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Dan Cong Cupping Event … Week 3

IMG_9063The final series of teas in the Dan Cong Cupping Event contained two teas. One was a Shui Mi Xiang (Juicy Honey Peach fragrance) and the other was a very special “Qing Xiang” (Pure or Light fragrance) that was aged 12 years.

After completing their evaluations of all 8 teas, the Cuppers ranked each of the teas according to their own personal preference. They also offered their final thoughts on the teas and the Cupping Event in general. Finally, the combined rankings of all the teas were tabulated resulting in an overall picture of which teas were preferred the most and which the least. Some Cuppers clearly preferred one tea while other Cuppers were at the opposite side of the range.

Dan Cong’s are named primarily for their aroma (xiang). The infusion method used in this Cupping Event allowed for these varied aromas to take a prominent position in the evaluation. Usually, taste is more important but these teas were, for the most part, able to put greater emphasis on the aroma. In their comments, several Cuppers indeed commented that the light infusions had a milder taste and therefore made them focus on the aromas. In the end, they are named for their fragrance “xiang” so the aroma should be weighted more heavily, perhaps equal to taste.

Sample #007 – Shui Mi Xiang (Juicy Honey Peach Fragrance) – Super Grade
Dry Leaf Appearance:
-  Slender, long, dark brown / green leaves. Medium length with some smaller leaves.
- medium, nicely intact leaves, not twiggy, medium brown, lively
- Dark green/black, long twisted full leaf
- Very even color, brown
- Dark brown, like coffee
- even brown broken  straight leafs, slightly roasted
- black, same size, beautiful
- uniform brown
- dark brown to black color tea leaves, not uniformly size, lightly curl, sometimes stems
- Long, twisted leaf but with an  inconsistent size. Leaf was dark greenish-brown alluding to a mid-oxidized leaf.
- 6 cm have twisted whole leaf (stems not apparent) dark reddish brown to black color, with occasional pale brown leaf.
- Long thin / Dark brown

Dry Leaf Aroma:
- Fruity, sweet tobacco with slight burnt notes.
- over-ripe strawberry
- Mint undertones with some orange peel, cinnamon
- no fruit, slight almond
- Earth, ocean air
- very fruity, melon like cantaloupe
- It was just Dan Cong tea
- sweet honey
- sweet, fruity
- honey, apple juice, lightly red currant
- Very pleasant and sweet smelling with a hint of stone fruit, but also slightly floral.
- Coffee and baked chocolate with stone fruit, aroma very rich.
- Berries / Sweet / Malty

Wet Leaf Appearance:
- Very dark brown/green plumb leaves. Still twisted.
- mottled dark green-brown, intact
- dark spinach appearance - stiff, shiny, velvet
- Dark green, still twisted
- same as dry appearance
- black, not yet open leaves
- reddish brown
- not uniformly colored
- Infused leaf was greener than anticipated, had a wide variety of color present and had many shorter broken pieces.
- Twisted unfurled leaf with a few short stems, predominately reddish brown with some army green color.
- Green-grey

Wet Leaf Aroma:
- Sweet but slightly sour. Notes of burned gunpowder phosphorus (firework on a summer night). Deep.
- black pepper, spice, unseasoned roasted meat
- subtle, light, no body
- slight fruit, peachy - sweet and floral, honey
- sweet fruit
- deep fire taste, high quality
- same sweet honey character but more intense
- peaches, honey, apple peel
- The spicy-peachy aroma was lovely, something I took time to appreciate.
- Some loyalty to dry leaf, coffee & burnt chocolate.
- Berries / Meaty / Complex / Honey

Liquor Color:
- Pale amber with gold tints.
- medium pale copper
- slight rust, gold with a slight haze
- deep amber
- Golden color, honey
- bright shade of orange and yellow
- light brown
- brown gold
- brownish yellow color, pure, clear
- The honey-amber liquor was clear and bright.
- Brandy colored, slightly cloudy with medium brightness. Aroma with some loyalty to dry leaf (stone fruit).  Aroma present with every sip.
- Pinkish-Orange / Thin

Flavor:
- Fruity, nutty with light but pleasant astringency.
- wild weeds, dandelion, sharp, bitter, nice, interesting
- moss, light with some acidity, smooth, some sweetness, some tree bark
- minerals, slight fruit ; aftertaste definite peach
- One note, subtle flavor.  Smooth mouth feel all over.  Light floral flavor with a minty finish.  Delicate.
- slightly astringent, fruity front of the mouth flavor, full mouth buttery notes
- flower, clear, good
- complex subtle brisk finish sweetness there but very subtle as well
- fruity, juicy and sweet, little bit earthy in the end, apple juice, floral like ylang ylang flowers
- The taste was not as I anticipated. It had a long but mild finish with a light astringency after one minute.
- Bold taste
- flavors come through consistent with aroma, stone fruit, magnolia with touch of honey.  Body is very thin, but mouthfeel is strong with plus 2 min aftertaste.
- Sunflower-kernel-shell mouth feel / Melon sweetness / Tart cherry

Comments:
- Nice looking leaves. The predominant fruity taste is quite nice, especially in the 2nd infusion. Over all a good balance. Mild but even. 2nd infusion is less sour than 1st infusion.
- There is a certain sharpness, almost wild or medicinal, about the soup. I normally wouldn't find it true-to-style, or even appealing, but for some reason its complexity convinced me to keep drinking, and I began to really enjoy it.
- Second immersion had a little more acid but all flavors were subtle and hard to distinguish
- Realized that the warm steam interfered with the aroma and the cold leaf was very fruity; also, as the tea cooled, the peach was much more apparent. Tried 1.5 min at 190, taste was more roasty and less minerality
- Easy to drink, but boring.  The leaf aroma, both dry and infused, was so strong and interesting that I had high hopes.  The infused liquor was just mild and uninterseting though.  Nothing offensive or bad about, just nothing terribly interesting.  If I got this at a resturaunt I would have nothing to complain about, but I wouldn't be compelled to buy some for home.
- very nice tea with strong fruity flavor hits the noise as you drink it.
- The 2nd was felt flower, but taste was weak. I think the making tea is good, but tea tree is not good.
- Very interesting flavor. Nice but I thought flavor did not stand up to aroma and appearance but would drink.
- Nice, full bodied tea, interesting juicy taste, which is long time on the tongue. Finish is floral with some heavy tones.
- I found this oolong to be a surprise in a couple of areas. The aroma after the rinse had a captivating fruity-floral appeal, but was very faint in the liquor. I tasted more floral notes than fruity, which was unexpected. I enjoyed the fishing and the light astringency in the cup.
- 2nd Infusion: loses everything, aroma almost gone and taste with no body but slight lingering of Dan Cong floral flavors in backend.  Chou Zhou clay pot infusion (7 gms new leaf, boiling for 20 sec) had similar profile to 1st 180F infusion, but somewhat lighter impression that leaf optimizes GongFu at plus 40 seconds.  No new flavor notes.  Mouthfeel and legs subdued when compared to 1st 180 infusion.  Chilled infusion (2nd Chou Zhou infusion, 30 sec boiling, then cooled in refrigerator).  At 53F, deep aroma of hydrangea, lily, with slight automobile air freshener, distinctly different from previous infusions.  Taste with bitterness up front but interesting combination of DC magnolia flavors and mint. Complex, but layering is more mixed than distinct.  At 62 F, aroma unchanged from 53F. Taste less bitter but astringency still upfront.  Not sure if this leaf could be served chilled in restaurant. May respond to long duration cold infusion.  Taste very floral with slight stone fruit and honey in background. Overall, a very flavorful tea that responds very well to diversity.  Very atypical Don Cong.
- Very complex
- lots of flavors but very mouth coating yet drying.

Rank: Combined scores for all Cuppers. Cuppers were asked to score the sample based on four criteria. The chart below shows the overall ranking of each attribute. The rank range was 1 to 5 with one indicating most appealing and 5 indicating least appealing. A higher number indicates more Cuppers agreed on the same ranking.

1=Most Appealing 1 2 3 4 5
Leaf Appearance 2 4 4 2
Leaf Aroma 3 6 3
Liquor Aroma 5 4 2 1
Liquor Flavor 5 4 2 1

 

 

Sample #008 – Qing Xiang - Aged
Dry Leaf Appearance:
- Dark brown long leaves with some broken pieces. Lightly twisted.
- mottled browns: umber, sienna. Even medium fragments
- long twisted some gold full long leaf almost black
- red-purple black
- Dark brown, wiry
- long uneven stems, hits of some branches
- black, beautiful,
- uniform
- long brownish black leaves, some of them very long
- Long, lightly twisted leaves of consistent size with a darkish brown color.
- Reddish brown to charcoal black whole twisted leaf, 4 - 7 cm in length. Stem not apparent.
- Thick / Twisted / Dark-Brown / Leaf Pieces

Dry Leaf Aroma:
- Mild, dry, light roast with hints of nut shells.
- grana Padano
- dark chocolate, herbaceous, orange, some aroma like grappa
- slightly roasty prune or fig
- Woody, Cedar
- very mild aroma
- like apricot
- very different woodsy aroma no honey or floral
- earthy, fruity
- black currant
- Toasty with a hint of spice.
- Roasted coffee beans with baked unsweetened chocolate.
- Musty dark moss / Sweet / Malty

Wet Leaf Appearance:
- Dark brown/green. Some bright leaves, some dull. Mix of sizes.
- dark brown, medium fragments, dark green highlights - expanded leave, dark - looks like vanilla beans
- Dark green/brown.  Still twisted
- mainly brown w green undertone
- not yet open leaves, black
- dark brown
- not uniformly colored
- The color was that of amber/honey, clear, but with a bit of tea particles on the bottom.
- Army green to reddish brown unfurled leaf. No stem.
- Dark green mat

 Wet Leaf Aroma:
- Mild, light pear, lychee notes with some nuttiness. Smooth.
- mild fragrance, clean, fresh-washed laundry
- very very subtle, almost none, indistinguishing, lost all the aroma of the dry leaf
- smells like rain
- Fruity, like a grape type smell
- strong aged smell with sweet notes
- apricot, not yet come out taste, good
- reminded me of a nice sheng puer, a little smokey
- fruity, tangerine, hint of lemon, citrus peel
- Detected a soft floral note.
- Coffee, with burnt chocolate & stone fruit.  Burnt smell predominates.
- Sour / Slight honey sweetness

Liquor Color:
- Deep amber/brown with some depth. Gold tints.
- light brown, pink hue
- deeper rust with some gold, clear
- dark yellow-brown; like some beers
- light brown, shiny
- slight green
- light brown
- copper color
- brownish yellow color with pink tones
- Surprising astringent. Probably shouldn't have been a surprise considering it's been aged for 12 years.
- Brandy colored, medium brightness but no cloudiness. Aroma very light with slight perfume and lilac.
- Pale greenish-orange

Flavor:
- Deep fruity taste but mild. Preserved plum or stone fruit. Some astringency which lingers. Currants!
- meaty, full, chewy, mild, pleasant astringency, hint of tropical fruit (guava)
- mint, tannic bite, some astringency especially in the cak, flowery, pucker at end
- like something burnt; very mineral aftertaste
- Floral open with a more vegetal finish.  Smooth mouth feel, all on roof.  A little sweet
- full mouth upon first sip, soft round finish, slight green/grassy flavor, fruity/sweetness on the finish
- clear scent, making is good , I felt little itchy throat.
- round robust woody nice finish not at all sweet or floral
- fruity, intensive taste of tangerine, lemon in the end, earthy, fine, delicate
- That taste was astringent but mild.
- Flavors too subdued to pick up any layering but mouth feel very pronounced. Body light, even with astringency upfront. Bitterness very slight on backend.  Basic Dan Cong flavor profile, floral and honey with very slight fruit. Legs plus 2 min.
- Flat / Sour / Slight Astringency

Comments:
-  A nice tea with fruity notes. The astringency is a little excessive but there is also a smooth character. In 2nd infusion the edge is less and currant taste is stronger. I like this one more each time I drink it. Clearly a Milan / Shuimi Xiang type. Pu Er lovers should like this one.
-
- Longer immersion really brought out tannins…second immersion was much smoother
-
- A nice complex changing flavor.  Very smooth no bitterness or astringency, very easy to drink - it was ok, the sweetness was mild but I enjoyed the full mouth feeling
- The 2nd was weak taste, clear, beautiful.
- very unusual for Dan Congs I have experienced. Could get used to this one.
- Very interesting taste of tea. I was surprised, that earthy of this old tea was so mild and nice. Finish of this tea is lemony.
- I'm not one for very astringent oolongs, so this one was a bit too tingly for me. The flavor was pleasant and I enjoyed the gentle floral notes.
- 2nd infusion at 180F: Aroma light with slight perfume and osmanthus. DC taste profile with floral notes upfront, but more astringency and bitterness. Long legs remain.  Chou Zhou clay pot infusion (7gms, boiling, 20 sec), yielded aroma of baked chocolate with slight cooked mushroom. Flavors still weak, but mouthfeel strong.  Aftertaste exceeds 180F.  Chilled (2nd infusion Chou Zhou, boiling, 30 sec):  At 53F, light pleasant floral (magnolia and jasmine?) aroma. Taste vibrant with astringency and bitterness upfront.  DC taste profile was in background.  At 53, too bitter for restaurant. At 62F, no change in aroma from 53. Bitterness predominates, covering up flavors.  DC flavors far in the background.  Aftertaste, 1 min.  Overall:  This tea is all about mouthfeel and subtle flavors.  I feel like there's unrealized potential, we haven't optimized this tea.
- No prominent initial smell, however a sweet smell as it cooled. Nothing of interest.

Rank: Combined scores for all Cuppers. Cuppers were asked to score the sample based on four criteria. The chart below shows the overall ranking of each attribute. The rank range was 1 to 5 with one indicating most appealing and 5 indicating least appealing. A higher number indicates more Cuppers agreed on the same ranking.

1=Most Appealing 1 2 3 4 5
Leaf Appearance 1 3 5 3
Leaf Aroma 2 3 2 3 2
Liquor Aroma 4 1 5 2
Liquor Flavor 3 3 5 1

 

Cupping Event Over-all Ranking

Name Ranks Combined (ranks/10) Final Rank
001 – Ba Xian Xiang 6,4,1,7,3,2,5,2,8,4 42 3
002 – Ye Lai Xiang 5,2,8,8,2,3,8,8,6,7 57 8
003 – Mo Li Xiang 5,5,4,2,1,8,7,7,5,5 49 7
004 – Shi Hua Xiang 1,7,6,4,8,1,2,5,7,6 47 5
005 – Mi Lan Xiang 8,8,5,6,5,7,1,6,1,1 48 6
006 – Ya Shi Xiang 2,3,2,1,4,5,6,1,2,3 29 1
007 – Shui Mi Xiang 3,6,3,5,6,6,3,3,3,2 40 2
008 – Aged Qing Xiang 4,1,7,3,7,4,4,4,4,8 46 4

 

 

Final Comments:
- I enjoyed the opportunity to compare so many teas that are Dan Congs but yet so different from one another. The differences in grades of teas as well as types gave a more rounded perspective. It was very nice to have the chance to compare an aged Dan Cong. I’ve been hearing about aged Dan Congs and I know it was quite special to have one 12 years old. I liked some better than others, with the sweeter, fruity ones at the top of my list. However, each one had its attributes. This infusion method clearly let me focus on the aromatic qualities more than the strength of the liquor. I brewed most of the teas a second time using different preparation timings, and water temps. The stronger infusions had more notable yet less complex flavors while the lighter infusions sometimes revealed more complexity. Thanks for the chance to join this event and I look forward to seeing the other people’s comments.
- Fascinating comparisons. This cupping technique really brought out the aromas well; the flavors were generally more muted, so it allowed me to focus on the complexity and depth of scents. In general, well manufactured teas, with a few real standouts: the Shihua Xiang, for example, and the Yashi Xiang. (Interestingly not as "poopy" as some others I've had.) The Qing Xiang is also interesting, first because it was not stylized with reference to another fragrance, and also b/c of its age. The only other aged Dancong I've had was about 5 yrs old, rather than 12 yrs. I really like the richness of flavor, and wonder how aged affects that criterion. The aroma, at least under these conditions, left me grasping for descriptors and so was less impressive than the complex, flowery, spicy, and fruity teas, unless the true-to-style of the moniker is that it would be pure and clean, in which case I'd say, "bullseye."
- Very interesting exploration into subtle flavors.  The warming of the gaiwan brought out very interesting aromas, very, very different from dry leaves.  Flower notes pervaded, so it emphasized the aromas of the tea -  I saw the names of the geographic subregions ( Fenghuang Mt, Wudong Mt, Bijia Mt) on the detailed information pages.  I had expected that the location would have had a larger impact on taste but it did not really seem to be a factor. I found I really had a consistent preference for the fruity and nutty cultivars.  The flowery-only or roasty-only, i did not care for them very much.   A more interactive exchange would have helped me learn more; I felt i was in a quiet vacuum of space, since i have to wait for other peoples' input.  A "chat room" for one tea might be a nice thing to try someday.
- Overall my prior experience with Dan Congs was fairly limited and I primarily viewed them as sort of expensive and esoteric teas.  Due to their generally high cost I hadn't previously explored them much.  These were much more daily drinker type teas than I was expecting which was a nice discovery.
-
- I like #003. It was like fragrance.  I think Dan Cong tea is special tea, but others were normally. The special tea has value 😀
- Very interesting and enjoyable event. Dan Cong knowledge not that strong before. Discovered some new favorites. Especially Shi Hua. Trying to learn subtle variations among aroma characteristics. Honey orchid, honey peach (more like cranberry to me). Thanks Dan-great job. I can see how hard you worked to put this together.
- Dan Cong Cupping Event was very interesting. I expected more curly oolongs, but I was surprised of very nice taste of these teas. It was great to try traditional way of preparation this kind of tea. I don´t have so much time at work to taste teas like this, calm down and smell to dry leaves, infused, etc. I learned from it and I would prepare teas this way again! I like floral taste of oolongs, so my winner is the tea with taste of lily. Thanks for including an old one oolong. I have never taste so old oolong tea and the taste was very surprising.
- I loved being exposed to teas from this area. It was a good way for me to devote time to cupping. I'm so busy running the shop that I realized from this experience, I need to spend more time cupping. I think I would have liked comparing these teas as they were mostly from the same garden/factory. The samples were very, very generous. I appreciated being able to cup the teas a couple of times. I even included my staff, which I hope is not against any rules. It provided a wonderful educational opportunity for them. Unfortunately, the timing of this cupping coincided with a busy time in the shop, so I was terribly tardy submitting my tasting notes during the second week. I plan to participate in the next session and will use it as an opportunity to schedule cupping "appointment" to adhere to the deadlines. Overall, I found it to be a tremendous experience.
- This is a case where vertical ratings may not tell the story.  I would buy the teas I rated 1 to 6, only ratings 7 and 8 were a problem for me.  I drink a lot of DC single tree and it’s hard not to compare the gardens to the single tree, even though the cost difference is probably 5 to 10x greater. I was very pleasantly surprised with both the quality and diversity. Single tree has a uniformity in profile, differences tend to be subtle. But it appears to me that the gardens are shooting for a diversity that the single trees can't provide, while still retaining that special DC flavor profile.  All 8 were very light body when compared to my single tree, but mouthfeel stood out for so many.  Single trees are noted for very distinct layering. None of these had that, but many showed bold upfront taste with an interesting flavor mix. I was amazed that several had aftertaste duration comparable to my single trees.  My hats off to all the tea makers and to Dan for putting this together. It’s nice to know that people can enjoy good DC's without cashing in their 401Ks.
- I was really looking forward to learning more about this style of tea. While I enjoyed only a couple of the teas, I found this to be a learning experience. The information that Dan provided about each tea was fascinating and educational.

29

09 2017

Bi Luo Chun Cupping Event – Registration Now Open!!

biluochun-green-tea-on-white-plate

photo credit: yezitea.com

Sept 24, 2017

Attention all ITCC members!

I am pleased to announce that registration for the next Cupping Event is now open. This event will focus on and evaluate a very famous and historic green tea, Bi Luo Chun (aka Pi Lo Chun, Green Snail Spring). One of China's top tribute teas of all time, authentic Bi Luo Chun comes from the surrounds of the garden city of Suzhou in Jiangsu Province. Their unique fluffy spiral shape is the hallmark of these precious buds. The top grades are plucked before Qing Ming (April 4-7). Authentic Bi Luo Chun is produced in a narrow geographic area around Dong Ting Mountain near Lake Tai. Samples for this event include the traditional locations from Dong Shan (East Mtn.) and Xi Shan (West Mtn.).

 

Tea production there dates from before the mid-1300s but the original name was “Astounding” or “Scary” Fragrance. According to legend, the name came from a story where a young tea plucker had run out of space in her basket so she tucked the tender tea buds into her blouse. Her body heat warmed the leaves and she was startled by the overwhelming fragrance. The current name was given by The Qing Emperor KangXi when he visited the area in the turn of the 18th century. It is said that one kilo (2.2 lbs) of Bi Luo Chun contains around 14,000 buds. Flavor is delicate in the higher grades yet full and rich with sometimes floral notes and sometimes fruitier notes like honeydew melon. The aroma can range from mellow hay to bold alfalfa. This Cupping Event will include a selection of 8 different teas from different producers, pluck dates and grades.

 

As always, we will follow professional tea cupping procedures and Cupping Event kits will contain all the equipment needed as well as very detailed information about each sample. We will use the professional cupping set which is included in the kit in addition to gram scale, thermometer, pH test strips, tea taster terminology sheet and the cupping procedures.

 

We would like to begin this event as soon as possible so please register promptly. Details are available on the ITCC website www.teacuppers.com however, if you would like to register, please email your request to ITCC directly. ddrteaman@aol.com. Invoices will be sent out rather than using the shopping cart on the website (some people are reporting problems with the check-out process).

 

Also, please do consider writing a post or two for the Community Board blogs. Tell the other members about your interest in tea. Share with the other members whatever is going on for you in your tea world; from tea tasting, tea industry news, trends, production or other tea experiences. We are a community of tea lovers and let us share our passion and knowledge with each other. Send posts in to ITCC for publication.

 

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

With warm regards,

Dan

25

09 2017