Dan Cong Bai Ye (单枞白叶), known as White Leaf 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 Bai Ye cultivar trees that are about 30 years old. This balanced tea develops a smooth profile with pronounced fruity notes and a tangy finish. This current batch was harvested and processed in March-April 2021.
This Bai Ye Oolong is named after the cultivar that this tea is crafted from. These Bai Ye plants have a lighter green young leaf growth that appears to give a whiteish appearance to the trees. Hence these plants have earned the descriptive Bai Ye White Leaf name. 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. 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 Bai Ye plants are not very common but produce teas with characteristically fruity profiles that are hugely appealing!
The leaves of this Bai Ye Oolong are medium oxidised and not very heavily roasted. The wet leaves give off an inviting fruity aroma that translates to the fragrance of the liquor. The taste is balanced, with the floral and roasted notes being present but a little more muted. Instead this tea delivers plenty of fruity notes both on the taste as well as the aftertaste. The flavours start on a lightly baked, sweet rich fruit notes. These then progress to a tangier, mineral lasting aftertaste that still has lychee fruit notes. There is a touch of tannins at the very end, which is reminiscent of a flavour of a light fruity red tea you might find in one of the Taiwanese tea shops.
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.