Dan Cong Xin Ren Xiang (单枞杏仁香), also known as Almond Fragrance Oolong, comes from a fully certified organic tea garden of Master Huang. It is hand picked from the local Xin Ren Xiang 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. This tea produces a sweet aromatic liquor with a syrupy mouthfeel and a lasting fruity aftertaste. This current batch was harvested and processed in April 2021.
The Xin Ren Xiang name comes from the aroma and the flavour that oolong tea made from these plants develops. While it is translated into English as almond fragrance, it is quite different to the type of roasted almond aroma and taste that the taste buds in the West are used to. Instead this refers to the apricot kernel, which, while is similar to the almond, is quite different in flavour and aroma. It is definitely far removed from the taste association with roasted almonds. 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 Xin Ren Xiang plants are specifically noted for the ability to produce teas with a complex sweet flavour, lasting aftertaste and a syrupy mouthfeel.
The leaves of this Organic Xin Ren Xiang Oolong are smaller in size as the cultivar does not produce very large leaves. It is also less oxidised in order to preserve the delicate flavours. The wet leaf is particularly aromatic with a lightly roasted aroma and a warmly spiced note of apricots. The liquor produced is delicate with a sweet aroma of raw almonds. The predominately fruity profile is floral, gently baked, a touch mineral and creamy. It has a sweet syrupy mouthfeel that also leads to acacia honey notes. The aftertaste has more sweet and fruity notes that are quite clean but very persisting on your palate. As the liquor cools down, it brings out more honeyed notes.
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.