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Holy Mountain Trading Company - Dan Cong Single Trunk Oolong Teas

Holy Mountain Trading Company - Dan Cong Single Trunk Oolong Teas

Dan Cong Phoenix single trunk tea tree  Lydia Kung 2012 The Chaozhou district in Guangdong, home of Dan Cong single trunk oolong teas, borders Fujian province. The Chaozhou dialect is not mutually intelligible to Cantonese or Mandarin speakers. Its cuisine is known for local specialities such as crunchy pickled vegetables, small chicken dumplings made with thin wraps of egg whites (instead of dough) and tied with scallions, crispy noodle cakes served with sharp vinegar and sugar on the side, traditional braised goose, and a rich warmed taro paste and gingko nut dessert. The Chaozhou area also is renowned for its intense and aromatic, quality oolong teas.
The Single Trunk (Dan Cong) tea trees are so tall that it is necessary for the workers to bring ladders to harvest the leaves, plucking on the outer edges of the tree to obtain the new flush. The tea season begins early here, in late March and April, when the leaves are at their peak; although plucking will continue into the year, the quality of the tea is not considered to be as good as the spring picking.
Dan Cong Phoenix single trunk tea tree (closeup)  Lydia Kung 2012

The tea leaves from the trees (as compared to those usually produced from tea bushes) are large, and after withering they are tossed by hand, and shaken on large bamboo trays. This is an alternating cycle of tossing/bruising/resting, necessary to break down the cell walls. They are then placed into (bamboo) mechanical tumblers. There is rolling afterward and drying (2-3 stages).

Fresh harvest of tea leaves from Dan Cong Phoenix single trunk tree  Lydia Kung 2012

At each stage of the process a worker determines personally by touch, aroma and taste when to end one cycle and begin the next. All depends upon the weather, ambient temperature and humidity, therefore optimum handling/resting cannot be determined by mechanical methods or through the use of timers. The experienced tea master judges the duration and sequence of each step of the technique.
There are about ten varieties of Dan Cong but they all share that zest and full aroma with a long lingering finish. Although they have no floral bouquet, the better quality Dan Congs may hint of a peach or apricot, caramel fruitiness.
Dan Cong is ideal for brewing in a gongfu pot or cups; steep about 1/2 minute for the first infusion, 1 minute for the second, and so forth. The tea really blooms and the first four infusions all taste quite distinct. It also is good at room temperature when the weather is warm.
Dan Cong is one of our favorite teas, and it pairs well with desserts.
Photographs courtesy of Lydia Kung