Feng Huang Da Wu Ye Dancong

Feng Huang Da Wu Ye Dancong - dry leaf

This is the other half of the pair of Oolongs I recently bought over at House of Tea.

The raw material shares several characteristics with that other tea – both were hand picked in the Winter of 2017 in the Wudong Mountain area of Guangdong province having grown at 600 metres above sea level.

These leaves, however, are of the Da Wu Ye (Big Black Leaf) cultivar, and were lightly oxidized during production.

The dried leaf had a fair bit to say for itself, being sweetly floral but with a hint of pungency.

After a few seconds in the warmed up gaiwan a sweet mineral aroma with a side order of not-quite-ready-to-come-out-of-the-oven oatmeal biscuits was thrown into the mix.

Steeping method
Water Used: Filtered tap water
Weight of dry leaf: 6 grams
Infusion style: Gong-fu
Steeping vessel: 150 ml porcelain gaiwan
Water temperature: 95°C
No. & duration: 10 infusions of 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 60, 90, 120, 180, and 300 seconds duration

Before sipping the first infusion I had a sniff of the wet leaf. “All aboard the Rainforest Express“, said the heady fragrance of orchids.

Feng Huang Da Wu Ye Dancong - a cup of

Those first few sips were a bit surprising, insofar as the floral aspects were a tad muted. Instead, the liquor was fruit candy sweet, with a dark green vegetal aftertaste.

Right out of the gate the body was deliciously unctuous, and I had to vigorously shake the chemistry beaker I sometimes use as a surrogate gong dao bei in order to dislodge the last drop as it clung limpet like to the lip.

Those lovely big leaves presented no problem as far as gaiwan technique was concerned. As there was little chance of them slipping out between bowl and lid I was able to use a fairly large gap, and get a nice quick, well controlled pour.

The expected flowers were delivered on the second round, with a couple of extra bouquets worth thrown in for good measure. The body just kept on getting slicker with each passing infusion.

The tea’s Qi was a slow builder, but by the time the 6th. round rolled by I was in a sentimental, nostalgic kind of a groove.

Two steepings later darker notes were coming to the fore, as well as a subtle hint of astringency. By this time I was having to ramp up the infusion times in order to keep the train on the rails, but the tea was still hanging in there, just. The tenth round, a 5 minute steeping, was when the session finally ran out of steam, and I had to admit that I’d coaxed out all the leaves had to offer.

Feng Huang Da Wu Ye Dancong - used leaves

In the end I think that this was one of those sessions that are kind of like the tea drinking equivalent of an open question. I came away with some intriguing ideas for follow up sessions.

These leaves, as I mentioned early on, share several important characteristics with the Oolong I bought at the same time – geographical origin, season of harvesting, and the elevation they grew at, and yet they were quite distinct from each other. Broadly similar, but noticeably different. It’s kind of got me wondering what exactly is behind their similarities as well as their differences, how much, say the soil and climate they were nurtured in has affected the way they perform in a pot, and how much of it is down to the two different cultivars’ physiological properties.

I suppose the first step would be to have a joint session with the two of them to more accurately get a feeling for their respective merits when compared side by side, and then repeat the experiment after tracking down teas that are produced from the same cultivars but in different locations.

A new set of rabbit holes to dive down.

Watch this space, etc…

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