The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement


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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby ABx » Sep 12th, '09, 13:15

I too give Imen more credibility, but it's because of what she does and the research she's done, and know some of the things she's written in the past. More than just going to Feng Huang Shan and watching it being made, or calling her tea master (which I've learned only seems to result in "...and heard a line of BS"), she's gone and talked extensively, grew up in the area, and does a lot of research - don't forget that she's even translating a book on Dancong.

I don't think she handled the situation very well, but if you strip away the argumentation, she makes some pretty solid points. I think that without the argumentation, the conversation would have gone like this:

Roy: "Dancong really refers to bushes with a single trunk. Each tree only produces a few kg of leaves, not enough for a harvest."

Imen: "There are many different strains used for Dancong, many that don't have a single trunk - here's some pictures. It's true that a single bush only yields a few kg, which is definitely not enough for a commercial harvest, but those very small single-bush harvests are done. Those 3kg batches come from famous trees such as the x, y, and z trees. Those batches are very rare and expensive, and many don't leave Chaozhou. These trees are also propagated naturally, rather than being cloned, which makes each batch unique."

Roy: "I called Mr. A and Mr. B and they said there's no way a single tree could produce enough for a commercially viable harvest."

Imen: "Of course not, but we're not talking about a commercially viable harvest. There are different grades of DC, with single bush at the top down to Shui Xian. For commercial purposes the bushes are cultivated asexually and harvested the same way most other teas are harvested. Just like other teas, however, the best grades are something very different and special.

Just like the famous DHP trees, there are [less] famous DC trees that produce very small harvests, usually done as a small family operation for the love of tea rather than for the money. Most of the time you cannot find these teas available commercially. Travelling the countryside I've talked to people such as [name], [name], [name] who produce small batches from trees such as the x, y, and z bush; in fact I am drinking some from the x bush right now, which was on the... [...] see these posts I wrote a while back on my experiences in Feng Huang, the differences between trees, and so on [a bunch of links]"

The bottom line is that Imen specializes in DC, where Roy is a generalist. There's a lot of misinformation out there, but Imen has really done a lot to get to the bottom of things. If you look back through her blog, and even through her online store, she knows exactly what bush her trees come from - even if it's a bush that's 3 generations down from some famous bush. The pictures she posted were pretty strong evidence in and of themselves, but I think that if she had a cooler head then she would have been able to present a lot more proof. I don't fault Imen, though - we all lose our cool from time to time :)
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby Salsero » Sep 12th, '09, 14:12

Great translation, ABx. Thanks. The translation I would like to see for the future of their conversation would be:

    Roy: Oops, I guess I got some of the facts wrong.
    Imen: Sorry I took it so personally and blew my cork.

On the other hand, I think Imen read Roy's initial post (as did I) as a direct attack on her. Maybe it wasn't intended that way, but they reside in the same area of the world and I find it difficult to imagine that Roy is not aware of Imen's shop and blog.

Maybe he didn't intend it to be an attack on her, but it's hard to imagine that she would not take it that way.
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby ABx » Sep 12th, '09, 14:43

Yup, I agree, Sal. I suspect it was aimed at her as well, but who knows. I'm quite sure that I would have reacted just the same as Imen did, if I was in her position (it's easy to see how a cool head would prevail in any situation that you're not actually involved in, and it's not like either are pro spokespersons). At this point it really does seem like he's just sticking to his guns to avoid embarrassment, which really is too bad. Maybe he will come around at some point :(
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby gingkoseto » Sep 12th, '09, 15:09

There are overall very few vendors (<20?) specializing in real single tree dan cong. If someone claims such tea doesn't exist (which, I believe, is not even controversial, but simply wrong), this statement is aiming at those a dozen or so vendors. I am sure every one of these specialist vendors would be offended and even feel insulted upon seeing it.

If someone says there is only blend dhp, no real dhp, I guess no one would care at all, because there are so many dhp vendors, then who cares about who says what :P
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby Intuit » Sep 12th, '09, 15:37

I wonder if there isn't a bit of mishmash of terminology here.

Fujian and nearby Guangdong DCs are cultivated as single trunk trees, pruned this way for harvesting ease. Because the canopy is constrained, the yields of a single plant will be less than a bush that is left to natural growth patterns or lightly pruned in the traditional manner.

The story of tea: a cultural history and drinking guide
By Mary Lou Heiss, Robert J. Heiss, 2007, p, 155-56.

Phoenix Mt Dan Cong tea bushes are often cultivated AS VEGETATIVE CLONES using the single trunk pruning method. Single TRUNK trees. Genetically identical with same phenotype (expressed genes) as parent stock. You don't see that much genetic variation. Genetic variation = change in allele expression rate in next generation offspring produced by normal reproduction when compared against parent stock, NOT observed to any great extent in vegetative cloning unless you change in culture conditions to which the tree must adapt) when trees are planted in same/very similar soils in the same valleys with near-identical micro-climate growing conditions. Sports (mutations) occur, but the trait has to be stable (gene mutations are carried through in propagation) and expressed in sufficient yield in offspring to make a difference in product qualities.

Imen's store is very much about high-end DCs, specializing in aged/rare teas, with small production yields, carefully handcrafted teas that command high prices in select circles, mainly the monied SoCAL crowd. Atypical online tea clients.

Maybe TfT sells the larger production run, cloned DCs, which are now MUCH more accessible than they used to be to overseas markets, thanks to vegetative cloning methods applied widely throughout the tea industry. You can call of a grove of these vegetatively produced trees 'single bush' production and be technically correct, because genetically, they are identical or very, very nearly identical.

Imen's store just got national news coverage. Maybe some ego bashing going on.
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby Intuit » Sep 12th, '09, 15:53

You can clone the venerable granddaddy trees just as easily as you can the newer, normally derived (hybridized) subtype variants. You'll know the pedigree and as long as you don't vary the culture conditions signficantly, the genetic variation from parent bush/tree won't be significant...with one important exception between younger and older tree plants.

This is where Imen's teas may have the upper hand.

Tea plants express their genes in selectively maintained ('puffed' or loosely wound DNA active region of active gene expression vs tightly wound and inaccessible-to-expression regions nearby) chromosomes, as do many, many organisms, where gene expression patterns change a function of age. Mature tea plants stabilize gene expression at a couple of decades in growth, much of it in response to root mass and its stable, chemistry, that is afforded by terminal bug population development, following staged colonization by microbes over many years.

In other words, as the plant increases in size, new roots move into 'naive' soils. New rootlets hairs with attached bug consortia physically and chemically alter the soil micro-environment. Some of the attached bugs 'mine' soil microminerals SLOWLY, and make these available to the plant. The plant in turn produces necessary compounds that the bugs need but don't make themselves. At some point, the plant has a very large root mass and deep roots, especially if the canopy remains unpruned (the root mass grows in relation to leaf demand, sunlight, water, etc). At this point, gene expression in the plant becomes stable.

A young vegetatively cloned grove of say, 10-15 yrs, isn't going to have the same leaf qualities as the mature parent of 100-250 yrs growth. Furthermore, tea leaf quality appears to be a function of hardship - tough oxidative conditions and poor quality, thin mineral soils. If a farmer uses a lot of fertilizer to promote increased plant yield, it may affect nitrogen cycling, leaf quality, pathogen/insect susceptibility and impact product flavors. Nutrient availability/timing and form may make a cloned offsprings leaves different with respect to growth habit and chemistry, but not necessarily, change in gene expression.
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby teaskeptic » Sep 12th, '09, 16:33

It's about time something like this happened. So many vendors, so much contradictory information.

Any kind of dialogue amongst vendors is a good thing. Especially if it's public.
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby ABx » Sep 12th, '09, 18:49

Intuit: MOST teas are propagated as clones, but the high end Dancong is not.

Also, if you take a look at Imen's pictures you'll see that there are several varietals used for Dancong, and they are definitely not all grown the same.

You might want to take a look through her blog. She offers a lot of background information about Dancong - both commercial and high grades.
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby Herb_Master » Sep 12th, '09, 19:48

Tim, I was going to suggest Ginger, as Tea Gallery, Imperial Tea Court and Imen all do a Ginger Xiang.

But :!: :!: I must have dreamed your post and it's suggestion - ? Or has it just disappeared into thin air ?
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby Oni » Sep 13th, '09, 03:50

http://www.sevencups.com/2009/07/2009 oolong-tea-tour-podcast-original-dan-cong-tea-bush/ , I think you need to watch this movie, this clearly proves that there are harvestable Single bush DC`s, and there if you observe on the ground they are cloning it, and if you look at the other video podcasts, and read about it, many tea producing areas have old bushes that are harvested separately, An Ji Bai Cha old bushes, old Long Jing bushes (around 3000$/100 grams only on auctions), DHP bushes (8000$/10grams). There are teas that never hit the big market, they are reserved for the bigwigs from china.
The real problem is with the big companies that produce bad quality tea that are not worthy of the famous name they give the, and they do not respect the simple farmer who make much better tea, worthy of fame and they remain unknown, and sell their tea cheap.
If you watch ALL IN THIS TEA - by Les Blank and David Lee Hoffman, you will find out the truth why it is so difficult to find the great chinese teas.
As a final word I don`t like people who call themselves teamasters so they can better sell products, and it makes me angry when they give misinformation to sell their bad products, and I have great respect for Akira Hojo who visits the local teafarmer, even takes pictures personally and buys teas that are worthy to bare the famous name (he ended my quest for Tai Ping Hou Kui, I bought many samples, and all were "commercial" compared to his tea).
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby OolongWang » Sep 14th, '09, 03:09

Here is another video on how tea is bought and sold in Phoenix mountain. I am surprised how poor some of these communities are.

http://vsearch.cctv.com/play_plgs.php?sref=tvprogramme_20080429_6222402&ref=tvprogramme_20080429_6222402

Incidentally there is quite a lot of information on the internet which would answer the question on how is right in this debate; however since the answers are in Chinese you would have to get someone who knows the language to answer them for you.
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:D
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby Herb_Master » Sep 14th, '09, 06:48

OolongWang, thanks for the link, it was utterly fascinating watching it

http://vsearch.cctv.com/play_plgs.php?sref=tvprogramme_20080429_6222402&ref=tvprogramme_20080429_6222402

I don't understand the chinese, :( but just watching was compulsive.

So many little pointers, to pick up on.

I was pleased to see the lady fanning the Chao Zhou stove, I have tentatively started fanning mine, to speed it up, now I shall do it more robustly.

The pyramid of different sized Chao Zhou teapots was impressive, and some of the shapes of teapots looked very desirable.

I thought the tea picker girls in native costume were charming, the headdresses they were wearing looked interesting.

Near the beginning a second substance was put in with the tea leaves before giving some tea for the older lady to taste - what was this substance ?

Near the end 2 seemingly venerable men were tasting some tea where the leaves looked smaller and thinner - was this aged DC or something else ?

Many more cameos of delight, the buyers walking off with their purchases in 3 different containers was amusing.

I hope someone with a good grasp of chinese can point out any words of meaning that may be of interest.
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby OolongWang » Sep 14th, '09, 10:27

Herb_Master,

l will try and give some information on the scenes of the video:-

In the first scene, the buyer asks the tea producer what is the price of fenghuang dancong this year and receives the reply that it is 40,000/- yuan but he is sold out. The buyer takes out the money to show that he is a genuine buyer in case the producer changes his mind. There is no sale. The buyer doesnt speak with the producer in the local Chaozhou dialect so it means he is from outside the district; on the other hand his Mandarin has no northern twang, so he is also from the South probably Cantonese.

The buyer goes to another producer and concludes a deal. Before he leaves he asks whether they have anything of better quality. The son of the producer brings out a tin of his best much to the dismay of the father. After the buyers leave, the commentary is about how young people nowadays dont keep the best like before but prefer money. The father says the younger generation likes money more, preferring to sell and then go to town and start a tea shop.

The substance they added to the tea leaves is honey. The impression I got is that the woman takes the tea leaves as well. The commentary says this concoction is good for coughs and for relieving 'heat'.

I didnt notice the two venerable men at the end drinking tea. I shall look at the video again and let you know. Also if there are other videos like this mentioned in Chinese tea sites.
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby Salsero » Sep 14th, '09, 12:47

Thanks very much, OolongWang, for the great video and the even better explanation of what is happening in the video!!

Also, welcome to TeaChat. Hope you will join us many times again.
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby xuancheng » Sep 14th, '09, 14:20

I translated most of that video on my blog somewhere and posted links to it last year, maybe. Its a funny video, and I wonder how much of it is acted. Especially the drama between the father and son later in the video.

I think maybe some of the confusion about the word Dancong stems from learning new words in a new language. Sometimes there are homonyms that mean entirely different things. Sometimes one term has different connotations for different people. Dancong is used in various tea making areas to refer to slightly different things. To some, it can mean tea made from one single bush. To some it can mean made from the same generation of clones, essentially the same bush.

I think it can also refer to the method of propagation. Many gardens in Anxi, Taiwan, India and other places have rows of bushes, whereas another garden type has each bush separated from the others. To some tea growers, dancong may indeed mean a single bush with a single trunk. To others, it may mean a single bush with many trunks like many of the dancong bush pictures I have seen, including the ones Imen posted.

To say that dancong only refers to this one shape of tea bush is somewhat pedantic and wrong. There is no one single specific or correct meaning for the term dancong as it pertains to all of the participants in the process of creating all the way to finally retailing tea to the consumer.

I do think that Imen's definition of dancong is exactly correct as per the term as it relates to her the retailer and us the consumer. It is limited production fine tea from a single bush, or from a small section of clones of the same generation originally taken from one old mother bush. To say that this sort of dancong simply does not exist (no one bush can produce enough, for example) is sort of a direct attack as ABx suggested on a person like Imen who expends a lot of energy to buy these very expensive teas and retail them. It is extremely difficult to retail teas of this quality because of the cost of wholesale, and many people can't do it, or just won't because the profit is not high enough. Most of my experience with tea shops has been that the retailer sells for 3-5 times the wholesale price in quantity much greater than Imen's high grade stuff. I have run into a lot of tea merchants who refuse to admit the existence of higher quality teas than they are willing to sell.
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