Dan Cong Ba Xian (单枞八仙), also known as Eight Immortals Oolong, comes from a tea garden of Master Huang located near Tianliao Village in the Phoenix Mountains at an altitude of approximately 600 metres. It is hand picked from the local Ba Xian cultivar trees that are about 30 years old. This tea produces a smooth fruity liquor with intriguing herbaceous middle notes and a light tannic touch on the aftertaste. This current batch was harvested and processed in April 2021.
This Ba Xian Oolong is know as the Eight Immortals Oolong, named after a group of legendary immortals in Chinese mythology. The story of this plant dates back to 1898 when a farmer took some cuttings and grafted them onto trees in his village. Out of the grafted plants, only eight survived, each eventually displaying a unique shape and appearance. Even though there was a difference in appearance, the quality and taste characters were surprisingly the same among the eight plants. When a visiting official saw the plants in 1958, he made the remark that they were like the Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea. To give the full proverb: Eight Immortals crossing the sea, each reveals divine powers (八仙過海，各顯神通; bā xiān guò hǎi, gè xiǎn shén tōng). The meaning behind this applies to situations where everybody shows their expertise to achieve a goal in common. So with time these plants became known by the Ba Xian Guo Hai name that eventually was shortened to Ba Xian that is most common today.
As with so many other Dan Cong cultivars, or varietals, the original mother bushes are descended from the ubiquitous Shui Xian (水仙) cultivar trees. Many sources indicate that the cuttings taken for Ba Xian were specifically from Da Wu Ye plants (in turn descended from Shui Xian plants). The farmers have then taken cuttings from these trees to preserve the unique nature of the mother bushes in the descendent trees. This has allowed careful selection process to occur over time, which allowed for the desired plant’s features to pass to the newly planted trees. The Ba Xian plants are descended from the original eight mother trees that shared those unique characteristics and made them so prized. Ba Xian is a relatively popular plant and the teas made from it are known for complex aromatic characters.
The leaves of this Ba Xian Oolong are medium oxidised and lightly baked. The wet leaf and the liquor have bakey, floral and tropical fruit aromas. The amber liquor is smooth, soft, fruity and sweet. It starts with stronger baked notes that progress to an intriguing herbaceous interlude in the middle of the flavour. The finish is clean, not overpowering and lightly tannic with notes of tropical fruits.
Brew western style, at 90°C for 3 minutes 3+ times. For best results we highly recommend gongfu style brewing. For gongfu, we recommend using traditional glass or ceramic teaware or a gaiwan. Or you can use your favourite yixing or chaozhou tea pot that already performs well with Dan Cong teas. Make sure to preheat all teaware thoroughly. Use water brought to 100°C and a very high tea to water ratio of 1g per 10ml. We find anywhere between 7g (more conventional gongfu) and 10g (more local chaozhou gongfu style) per 100ml to be a good measure, depending on your taste. As an alternative visual guide, your brewing vessel should be about 75% full with leaves. Start with 10 second infusions for the first 4 infusions. Then start slowly increasing the infusion time after that. You can adjust the quantity of leaf and infusion time to your taste, however the bittersweet complexity that comes through when using the traditional method is very much a desired feature in Chaozhou.
Location of the conventional tea garden of Master Huang:
About our Dan Cong oolong teas from Master Huang.
Master Huang is an expert tea maker and has two gardens (one fully organic and one conventional) growing various varieties of Dan Cong trees. The organic tea garden is located in Gaoyuan Village (高原村) where the trees are approximately 15 years old. This garden is certified organic to EU and USDA standards. The conventional garden is located in Tianliao Village (田寮埔) where the trees are older, with most of them being approximately 30 years old. Both gardens grow a wide variety of Dan Cong cultivars used in making various traditional oolong teas. All trees are only handpicked, with most being picked in April; although the full picking season extends from March to May.
Dan Cong oolong undergoes a complex processing after picking, which starts off with withering in the sun on bamboo screens for 20-30 minutes, generally between 15:30 and 17:30 in the afternoon when the temperature is around 22-28°C. After the initial withering in the sun, the tea is brought indoors and allowed to cool in a well-ventilated place that results in reduction of moisture in the leaves, while increasing the aroma and flexibility of the leaf. This is then followed by a process known locally as ‘touch green’ (peng qing 碰青) where the tea leaves are shaken together to induce cell bruising of the edges of the leaves and achieve light oxidation. This process is done both by hand and mechanically with machines, usually at least 5 times and is repeated every two hours. In between each repetition the leaves are allowed to rest, promoting loss of water, increase in temperature and softening of the cells. Once the desired bruising and moisture reduction has been achieved, the leaves are pan-fried for about 15 minutes to stop oxidation. The leaves then undergo rolling to achieve the classic twisted Dan Cong shape. The rolled leaves are then dried to remove any residual moisture left.
Finally and most crucially the tea undergoes a roasting process, which is the main contributing factor to the variety of Dan Cong flavours. While of course the choice of the cultivar, the picking time and standard and initial processing all play a role in the final taste, the roasting process is really what brings out the wonderfully diverse flavours of Dan Cong teas. The roasting process differs for each tea and some will be more heavily roasted while others will go through a low level of roasting. Generally, the temperature is 90-110°C and the first roasting stage is about 2 hours. The second and third baking would be around 12 hours or more. Each batch of tea would be baked differently in order to achieve the desired outcome. Hence the skills and knowledge of the tea master are paramount in achieving the perfect flavour.