
Remarkably, this does in fact behave similarly to the TeaCuppa example: it has a sweet, caramel beidixiang, followed by a candy, white-sugar lengxiang - I rather like it. The soup is bright and yellow.

This has none of the frontal ku of the TeaCuppa leaf - here the power remains at the back of the throat, and it makes for a more enjoyable tasting experience. However, the unusual combination of dainty flowers and punchy ku is very much still present, making me wonder if this is the true characteristic of the genre.

It is lightly floral in flavour and scent, reminiscent of small, unforceful flowers of which the huangzhizi is a type.

It has a smooth body, which is quite thin. It turns a corner after the third infusion, which gradually fades gracefully, without the feeling of breaking apart that afflicts so many lesser teas.

I notice that my tendency to get impatient with floral dancong is abating, and by consistently being conservative with my infusion times, this tea stretches well to seven infusions. Usually, I start increasing the brewing time once it "turns the corner", and invariably end up with a fairly strong finish which often cracks apart. I'm learning to treat these end-stages of dancong more carefully.

Wet leaves:
Not the best grade, nor the worst. Quite fragile.

Good for the price, because this is a very inexpensive tea - it's not outstanding, but it's pleasant. A fascinating extension to my tongue's ability to navigate through the maze of dancong varieties.


Anonymous said...

Have you tried different temps for the water? My limited experience with dancong is that it benefits from very low temps. I believe Toki blogged about this before.

Also, in the same vein, have you tried different brewing vessels. My understanding is dancong benefits from thin-walled gaiwans or "eggshell" yixing. It's hard to tell from the picture, but perhaps your yixing is a bit on the thick side?

Hobbes said...


I haven't given these much experimentation - great suggestion. I'll give it a go - I know I'm doing something amiss, but haven't been able to put my finger on it yet.

As you rightly point out, the pot's a touch thick, too, and very porous.

Plenty of variables to tweak...



Anonymous said...

Here is the discussion on "cool brewing" dancong.

Hobbes said...

Hmm, that really is cool brewing. Worth a try... perhaps something to put in our large teapot at long last!

Thanks for the link.



Anonymous said...

expect more Dancong via post before too long.
I use a thin, flat, porcelin gaiwan, something that lets the long spindly leaves lie flat, and try and keep the water around 170 F.


speakfreely said...

Interesting discussion of the cool brewing method.

The differences you note in the dry leaf between this Huang Zhi Xiang and the one from TeaCuppa are the same contrasts that I've experienced between other Dancongs from RTG (all of which start out dark and tightly furled) and more expensive dancongs; the Ba Xian from Jing teashop vs. the one from RTG comes to mind. Both were enjoyable in their own right, but the pretty green leaf and the higher price had upped my expectations for the Jing tea. At risk of a too long "comment", I'll post those notes here:

Both Ba Xian Dancongs hail from the phoenix mountains of Guangdong province. The Royal Tea Garden is a Spring 2006, and the Jing is Winter 2006. The Dry leaf is markedly different; the RTG is much more highly roasted, and the leaves are narrowly rolled and dark brown, with a roasted aroma. The Jing Ba Xian is much greener, with the leaves more open, and smells vegetal. Marked difference too in the liquor color - the RTG is a light amber, whereas the Jing is a bright yellow. Aroma: Jing, highly floral very light, beautiful honeysuckle. RTG: Floral is more mature, like Jasmine, somehow sweeter, and with a heavier, roasted aroma. Jing: smooth mouthfeel, almost bitter at tounge edges. RTG: also smooth, but not as thick, some astringency. Wet leaves show a uniform oxidation in the RTG, with leaves a uniform dark green/brown still tightly curled, and somewhat fragile. The Jing leaves are robust, easily opened, and show partial oxidation, with brown oxidized regions of leaf as well as fairly light green. There is really no comparing two teas which are so differently processed. Both have their merits, and seem to address personal taste differences more than they do "quality".

Hobbes said...

Dear Ian,

I appreciate the offer of the samples, thank you very much. I'll try some gaiwan brewing with them.

Dear Carla,

The Jing teas sound, from your description, to be decent indeed. Don't forget, though, that the Royal Tea Garden samples were only the second grade, and very inexpensive. Have you tried their first grade? It might make an interesting comparison - I've not ordered from RTG before.

Toodlepip both,


speakfreely said...

Have not tried RTG's highest grade yet - it was unavailable when I placed my first order with them. I've wondered myself about the "1st grade" oolongs they are now offering.