Dan Cong Shui Xian (单枞水仙), also known as Narcissus or Water Sprite Oolong, comes from a fully certified organic tea garden of Master Huang. It is hand picked from the local Shui Xian cultivar trees that are about 15 years old and are grown under perfect organic conditions near Gaoyuan Village at an altitude of approximately 600 metres. It undergoes heavier lengthy baking to produce a classic roasted liquor. This current batch was harvested and processed in late April 2021.
Shui Xian Oolong is the ubiquitous cultivar for roasted oolong teas and it is grown both in Guangdong and Fujian Provinces. Shui Xian translates as ‘narcissus’, ‘water sprite’ or ‘water lily’ in English and is known for a distinctive flowery honey aroma and flavour. While there are many references to Shui Xian originating in Wuyi Shan of Fujian Province, there are a few others who think that this plant was brought over to Fujian from Guangdong a long time ago. There doesn’t seem to be a particular consensus on the exact origin of the Shui Xian cultivar and on whether the two cultivars grown in Guangdong and Fujian are actually the same plant. What is certain however, is that the Dan Cong cultivar trees grown in Guangdong are descendant from various original Shui Xian mother trees. The Shui Xian style of oolong tea is known for a more roasted profile, making it somewhat more similar to some of the classic heavier roasted teas from Fujian.
This Organic Shui Xian Oolong has dark twisted leaves that have a higher degree of oxidation and roasting. The heavier baking level is very much a classic feature for a Shui Xian Oolong and this produces a comforting roasted flavour. While the roasting is heavier, it is still well-balanced, without overpowering the rest of the taste. It may be quite pronounced if you are not used to roasted tea or if the harvest is particularly fresh. However within a few months of harvest and roasting, the flavours do balance out quite nicely. In addition to the roasted flavours, the liquor has notes of tangy stewed fruits, sweet tobacco and a lightly mineral top note. The aftertaste is smooth, not as long-lasting as with some other Dan Cong teas, having a tart and lightly mouth-watering quality. This one will definitely appeal to fans of the more roasted style of oolong!
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 organic 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.