The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement


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The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby Herb_Master » Sep 10th, '09, 18:36

Learning about Tea, especially in my case for Oolong can be aided by the Internet. When I started researching on the internet, someone on TeaChat said I should add it to WikiCha - but I demurred because there seemed to be several contradictions, and many of them were contained in verbose paragraphs which were repeated like for like on different websites.

Now here we have 2 highly respected (among many Teachatters) vendors who have blogs.

And the 2 blogs are in disagreement about the importance/meaning/significance of the name 'Dan Cong'

Clearing Up a Common Mistake: What Dan Cong Really Means

http://camelliasinensisblog.blogspot.com/2009/09/clearing-up-common-mistake-what-dan.html

and the disagreement - with super photos of Dan Cong trees

http://tea-obsession.blogspot.com/2009/09/whos-mistaking.html
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby tenuki » Sep 10th, '09, 20:54

This is the price of knowledge.
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby gingkoseto » Sep 10th, '09, 22:29

What the CS blog said is not entirely wrong (about dan cong is not always "single bush"), but obviously this is very misleading - "there's no way a single bush could generate a marketable quantity of tea, even if you killed it by stripping off virtually every leaf!" Not only misleading, but it also seems too much self-assertion.

About dan cong, it's worth noticing that the plant asexual propagation technology had huge impacts in production of dan cong (similar impacts are seen in dhp and other teas).

Historically (before 1980s) dan cong is written as 单枞, which literally means single bush. As Imen demonstrated, there are surely bushes that generate enough leaves to produce small amount of tea, sometimes more than 1kg, sometimes less, but never mass production, and that's why the real single bush tea is precious and expensive.

Nowadays, very often dan cong is written as 单丛 (as used in CS blog), with the second character 丛 different from 枞。After talking with some tea vendors, I got the impression that it's an unwritten rule that if a tea is produced from NOT a single bush, but asexual offspring trees of ONE originally parent bush, the tea would be called 单丛, instead of 单枞。枞 means one bush (tree), and 丛 can be interpreted as a group of bushes (trees). Therefore 单丛 can be interpreted as Single Bush Group (because it's not a single bush, but a group of bushes propagated from a single bush tree). That is why there are so many song zhong dan cong products nowadays - many of them are not fake, but they are offspring of the real song zhong bush.

Theoretically, asexual offspring inherits the full set of genes from the single parent, and therefore is genetically identical to the parent tree. That is why many such products are also of high quality. But usually they are not as prestigious as the real single bush - at least they don't have the quality from old age, and very often the offspring is grown at other locations and doesn't have the exact local environment of the parental tree.

I do appreciate modern propagation technology, which allows more high quality tea to be produced as single bush group. But in nature, no two organisms are same, so most of the time, propagated offspring can't catch up with the quality of the parental tree (but of course they have a good compromise of quality and affordability).

Besides, in tea world, there are many terms with multiple interpretations and there are many opinions that hold at least part of the truth. It's really dangerous to use one single opinion to falsify other different opinions.
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby Wh&yel-appr... » Sep 10th, '09, 22:40

Herb_Master wrote:Now here we have 2 highly respected (among many Teachatters) vendors who have blogs.

And the 2 blogs are in disagreement about the importance/meaning/significance of the name 'Dan Cong'

Clearing Up a Common Mistake: What Dan Cong Really Means

http://camelliasinensisblog.blogspot.com/2009/09/clearing-up-common-mistake-what-dan.html

and the disagreement - with super photos of Dan Cong trees

http://tea-obsession.blogspot.com/2009/09/whos-mistaking.html


Interesting, the camelliasinensis blog entry is posted by "Victoria"... not by Roy Fong, the owner and reputed "tea master".

Imen is showing scanned photos of a book produced by her mentor, you can all her a disciple or protege...perhaps, she mentions the correct Chinese title on her blog, she is one of 4 that her tea master instructs, the other 3 live in China. So I would guess Imen's info is likely more accurate. You can read about her desire to translate the book into an English publication on her blog...work in progress.

All though, perhaps if Roy Fong where to comment, there may be some clarification and admission of mistakes made in wording on that 'official blog' of Imperial Tea Court.

Link to Roy's 'bio' :) on this site:

http://hawaiiteasociety.org/index.php?o ... 8&Itemid=2

He's certainly a famous enough guy, but doesn't mean he knows everything about ever aspect of every area that grows tea around the world. He grew up in Hong Kong.

Imen grew up in the area that is where the DC tea she sells is coming from, IIRC. Guess I should read more of her blog, to find out more about her tea master. Wonder what qualifications there are for being called a 'tea master'?

There is another 'celebrity' tea master here in the USA, his family has been in the tea business *much* longer than Roy Fong... perhaps I shouldn't be so cavalier in my usage of the term 'tea master' on these forums :p

Can't find the original article as it appeared in the local 'Daily News' paper, so link below:

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/DR.+TEA+T ... 0151924359
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby Wh&yel-appr... » Sep 10th, '09, 22:49

gingko wrote:Nowadays, very often dan cong is written as 单丛 (as used in CS blog), with the second character 丛 different from 枞。After talking with some tea vendors, I got the impression that it's an unwritten rule that if a tea is produced from NOT a single bush, but asexual offspring trees of ONE originally parent bush, the tea would be called 单丛, instead of 单枞。枞 means one bush (tree), and 丛 can be interpreted as a group of bushes (trees). Therefore 单丛 can be interpreted as Single Bush Group (because it's not a single bush, but a group of bushes propagated from a single bush tree). That is why there are so many song zhong dan cong products nowadays - many of them are not fake, but they are offspring of the real song zhong bush.

Theoretically, asexual offspring inherits the full set of genes from the single parent, and therefore is genetically identical to the parent tree. That is why many such products are also of high quality. But usually they are not as prestigious as the real single bush - at least they don't have the quality from old age, and very often the offspring is grown at other locations and doesn't have the exact local environment of the parental tree.

propagated offspring can't catch up with the quality of the parental tree (but of course they have a good compromise of quality and affordability).


Good points as usual Gingko. But are there any certified, 'original trees available on the market? Other than through auction? Recalling Nixon was miffed because on his initial visit, he was given such a small amount of tea

However, a clone is a clone. After many successive clones, there is research to say that there comes genetic mutations or genetic 'drift'.

I suppose the 'original' original Da Hong Pao tastes better than the clones, guess most of us will never know, and even then there are more than a single bush of these :p

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_m ... _the_world

...The original Da Hong Pao tea trees are over 350 years old. In 1972, Mao Zedong gave President Richard Nixon 50 grams of this tea during his visit to China. As the story goes, Nixon was apparently insulted with such a "small" gift. That is, until someone pointed out that 50 grams represented 50% of all the Da Hong Pao harvested that year.


Of one of my favorites of Imen's the '08 Song Zhong #5, you can read her site descriptions, saying this is sibling or such/

This is one of the "children" of the mother Song Zhong tree which died in 1928. It's over 350 years of age, sibling of Song Zhong #6 which I sold out a while back, also sibling of Song Zhong #4.


And if you have enough $$$, you can email Imen about purchasing the entire year's production of a single tree :D... oh, to be a high-roller.
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby entropyembrace » Sep 10th, '09, 23:08

About genetic drift in clones...If that didn't happen we wouldn't exist! :lol:

Every time the cells divide there's a chance for error...so in the case of a tree cloned from a cutting perhaps a single mutation from a random copying error gets copied through an entire branch of a tree as it grows, then you make a cutting from that tree to grow a daughter tree and now you have a mutated clone.

I say we wouldn't exist without random errors in the copying of DNA during cloning because many 'primitive' organisms reproduce asexually...by making clones of themselves. :)
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby Herb_Master » Sep 11th, '09, 05:31

Ouch OUCH!

Roy Fong has now disparagingly (of Imen) responded on the Camelia Sinensis blog.

I fear what is marketable to a company, and what can be achieved by one small farmer, one teamaker and one small purveyor may be 2 different ball games - - -

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

Postby Tead Off » Sep 11th, '09, 06:41

Dan Cong wars?? :shock:
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby CynTEAa » Sep 11th, '09, 09:36

This topic is so interesting. I'm hoping to enhance my understanding of Dan Cong (preferably without unpleasantness - but the passion is admirable.) My own scant knowledge is in line with Imen's position.
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby gingkoseto » Sep 11th, '09, 09:41

Herb_Master wrote:Ouch OUCH!

Roy Fong has now disparagingly (of Imen) responded on the Camelia Sinensis blog.

I fear what is marketable to a company, and what can be achieved by one small farmer, one teamaker and one small purveyor may be 2 different ball games - - -

- - - otherwise :?:


To be honest, I thought the initial writing was too blunt and his tea master would slap his ass for it :oops:

I don't think mis-information is a big deal - it's common, and there are always on-going controversial tea issues. But it's not nice to claim others' products are not legitimate just based on one's own limited information.

I've never bought any tea produced from single bush and I've never seen dan cong production, but this doesn't prevent me from being aware of existence of such tea. As a science major, I couldn't help noticing that CS blog's responses are short of direct arguments.

If CS (or Roy) want to prove tea produced from single bush doesn't exist, they should focus on demonstrating current records of dan cong parental trees are wrong. Most prestigious dan cong parental trees' biological history is recorded and each of the trees has a name and physical address. It seems Imen's book includes such records. Besides books, there are many photos and records from informal sources about histories of these trees and how much tea each tree produce every year. These trees are not hard to track. In order for CS to scientifically support their opinions, they should comment on the existing records. Quoting tea masters' comments is not a direct way to support their opinion. For many other tea debates, there are not many documents to track. But not for this issue so why not scrutinizing the documented information first.

Besides, whether or not the big trees (as showed in Imen's photos) can produce dry tea up to a kilo, some people's answer would be yes (and the supportive materials include annual records of individual trees' production). CS's answer is no and they argued even though a tree looks big, the fresh, harvest-able leaves may not be enough to make 1 kilo of dry tea. Then it will help to support their opinion if they can further explain, for example, how much leaves can be harvested from a big dan cong tree, in harvest season, what kind of leaves are qualified for harvesting, and how many such leaves can be obtained from such a tree, and then how much dry tea this will lead to - a ball park figure will help. Otherwise, I will have difficulty understanding why such a big tree can't produce more than 1 kilo dry tea.
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby Pentox » Sep 11th, '09, 10:52

I'm actually rather surprised by Roy Fong's response to Imen's post. It's a rather poor argument when you look at it.

The first paragraph contains an Ad Hominem ("I am sorry, but when is last time you actually made some tea?"). I'm rather curious what constitutes "enough fresh leaves to be produced into dry tea" to Mr. Fong. Technically couldn't you make tea from a small handful of leaves? As an aside, Sugimoto's spring run for Temomi-cha only used 3 kg of fresh leaf for their production run of Temomi. While I don't believe that this was harvested from a single bush in their case, it does go to point that you can make tea from a relatively small amount of fresh leaf.

The references to calls in the second paragraph are also interesting because aside from a laugh he doesn't actually say what Mr. Wang Kung Fu said. Mr. Chang of Yunnan Tea Import & Export apparently had a bit more to say, even to say that a single bush could produce a kilo or two of wild leaves.

What I think is going on here is simply a difference between what is marketable. This is really noticeable if you look at the DC offerings from their respective websites. Imperial Tea's Old Bush Phoenix is from "tea bushes that are well over 50 years old." Where as Tea Habitat's 2008 Song Zhong #5's tree is "over 350 years of age". The price difference in these teas reflects it as well, $12.60/oz for Imperial Tea's $56/oz for Tea Habitat's. I believe what Imen offers at Commercial Dan Cong is equivalent to Imperial Tea's offerings and Roy is arguing that you can't produce those from a single bush. Imen's I believe is simply offering a more unique and higher offering truly single bush teas that Roy is not discussing.

That's my thoughts.
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby entropyembrace » Sep 11th, '09, 16:37

He could just say marketing rare and expensive single bush dancong doesn't fit his business model and we could all go about happily...but from my perspective it looks like he's saying something more like rare and expensive single bush dancongs don't exist because they don't fit anyone else's business models either...with the implication that Imen isn't selling what she claims to be veiled behind his statements.
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Counting trunks

Postby Salsero » Sep 11th, '09, 20:40

A small apology or at least a correction would be nice from Roy Fong. The whole idea of counting the trunks coming out of the ground seems a little nutty, and Roy does not defend that statement at all while Imen has the photographic evidence.

It's one thing to be wrong, it's much more serious to attack others.
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Re: Counting trunks

Postby Pentox » Sep 12th, '09, 05:35

Salsero wrote:A small apology or at least a correction would be nice from Roy Fong. The whole idea of counting the trunks coming out of the ground seems a little nutty, and Roy does not defend that statement at all while Imen has the photographic evidence.

It's one thing to be wrong, it's much more serious to attack others.


I agree with Sal completely here. Roy's latest comment has a very condescending feel to it. It's odd because Imen is providing hard evidence, and Roy's response seems to be that they should stop arguing because solid evidence is being provided? Also it's odd how he just keeps saying that it's not practical, but it seems like that is exactly what Imen's model is.
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Re: The meaning of 'Dan Cong' - vendor disagreement

Postby Herb_Master » Sep 12th, '09, 06:12

A word of caution before we get carried away criticising Roy.

I am a repeat customer of Imen's and out of a sense of loyalty / familiarity felt instant indignation when reading Roy's reply but, firstly Imen started the 'attack' and Roy may have felt angry also.

Something stirring at the back of my mind clicked with the single trunk idea, and an image in my mind of the trees in Fenghuang as opposed to the bushes of Min Bei and Min Nan. When trying (and failing) to discover the origin of Shui Xian I came across the notion several times.

Mary and Robert Heiss subscribe to the Single Trunk explanation/translation for Dan Cong. Pages 155 and 156

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=3NBtM5aAAGgC&lpg=PA156&ots=dnbN7y1gYs&dq=dan%20cong%20tree%20bush&pg=PA156#v=onepage&q=dan%20cong%20tree%20bush&f=false

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Perhaps in the heat of the moment, our 2 friends are talking from different heated standpoints.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Latin, Ancient Greek and many other dead languages are fixed, but living languages evolve and change, and words take on new meanings ( I still don't appreciate when you youngsters describe something as 'sick' - if you mean good or bad :D )

It is possible - realms of unsteady hypothesis here :oops: - that originally Dan Cong meant Single Trunk 'and still should'

BUT

that because each tree until cloning started (which was fairly recently) was unique, with different flavour profiles, that encouraged where viable the processing of each tree seperately. This essential step in discretely analysing and appreciating the lone tea tree/bush for it's own merits has a great appeal to the serious Dan Cong student and can seem an easy way in how the term would evolve a different meaning, which is now an acceptable usage because we are talking about and in a living language.

since cloning and the needs of commercial enterprises we can see how Single Grove can come to be an acceptable usage of the term Dan Cong.


So How
- Perhaps Dan Cong - tea - is really - only a class of tea made from true descendants of the original 'Shui Xian' trees, that has been made in the Dan Cong fashion. The Anxi Tie Guan Yin process has a different number of processing steps to the Yan Cha process, maybe the Dan Cong process has a recognised production pattern which helps to make it a Dan Cong?

It could then be all of the above, Single Trunk, Single Grove and Single Tree/Bush - with Single Tree usually at the Apogee of the Class.


The translation then relies on the facts of the particular instance?

There have been occasions when trees have been neglected, and then brought back into use after many decades of non use. This could account for very old trees which do not have the single trunk.
More pertinent would be when new 'groves' have been planted in the last 4 decades what form of arboriculture is being practised, do any photos of new trees show the single trunk being maintained?

It would be nice to get Roy and Imen working together collaboratively - each with an Olive Branch in hand - to truly inform their tea drinking friends with a common understanding.
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