Scanning the landscape of Fenghuang Shan, or Phoenix Mountain, instead of familiar manicured rows of tea garden bushes, you will find endless groves of trees. Located in eastern Guangdong, this mountain range produces oolongs that are unique and striking as its name. Collectively called “Dan Cong”, or “Single Grove”, each of the 80 distinct varieties mimics a specific fruit or flower fragrance.
Dan Congs have been known to be cultivated as early as the 7th century. The best of these teas still carry this heritage. Among the mountains in the Phoenix Range, Wudong Shan is most revered, for direct descendants of the original wild trees continue to thrive on its mountainsides.
Each of our Dan Congs harken from Wudong’s older groves, growing at elevations upwards of 1100 meters above sea level.
Dan Cong, or “Single Grove” refers to the unique growing and crafting methods that give individual Phoenix varietals their distinctiveness. Each cultivar is the end result of generations of selective breeding to isolate specific flavor and aromatic profiles. These tea trees are then only propagated through grafting to ensure those profiles do not change. They are also typically grown and harvested from a common garden or grove.
Oxidation levels vary among Dan Congs to complement the inherent fragrance and flavor of their leaves. Tea makers may lightly oxidize tea leaves to around 20% for “qing xiang” or “green fragrance”, to preserve bright floral or citrus qualities, or push oxidation to a heavier 30% for a more traditional style “nong Xiang” or “strong fragrance”, to enhance thickness, complexity and finish.
After the ideal oxidation rate is achieved through withering and rolling, the leaves receive several light charcoal roasts.
Pedigree, age, and elevation will determine a quality Phoenix oolong.
Older Dan Congs from preferred lineages are more complex in flavor. Elevation is a factor as well, as only higher elevations sustain these older trees.
Leaves of younger plants will be more fragrant, while leaves from older plants create more robust and nuanced infusions, but are subtler in aroma. Unlike other teas, astringency is not necessarily a good indication of quality. These teas are notoriously finicky to brew. Some of the bitterness is desirable in any case, as a good Dan Cong will have a pronounced “hui gan” or long, bittersweet finish. It should also have smoothness and clarity, and depending on the variety, notes of lychee, nut, florals or citrus.
A Phoenix for Everyone Mi Lan Xiang
Our Rarest Phoenix Song Zhong
The sweet honey notes of Mi Lan Xiang will please almost anyone, but for the truly rare, our Song Zhong has the perfect balance of florals, fruit and honey notes, with one of the longest finishes we've experienced in a tea.