September 19, 2011

Roasted Dancong

This afternoon I've been enjoying some 11 year old Song Zhong dancong oolong from Jing Tea Shop in this tiny ROC pin zi ni pot originally from Hou De. The pot is probably one of my nicest pieces of teaware; the clay has a sort of viscous visual texture, and the pot has an old sort of energy to it.  The clay's pretty high fired for being zi ni and the details are pretty well-done considering how small they are.  The only problem is that, although it was listed as having a 65ml capacity, its actual volume is only 55ml.  While I don't usually quibble over 10-20ml differences with pots, the difference here comes at that critical threshold that impacts the pot's practicality.  Especially with this pot's flat shape, 55ml is simply to small to use with most tea types; in my experience, even concerted efforts to make use of pots this small almost always results in tea that's less optimal than in slightly larger pots.  I love gong fu tea in small vessels, but if you go too small, you continue shrinking past the point of utility--the tea leaves stay the same size!  Even 65ml was a little on the edge of my ideal capacity; if I'd known the pot was this small I probably wouldn't have purchased it in the first place, but once I experienced it in person it was tough to want to part with it on aesthetic grounds.  So, because the leaves are small and I use a much smaller ratio than with other tea types, I can only use this pot effectively with dancong, which brings up some other issues.

While I do enjoy dancong, I don't keep a lot of it around because I go through it really slowly (I only use about 3-4 grams for 70ml of water, compared to about 6 for pu-erh and 7-9 for most yan cha) and because it's tough to find a tea I really want to drink more than two or three times in a season.  Like most other oolongs, dancongs are getting really green--the flavors, aromas and brewing durability are all pretty incredible, from what I've experienced, but I usually find myself longing for something with a bit more depth.  A good Mi Lan dancong is usually a bit more oxidized, but I've most enjoyed the dancong I've had that undergo at least moderate roasting (surprise surprise).  The floral aromas usually become much fruiter, the mouthfeel changes and, though the brewing durability usually reduces a bit, the tea's just much more up my alley.  And yet, it seems much easier to find green dancong.  This aged tea has mellowed just a bit in its storage, but really I think it's the roasting that makes it most enjoyable to me.  I wish I had more of it and more teas like it so I could use this pot a bit more--Jing Tea Shop's current Song Zhong is obviously much less roasted (though it receives comparatively higher roasting than some of their other qing xiang oolongs).  Anybody know any good roasted dancong teas?  I haven't tried (but am open to) Tea Habitat and am not especially crazy for the dancong I've had from Hou De, but haven't tried much else.


David said...

Hi. Nice teapot. Concerning the roasted dan cong, I am presently visiting the greener ones, so I cannot help you a lot. Tim from Postcards has some very interesting dan cong from Masters Wang and Lin, but I honestly cannot remember if the ones I have tried are very roasted or not. Maybe you could throw him a mail to know if he has some that would fill your needs. The quality of these teas are great.

Chris Birkett said...

I can certainly see how most dan cong would present a problem with such a little pot. Big leaves definitely do not cram well.

It's too bad, I have been looking for a nice high quality little flat pot of 50-60ml for ages, but they are pretty hard to find. Does Houde stock pots that aren't listed on their site?

Elliot Knapp said...

Thanks David, I'll check Postcard out...

I agree, though Jing had a couple of a 45ml pot that looked almost identical to this pot a while back. Unfortunately Hou De doesn't have other stock to my knowledge; it's either feast or famine with their selection, and right now seems to be the most pots they've posted in quite a while. No matter how many they post, though, the good ones are always gone quick! Essence of Tea might be a place to look, and if you email David with your ideal pot, he might be able to find something for you when he goes to Taiwan next.

Anonymous said...

for some good dancong and great prices try they have a good selection and the cheaper ones are higher roasted and compared to the other venders I have purchased from including the ones you mention these are way better especially if you want strong flavor. I recommend the Zhongshan Baiye "White Leaf" Oolong and the Plum Blossom Fragrance ( Mei Lan Xiang)

E. Guzman