Dan Cong Trouble

Owes its flavors to oxidation levels between green & black tea.

Sep 19th, '09, 21:22
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Re: Dan Cong Trouble

by moot » Sep 19th, '09, 21:22

teaskeptic wrote:I've often wondered about this "pouring from high in a thin stream in order to let the water cool" idea.

I think it oxygenates the water a little more, though the effect is subtle enough that I might be imagining it. Sort of the reverse of what happens when you bring it up and down to a boil enough times, which flattens...

I often don't think this is requisite - it's mostly functions as a faster way to cool the water down from boiling.
Last edited by moot on Sep 20th, '09, 03:29, edited 1 time in total.

Sep 19th, '09, 21:42
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Re: Dan Cong Trouble

by moot » Sep 19th, '09, 21:42

TeaMeow wrote:Maitre_Tea: Thank you for that information. I am pouring along the sides also. Since you have seen Imen's technique first hand, what is her method for creating the "tumbling" or "leaf spinning/dancing" phenomena of legend?

Pour the water firmly, in a direction tangential to the outer circle of the gaiwan, right at the lip. It's easier if you have a narrow spout that shoots out a thin, high-pressure stream of tea, but I have a traditional big-round teakettle mouth, and you can get the knack for it. Lands on the outside of the lip, spirals down - looks like a toilet bowl flushing.

But this is just a refinement - it won't change a mediocre cup of tea to a great one. Like, a 2% improvement, a very slight reduction of astringency and bitterness.

Sep 19th, '09, 23:24
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Re: Dan Cong Trouble

by Dreamer » Sep 19th, '09, 23:24

moot wrote:
TeaMeow wrote: Maybe my expectations are off. I am supposing that they would be more potent and flavorful and aromatic etc(as I experienced with the supposed Taiwanese varietal). Instead they are weaker all around. What am I doing wrong?

This may be the problematic assumption. In many (but certainly not all) teas, I find that higher grades of tea are often more delicate. This is very clear in some high mountain oolongs - cheaper ones are often one or two big flavors or aromas, more expensive ones are often more delicate, more quiet. Some might say "more refined", but that puts a value judgment on it that I'm sometimes a little uncomfortable making. A lot of times when you're paying a lot of money, what you're paying for is tea that meets a very particular, classical Chinese aesthetic, that may not be what you want out of tea at all.

Some may find this odd - that you're paying more money for less flavor. But it's no weirder than the fact that a perfect slice of halibut sashimi is far more expensive than a fried spider roll with teriyaki sauce.

Anyway: I haven't tasted the same dan congs you have, but I've definitely found Imen's high grade stuff to be slightly to distinctly more delicate than some of the commercial grade stuff. The aesthetic is more sort of... beautiful quiet flavor, in balance with aroma, in balance with texture...

Now, it sounds like you're doing all the technique properly. I kind of think you're too worried about brewing technique at this point... this tea isn't *that* hard. Here are the remaining possibilities.

1. This tea is quieter than your present sensitivities.
2. This tea is not to your taste.
3. You got a bad batch of tea.

The last is possible, but, given what I know and have gathered from the board, fairly low in probability.

Possibility 2: quite possible. Often, the fact that a tea is expensive and sought after by some won't mean it fits your aesthetic. For example: I, for instance, don't find most aged pu-erh worth paying for. Barring the occasional *extraordinary* tea, much of what you're paying for is a mellowing, smoothifying, silkifying, melding. Which I don't necessarily care about or require. I often prefer the vividness of the young stuff, which is, incidentally, much cheaper. This might just make me lucky. (Pu erh snobs would accuse me of being unrefined. Who cares? I drink my raw young rocket fuel and am happy.) (The same applies to some scotch markets, too.) On the other hand, I find that my tastes match precisely with the tastes of the market with high mountain oolong and dan cong, so I have to shell out to get what I want.

Possibility 1: quite possible. When I started drinking tea, long ago, I bought some mighty expensive white tea and it tasted like nothing to me - scented water. I blamed the vendor. I blamed my teaware. I spent a lot of time drinking white tea. When I returned to that same variety and vendor years later, I found it was a *wonder*. A deep, vibrant, luscious tea. And, when I gave it to other people, they complained: it tastes like nothing. I'm sure what happened is my sensitivities grew, I became more attuned to that variety of tea, etc. etc.

So: it might be the tea. It might be the brewing. Or it might be you. I've noticed you've spent a lot of time talking about your brewing techniques, but not much time talking about your *tasting* techniques. So, if you want to explore this direction, try the following. Wake up in the morning. Brush your teeth with something relatively clean (I like Tom's toothpaste, for low aftertaste.) Don't eat anything. Drink the tea and pay attention to it. And, drink with a friend. Ask each other what you taste. In my life, nothing has amped my sensitivities up more than tasting with a like-minded friend and talking it over. Look around for things. Take a long sip, roll it around in your mouth, close our eyes, swallow. Listen for a minute or two to how the flavors roll. Don't do anything else. No music, keep your eyes closed. I think there are many teas that I love that I grew into, by become better at focusing.

There are many times in my life when a tea has failed me. And there have been some times when I've failed the tea.

So it depends on your background. If you're a serious white tea drinker, or dig stuff like bilochun, this stuff is surely less delicate, and it's more likely that it's just not to your taste. If you're background is pu-erh and roasted teas - this stuff is more delicate, and may require a period of adjustment and attunement. Or not. (Although sometimes I need a period of attunement for a new *sort* of tea even if it's of similar delicacy to one I've liked before. Dan congs rattle around a very different part of the palate from long jians.) (I'd been drinking for 10 years and when I started drinking young sheng pu-erh, it took me *months* to open up my soul to the right part of my mouth. Same with wuyis, actually.)


Wow, moot, this is beautifully written tea training! What a gift that you took your time to so eloquently explain the concepts here!

Even though at this point I have no interest in the particular type of tea under discussion, this thread has provided some really insightful thoughts on how one's personal tea journey can unfold.


Sep 20th, '09, 00:20
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Re: Dan Cong Trouble

by moot » Sep 20th, '09, 00:20

Quick story:

Recently, I started drinking young green pu-erhs. At first, they started tasting *mighty* similar to me. Big powerful tobacco flavors, low variation to my palate. They weren't subtle, but still - when I started, I surely didn't know quite how to *taste* them.

One day, my main tea-buddy, Ira, and I spent the entire day drinking samples from Yunnan Sourcing - we got through about seven different samples, about 10 brews each, talking about each brew, looking for notes, pointing out stuff - all that stuff. I swear: I left that day, like, six more times sensitized to the varied spirits and moves of young sheng than when I started. Neither of us knew much going in, but something about the conversation, the act of looking *together*, made us see where we didn't, before.

(We also, at the same time, smoked two racks of spareribs, low and slow, the whole day. You have to imagine Ira, in his destroyed multi-grad-student back-yard, who looks kind of like Jason Schwartzman from Rushmore, in raggedy athletic clothes, with his brand-new chou zhou stove set up on a rickety old table, in the middle of barely cleaned-out space, surrounded by half-open bags of charcoal and lighter fluid and nerf guns, fanning away top speed with his traditional goose-feather fan. And then wandering over to the barbecue, checking the heat, and then *fanning the barbecue with the same Chinese fan*. Sacrilege? Maybe. Non-traditional? Certainly. But damn, was it a good day. Get high as kites and ultra-sensitized on way too much excellent tea, getting starving from all that roaring young tea, and then feasting on home-smoked ribs...)

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Sep 20th, '09, 14:23
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Re: Dan Cong Trouble

by teaskeptic » Sep 20th, '09, 14:23

wh&yel-apprentice wrote:
teaskeptic wrote:I am just breaking the ice with a couple of TH teas, and I'm sure others could compare notes with you.

Which TH teas do *you* have, and why did you pick them? I might be visiting TH tomorrow, could try some of those which you have, and compare with the other's I've already had Imen taste me on. Though my opinion comes from an untrained, not so sensitive/tuned palate. Thi who wrote the LATimes article has tasted almost all of the TH teas, and he's an experienced taster/drinker.

I have only tasted the "2007 Ba Xian - Eight Immortals" so far. Why did I pick this tea? It was on the cheaper end of the spectrum and seemed somewhat typical, so it seemed like a good place to start.

It was easy to brew and lasted a long time. I don't have much DC experience, but this one seemed like a more reliable version of what I have had before... a nice stereotype of what I would usually expect from DC in terms of flavor, in a good way. The berry-like aftertaste was strong and clear and pretty much what I think of when I imagine DC's.

It didn't blow me away, but I wasn't disappointed either. I'm guessing that as I drink more DC's I will learn what to look for, and hopefully more of the subtleties will reveal themselves.

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Sep 20th, '09, 15:13
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Re: Dan Cong Trouble

by ABx » Sep 20th, '09, 15:13

Here's the suggestion I got on one of the old-bush DC from Imen some time ago:

"High slow pour for all of the old bush dan congs, hit on one spot on the side of the gaiwan. When pouring water from high, you can see the water begin with "solid" then in separate/splashing state. Try to hit the gaiwan at the end of the "solid"state. Use slightly off boiled water for the ginger flower. Use 2 g of leave for practice. I use 3 g for normal brews."

Jan 4th, '10, 18:17
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Re: Dan Cong Trouble

by wh&yel-apprentice » Jan 4th, '10, 18:17

TeaMeow wrote:Hello Folks!

I have been brewing tea(gong fu cha of many varieties etc.) for more than 15 years but am brand new to TeaChat.

But I have tried everything thing I can think of(changed water, gaiwans, pots, temperature, leaf quantity, brew time) with the 4 different old bush DCs and the 1 commercial Da Wu Ye I got from TeaHabitat with no success. The fragrance had some similarities yet in everyway the Taiwanese was more concentrated, consitent, and dynamic in aroma, body, and especially in texture, flavour and aftertaste. Most of all, my technique and water quality was sufficient to get comparable(although not quite as elegant) results to the importer who has been brewing for over 50 years.

Is there a learning curve or are these higher quality Dan Congs from China that much different from the more available commercial grades? Maybe my expectations are off. I am supposing that they would be more potent and flavorful and aromatic etc(as I experienced with the supposed Taiwanese varietal). Instead they are weaker all around. What am I doing wrong? Well that's the whole story...any help would be greatly appreciated.

Well Herb_Master must have his technique down well enough to get what he wants out of TH's DC. As I mentioned b4, it will also come down to the particular tea you get from TH, as Imen has a wide variety of tea 'profiles' in her line up. Speaking of the more subtle teas, in the orchid fragrance lines, the expensive crowd favorite, '08 Song Zhong #5. This is one of the, if not most flavorful, of her orchid lines of DC's.

This is what I noticed that is different between Imen's steeping procedure and mine. Now if you go to her blog, she says that on her recent trip to China, her tea master has shown her the proper way to brew tea, and that before that, she did not know how to brew tea :D. So what was she doing before her tea master showed her the way??? :).

I'm planning to take her tea class, maybe the one on Jan. 16th of this month, so maybe I'll learn something different.

Anyway, what I notice from watching her brew @TH. She has a stainless steel kettle, with tabletop heating element with 2 temperature settings, and I believe she only uses the hotter setting. She has a commercial coffee hot water dispenser which is feed reverse osmosis water. She takes the hot water from that dispenser, pours it into her steel kettle, then waits for the base heater to get the water up to 'proper' temperature. This is likely very close to boiling, it's HOT. Next thing I notice, is that she is pre-heating either gaiwan or Chou Zhou tea pots so they are already hot when she pours in the water from the SS kettle. The tea tasting cups are also rinsed with hot water.

So there seems to be a continuum of everything being fairly hot. The 1st few infusions will always come out a little lighter as the tea leaves need lots of hot water to soften them up enough to extract flavor from them.

It could be the way her teas (some of them anyway) are processed they end up with a lower moisture content than say the Taiwanese sample (and other teas you have) have been processed...just a guess.

I cannot match Imen's brewing process without getting more brewing supplies like hers. For me at least, what I"m doing is completely in opposite to what in theory I should be practicing. Maybe I'll get a scolding from Imen when I take her class :p. I tried microwaving, Glacier vending machine RO water, so that's a neutral, very clean, low mineral source. Got it to boing point, but my tea pot was not pre-heated. I tried a pre-wash with hot water on the SZ#5, and when I poured near boiling water into the tea pot, after a minute of steeping...I poured out a ounce or so to sample. Was very light, little flavor (you expect less on initial steep). Waited even longer, minutes actually, before pouring out into two cups. It has the noticeable sweet honey orchid fragrance that others and I have experiences with her brewing. Yet it still had a fairly light color and not nearly as much flavor as when Imen brewed it :(.

I keep experimenting, longer steeping times, pre-wash cups with hot water (not near boiling though). My tea pot got progressively hotter with 2nd and 3rd infusions, and I let the tea steep even longer> 4+ minutes (no it did not get bitter or seem to extract more tannins which surprised me...you notice the bitterness more from letting a very hot cup of tea cool down to luke warm temperature), after pouring in near boiling water. I also used a spoon to stir the tea a fair amount to get more extraction as I notice when Imen uses a gaiwan she uses the lid to mix the leaves through the hot water--- for more extraction I presume. She tells me she observes the tea for thickening texture in the gaiwan, but I"m using a teapot so I can't see any of that.

I'm getting say maybe 75% of what Imen gets with her method.

Only thing I can figure is her routine maintains more uniform *high* heat through out the process, which gets you greater extraction per infusion. I'm also thinking I need to use more tea leaves, which will be more expensive; but consider you can get 10 or more infusions, why not use more tea leaves to get a more flavorful brew?

Yeah I'm scratching my head in disbelief as when I coaxed Imen to try doing her gaiwan infusions for 30+sec. instead of her usual 10-15sec.

The only thing I noticed besides ever so slightly, vaguely more flavor; was more tannin extracted--- no significant improvement from my POV.

I just have to figure my technique/equipment is not worthy---I'm too inexperienced and simplistic.

I should note that at the same time I was brewing the '08 SZ#5, I was brewing up the "Imperial Darjeeling Blend" from imperialtea.com in another pot; which was not whole leaf tea, but broken pieces of whole leaf tea, with same procedure I was getting more extract & color from that tea as well as some bitterness, but this also required steeping with near boiling water and 3-5min range. Following the instructions on the label for the Imp. Darj, "3-5g/10oz 180F water, infuse 1-2min "...I got pale infusions also. Improved for me by doubling the time + using hotter water.

I'm *not* looking for significantly stronger brew, I can get that from other TH DC's, what I am trying to do is coax out nearly the same level of flavor Imen was getting in her store. I will keep experimenting and researching the matter.

So while I may take Imen's 'new & improved' method tea class, I'm not sure however I end up brewing at her store, that I will be able to directly transfer it to my home brewing technique...we shall see.

I should ask her 'tea boy'/employee if he is now able to make the tea at home, as he has learned to do in her store? Or are his results the same or lesser, requiring modification, etc? Because he was a complete novice when he started working there, had never brewed tea before IIRC.

I will follow up with a post after I take Imen's 'new' class.

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Jan 4th, '10, 18:31
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Re: Dan Cong Trouble

by Geekgirl » Jan 4th, '10, 18:31

Why don't you take an empty jug into the class and ask her for a gallon of the shop water? See if that's the difference?

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Jan 4th, '10, 20:17
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Re: Dan Cong Trouble

by TIM » Jan 4th, '10, 20:17

Geekgirl wrote:Why don't you take an empty jug into the class and ask her for a gallon of the shop water? See if that's the difference?

Do you have a note pad which to drop down detail notes including weather, time, water, mood, brewing steps and temp.? Seems your long post hinted that you are really dedicated to learning how to brew better.

Share us your try and error then someone here might be able to help?

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Jan 4th, '10, 23:27
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Re: Dan Cong Trouble

by ABx » Jan 4th, '10, 23:27

You might also let the leaf breathe for a few hours before you brew it.

I also second everything Tim mentioned.

At some point, this last year, I just started getting a lot more out of Imen's top DCs. I can't attribute it to anything in particular with my brewing, which leaves having the leaves acclimate to my environment, state of mind, and maybe weather. I also got a fair bit of experience in with good quality but cheaper DC; where I could get fruity or flowery before, I've been a lot better at getting both with the added honey/carmelizing sugar foundation fairly consistently now.

It may be worth getting some good quality cheap stuff to get comfortable with. Simply being more comfortable and confident may itself do quite a bit for you :)

Jan 4th, '10, 23:43
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Re: Dan Cong Trouble

by tjkoko » Jan 4th, '10, 23:43

WOW!!!!!!!!! That's interesting, both the aerating and pouring methods,. enough for this tea lover to attempt:

Maitre_Tea » Sep 18th, '09, 23:42
...Having witnessed Imen brew first-hand, when pouring the water into the gaiwan, she pours in such a way that the water hits the side of the gaiwan before trickling down the gaiwan's walls, which prevents the teas from being "shocked" with hot water.

tingjunkie » Sep 19th, '09, 00:58
... one thing that works well for me sometimes is to "acclimate" the leaves to the current weather- i.e. letting them sit out slightly uncovered in the gaiwan for 1-3 hours before brewing.

Wow wow wow. My tea consciousness has now been elevated to a new level as far as brewing is concerned and it'll be applied to the couple of oolongs in my stash.

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Jan 10th, '10, 16:40
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Re: Dan Cong Trouble

by debunix » Jan 10th, '10, 16:40

I'm new to the board, and relatively new to the Dan Cong teas. I bought my first Dan Cong from Tea Habitat after a tasting class in September. I've not had Dan Cong from anywhere else, so can't compare them to other Dan Congs.

But the three I've tried so far have been wonderful. I'm brewing them relatively dilute, 1-2 grams of tea for 2 oz water in a tiny yixing or gaiwan, tap water boiled then cooled to about 180-190 degrees, and typically infusing 30", 60", 60", 90", and so on for about 6-8 infusions for that small quantity of leaf. I do try to tumble the leaves as I pour, but even if they're not obviously tumbling, they do have plenty of room to separate as the infusion progresses.

They're fruity, spicey, floral, and unique--quite different from the dark roasted Ti Guan Yin I grew up drinking, or the floral and sweet lightly oxidized new style oolongs I was introduced to just this year.

Jan 10th, '10, 17:56
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Re: Dan Cong Trouble

by shah82 » Jan 10th, '10, 17:56

Which ones did you get?

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Jan 10th, '10, 21:42
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Re: Dan Cong Trouble

by debunix » Jan 10th, '10, 21:42

So far have tried two different Dan Congs

2007 Po Tuo Ginger Flower Fragrance (new one, have only brewed it once)
2007 Eight Immortals 07 Ba Xian

and one that was a "commercial", not single-bush tea, Honey Orchid Fragrance. I've brewed the Ba Xian and the Honey Orchid 5 or 6 times apiece, and every brewing has been good.

I have a 2009 Wu Ye Dark Leaf Dan Cong that I haven't opened yet.

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Jan 10th, '10, 23:16
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Re: Dan Cong Trouble

by tenuki » Jan 10th, '10, 23:16

TeaMeow wrote:Am I the only one having great difficulty getting a satifactory cup of tea out of these old bush, single bush blah blah blah teas from TeaHabitat?

No you are not.

I've said it a couple times already - IMO her teas are too finicky for the average tea person to truely enjoy in a reliable manner. Stay away from Dan Tchong - a lot of other less finicky teas taste just as yummy, don't promote self delusion and cost less. And if you refuse to stay away, at least suffer through the humiliation in silence, if I see another 'how do I brew Imen's dan tchong' thread with a bunch of hokey suggestions about water swirling from left to right instead of right to left I swear I'm gonna start yelling. Wait, I think I may be yelling already. Put the knife down tenuki and back away from the kitten.


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