October 30, 2020

Dan Cong Cupping Event Results …. Week 1

Dan Cong, meaning “Single Cluster” is one of the famous types of oolong teas in China. With ancient lineage from the Shui Xian varietal, it is said that there are ten different types of Dan Cong tea bushes but “80 aromas”, ranging from flowers, fruits, nuts, and more esoteric resemblances, even Duck Shit fragrance! Wudong Mountain, about 60-70 km West of Chaozhou, is said to be the birth place of Dan Cong tea. Even today, a few of the old Song Dynasty (960-1279ad) bushes can still be found there.

There are two main harvest seasons, spring and fall however, depending on altitude, some farmers may have longer plucking periods for lower altitude bushes and shorter seasons for higher elevations. All the processing steps combined can take around 48 hours; a very labor intensive operation. Very often, leaves from several days harvest are combined to make larger batches. In this case, exact plucking date is not as important as the season. For many oolongs, a few months of resting after processing can “settle” the flavors and they taste better than when first produced. Dan Cong oolongs generally have a shelf life of a few years and can even be aged for a decade or more.

This Cupping Event included Dan Cong teas from different producers, different altitudes, different grades/qualities, single harvest and blends. We are very fortunate to have one sample aged 12 years. Eight different samples were compared in all with the first week including Ba Xian Xiang - 1st grade (Eight Immortals), Ye Lai Xiang - 1st grade (Tuber Rose Fragrance) and Mo Li Xiang - Super grade (Jasmine Fragrance).

Cuppers follows modified professional cupping procedures and recorded their impressions and comments. To remain consistent with traditional Dan Cong cupping methods, the brewing vessel used was a gaiwan rather than usual cupping set. Professional cupping procedure calls for intentionally stronger concentrations so as to detect more elements in the flavor. After making their comments on the full strength infusions, Cuppers were also encouraged to prepare the samples at a more pleasurable strength though these comments were not required to be recorded. Further, many Cuppers re-infused the samples and noted the differences from the first steeping. Following are the Cuppers comments with preference rankings on the four attributes of dry leaf appearance and aroma and infused aroma and taste.

Sample #001 – Ba Xian Xiang – 1st Grade
Dry Leaf Appearance:
-  Dark green and black, long gently twisted whole leaves. Uneven grading with some stalks.
- nonuniform size fragments, dark olive green, particles of stem - Long, twisted leaves with some gold, small stems, some green some gold
- very long, wide heavy leaf, very dark brown - Dark green, almost black, large and twisted, not uniform, with some stems - Twisted pieces of varying length with a dark brown color
- Dark Brown/Green, whole leaf, twisted, consistent size - green with a brown overtone, long rolled leafs - Some branches, cut leaves, different sizes leaves, color is green and black
- long, slightly curled leaves with different size. Dark green to brown color.
- Long twisted leaves. Dark green in color. Realtively uniform in shape.
- Color: Army green to dark green with some brown. Length: Ave 4 cm.  Twisted bent leaf with some stem visible.
- Clean,uniformity,good rolling, normal clolor
- Dark brown to black with a slight twist

Dry Leaf Aroma:
- Rich, full, earthy, baked/roasted. Vegetal sweetness with hints of tobacco and cocoa.
- Stale bread, old warehouse
- slight hay, earthy, slightly musty, vegetative
- vine or stone fruit, slight smoke
- Sweet and bready, with a faint floral note
- Sweet Creamy and slightly nutty - Sweet, floral
- sweet like honey
- flower
- very intensive aroma of hazel nuts in caramel, sweet, hint of cinnamon
- Slightly vegital, yet floral with a hit of gram cracker.
- Initial vegital aroma (black olive) disapates in seconds, followed by a dry coco with a slightly burnt wood finishing with hits of vanilla and coffee.
- Balanced fragrance (with nuo-mi xiang) (sticky rice)
- Savory / Mushroom / Woodsy / Green

Wet Leaf Appearance:
- Dark green long leaves. Still twisted. Deep olive color. Some choppiness (not whole leaves). - medium green, purple
- dark green, leathery, long, still twisted
- very dark green, gnarled, firm like spinach or kale - Very dark green or black, long whole leaves, loosely twisted - Dark green with brown edges
- Whole green leaf, partially unfurled
- full leaf partunically uncurled
- green and black, still rolling
- big leaves dark green color, some stemps, not fully opened, doesn´t contain tips
- After rinse and first infusion, the leaf was still tightly twisted and about 2" long.
- Dark green unfurled leaf parts -
- maceration very obvious. A few stems and whole leafs. No buds, no bugs.  Fair amount of dust.
- Fresh natural green color,shapes in uniformity, good elasticity
- Unfurled / Copper 

Wet Leaf Aroma:
- Mild but with a slight edge. Some floral notes but firing dominates them. Light, sweet cocoa. Slightly burnt. Fishy.
- peach, vanilla, burnt pastry
- dry grass, herbal, slight lilac, some floral overtones
- woody, buttery toffee, lilly
- Bready and herbaceous and slightly floral
- a "green" scent
- Sweet, Creamy with a slight herbal scent
- Very floral and sweet
- roasted honey buiscuts - flower, fire taste is little
- sweet, honey, slightly floral
- Toasty with a floral hint.
- No loyality to dry leaf
- picks up floral notes (Camilla flowers).
- Balanced and complex fragrance - Smokey / Sweet / Hint of floral

Liquor Color:
- Thin, brownish yellow. Some brightness and depth but with a bit of sediment.
- dull yellow brown - Light golden green, clear,
- pale yellow with brown tinge
- Light golden, very clear
- Golden yellow with small particulate - Honey colored
- dull yellow
- light yellow
- golden yellow color, clear
- Liquor was a light amber.
- Clear apricot color. Mid range on brightness.
- Bright, light yellow
- Deep gold

- Dry, lightly astringent but ok. Too highly fired. Floral notes follow from the aroma but are overshadowed by the high firing.
- mild, sweet, toasted oats, late weak astringency
- Light flavor, pleasant but undistinguished, smooth, some floral
- minerals, pear, rain, bean sprouts, buttery; initial is vegetal/asparagras, metalic on sides of tongue, metalic breath afterwards
- Herbaceous and floral initially, smooth mouth feel. Full but light. Astingent aftertaste
- Honey/Caramel flavor with a hint of parsley in the finish, smooth
- Slight astringent, thick in the mouth.  Tastes of alfalfa, All up front with a bitter finish.  Little depth.
- toasted honey, floral stems
- Dan Congs feature, Fire taste is little
- Smooth, sweet, floral. Hint of jasmin flower, ripe pineapple and milk.
- The initial sip had a flash of astringency then a smooth feel on the palat. The finish was still lingering after one minute.
- Body is weak but has nice mouthfeel without distictive flavors. Undertaste of mushroom is not pleasant but disapates quickly. Backend slightly sweet. Nice aftertaste (>2 min)
- lingering sweetness and fragrance, some full
- A little bitter with some buttery and flowery notes at the back end.

Comments: - I liked the thick mouthfeel with the lingering sweet, floral notes. An average tea which would have been better if more lightly fired during processing.
- Second infusion brought more floral and stronger taste.  Probably great chilled.
- Although the 2nd infusion was optional, at about 2-1/2 min, 180 deg, it was definitely richer and even more lively than the first.
- In general a nice experience, but the aftertaste was too astringent after the light initial aroma and flavor.
- This sweet creamy oolong was pleasant to drink.
- Overall a mediorce tea, no real complexity to make me interested in drinking more.
- really enjoyed buttery/creamy floral tones, very pretty cup of liquor
- The 2nd infusion, Taste and aroma were down.  I think this tea tree is good, but making was rough. I want to have tea as every day's tea.
- Very nice tea with very sweet aroma and liquor flavor. Aroma of leaves is very interresting and full of nuts in caramel. Finish is very sweet and intensive with hint of tropical fruit.
- At 180/2min, this is a marginal tea. 2nd infusion (Gaiwan) at 180/2 min had no taste; however, leaf was still unfurled.  I followed with a new infusion using 7 gms in 150ml Chou Zhou clay pot for 15 - 20 sec at full boil;  Aroma came alive - Lilac and Jasmine. Liqure sweet with flora flavors. Undertones of nutmet and mushroom present during Gaiwan, was promenent at the finish but not overwhelming. Maintained good mouthfeel.  Next I chilled the Chou Zhou 2nd infusion (30 sec, full boil) to 62F (16.7C), then down to 53F (11.7C):  Very Good! At 62F, aromas were intense (using aroma cupping set) with diverse floral & perfume notes. At 53F, lost the aroma, but taste maintained:  no bitterness, astrigency building body. Flavors piggy-back on aroma.  Serve this in a resturant in a Champaign glass with the liquer at a slight chill off room temp.
- Good rolling and fermentation to achieve the balance of leaf and taste, esp. the elastic infused leaf and its natural color.Nice Dancong.
- While this is complex, and had enjoyable characteristics, it was a little all over the board. The second infusion was close to the same as the first, but no astringency, sweet tart taste in mouth.

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   6 5 3 1
Leaf Aroma 4 3 5 3  
Liquor Aroma 4 8 3    
Liquor Flavor 5 2 6 1 1



Sample #002 – Ye Lai Xiang – 1st grade
Dry Leaf Appearance:
- Dark brown/black whole, long leaves. Gentle twist with some glossy sheen. Evenly graded.
- uniform, roasted cocoa nibs color, medium-sized leaves
- very dark, brown, long twisted
- narrow width, somewhat fragile
- Large twisted whole leaves, a few stems. Medium-dark green. A few stems.
- Twisted varying length leaves, light and dark brown in color
- Brown/Black, mix of whole and broken
- loose rolled, shades of bown and green
- branches, tea leaves were different sizes, color is black
- long, thin, slightly curled leaves dark brown, sometimes green color.
- Thin, long twisted leaf. Greenish in color (hinting to mild oxidation)
- Dark green twisted bent leaf (3 - 4cm) with some brown leaf.  Stems not visible on dry leaf.
- not in uniformity in shapes, some stalk
- Dark Green-Black / Some light pieces / Twisted

Dry Leaf Aroma:
- Dark, heavily baked but not burnt. Roasted fruit scent (apples). Slight floral high note.
- fresh citrus (lemon-lime), marigold
- some cocoa, milk chocolate overtones, earthy
- delicate fruit
- Woody and Toasty
- Toffee, toast, dried grass or wheat
- Chocolate and Cherry
- melon fruit on yogurt
- smell is little
- roasted nuts, toffee caramel, peach in the end
- Spicy with a floral note and a hint of chocolate.
- Roasted almond with coffee, roasted cocoa, and a slight vanilla.  Luxurious aroma.
- Strong fragrance
- Savory / Fruity-sweet / Hint of Toastiness

Wet Leaf Appearance:
- Dark olive green. Fairly uniform. Long and strippy. Still well twisted. Uniform shape and not choppy.
- green, brown, brined olive colors
- spectrum: green-black-red-purple
- overcooked spinich,dark green, looks"slimy" in some ways
- stiff, shiny, long-twisted
- Dark Brown, whole and loolely twisted. Uneven.
- Wirey long leafs of mixed color - Dark brown and black, still mainly twisted - light roasted green, smooth edge oblong leaf
- dark green, still rolling
- long, thin, dark green, uniformly colored, no tips, not fully opened
- Infused leaves measured about 2.5-3" long but were not uniform seeing many smaller leaves, perhaps due to packaging, shipping, etc. The color was greener than anticipated based on the dry leaf. Was expecting it to be more oxidized.
- Army green to brown. Very Unfurled! Maceration very prominent
- very thin leaf parts with a few stems. No buds.
- Uniform deep brown color, too tenderised to be squeezed by fingers
- Dark green / Twisted 

Wet Leaf Aroma:
- Green, floral, sweet, candy like cooked sugar. Good depth with light earthy tones.
- condensed milk, dulce de leche
- vegetal, herbal, light
- sweet, slightly ashy, honey-like
- Woody and toasty, and a little musty
- very light.
- Toffee, toast
- Slightly floral, a little burnt.  No strong aromas
- fruity and sweet with a hint of cigar smoke
- flower, swet, deep
- honey, roasted, lightly floral
- Bright, spicy aroma with a hint of rose.
- Woody pan fired smell
- no loyality to dry leaf.
- Strong and sharp fragrance, but disappeared to be light in 5 minutes
- Smoky / Metallic / Citrus / Woodchips

Liquor Color:
- Light brown with red tints. Thin but bright.
- energetic brown-yellow, slight copper
- medium gold, rich, clear, slight orange
- definite orange, not amber-brown
- Light reddish amber, clear
- Bright Amber, small particulate, but bright
- Dark orange
- golden yellow with orange undertones
- brown
- light yellowish brown
- Liquor had a honey/amber appearance.
- Peach color (burnt orange)  Somewhat dull color.  Wonderful light aroma of Camillas with hints of jasmine and lavender. Like walking outside of a flower garden with catching a light breeze.
- Deep yellow, some turbid
- Deep orange

- Astringent and a bit too highly fired. Strong mineral taste with hints of dried flowers. Not very complex. - light brothiness, lingering full astringency, fullness
- slight hay, mild, slightly burnt, some astringency/bitterness, earthy
- Taste was strong, bitter, sooty, harsh and floral together; like drinking perfume and burning wood; astringent on sides of tongue, stayed astringent on top-middle; the bitter is less noticeable after 10-15 sec; gritty like under-ripe peach or pear
- Highly astringent, floral in the back of the throat. Some vegetal notes.
- Herbal, vegital taste with notes of celery and an astrigent feel
- A melon flavor but quickly overwhelmed by bitterness.
- creamy mouth feeling
- flower, the 1st have not taste, roasted is good
- young hazel nuts, hint of peach, honey in the end
- Shockingly astringent on the front of the tongue. Mildly astringent after one minute.
- Nice!  Floral notes very similar to Single Tree Dan Cong Night Jasmine flavor.  Light body with astringency building mouthfeel on backend. Aftertaste +1 min.
- Burnt strong fragrance with some sweetness, but became light and disappeared immediately in mouth.
- Bitter / Tart / Roasted Green Pepper / Astringent

- The aromatic high notes were nicely complex on this tea with good depth as well. Some sweetness but fairly simple with minimal complextity.
- Overall quite good.
- Second infusion brought more chocolate flaver, more assertiveness, slightly bitter - Shared the tasting with some friends conscensus was this tea was better (milder) with 1-1.5 min.
- I am not fond of teas that are very astringent, so I did not like this tea much.
- The astrigent feel took away from the vegital flavors.
- The bitterness was very overwhelming
- one of my favorite dan congs, the creamy texture with a hint of smoky notes is amazing
- The 2nd infusion, I felt more deep taste.like butter. The 2nd was good. I think this tea is brewed more and more.
- Generally a nice tea, but quite weak in taste. Intensity in leaf aroma is not in taste. Finish is fruity and sweet.
- This is a tea you want to work with to optimize the codes. Very good 180F/2min 1st infusion, but had nothing left for 2nd infusion (still had lots of unfurled leaf).  Chou Zhou clay pot infusion (7gms, 150ml pot, full boil for 15 - 20 sec), yielded a much darker liquer, but flavors similar to Gaiwan. Notes not softer than Gaiwan but more balanced, yielding a better mouthfeel. Picked up some bitterness as cooled, also losing the floral notes.  Chilled (Chou Zhou 2nd infusion for 30 sec full boil, then cooled):  tea did not do well.  Bitter at 53F (11.7C) and 62F(16.7C)
- covered the flavors and mouthfeel. This tea was so good hot, I would try other leaf volumes before discounting the chilled.
- Some stalks, strong and sharp fragrance but disappeared later, no lingering flavor. Infused leaf is too tenderised, maybe over-fermented.
- Our group did not like this tea. It is very bitter on the first infusion with a metalic aftertaste. Second infusion had a damp foliage and forest floor aromas.

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 6 1 5 1
Leaf Aroma 3 5 3 4  
Liquor Aroma 1 8 3 2 1
Liquor Flavor 3 3 3 2 4


Sample #003 – Mo Li Xiang – Super grade
Dry Leaf Appearance:
- Dark brown with some black. Strippy whole leaves. Longer than samples 1 and 2. Farily evenly graded but some smaller broken pieces.
- dull, brown-black, highlights of deeply oxidized bronze
- medium length, dark dark green, little gold
- dark black with green hue
- Dark brown, medium length, twisted
- Wirey leaves of varying length, dark brown, almost black in color
- Black, twisted, whole leaf
- dark brown, tightly rolled
- beautiful, the size is same, all are black
- different size, quite long, thin, dark brown
- Dark green, long, thin twisted leaves.
4 - 5 cm twisted leaf parts with occasional whole leafs (thin).
Brownish charcoal color with some mahogany color.
- Very clean, almost the same thickness for each leaf, uniform shapes
- Dark Brown / Twisted / Hint of purple glossiness

Dry Leaf Aroma:
- Dried grass. Tobacco. Light sweetness with some hints of burnt cocoa.
- distant fruit market, freshly picked berries
- earthy, malty, bright
- green honeydew melon, smoky, wet metal
- Woody, bready, and fungal. Slightly toasty.
- Manure/farm smell, wet hay and chicken poop
- melon
- fruit and honey salad
- flower, like perfume, very good
- floral, jasmin, sweet
- Aroma had pleasant herbal notes with hints of honey and flowers. I did not pick up on the jasmine, but did note its floral aroma.
- Roasted cocoa and coffee with very slight caramel on backend.  Rich satisfying aroma.
- Soft and natural fragrance, some light
- Sweet / Bready / Floral / Vegetal Notes

Wet Leaf Appearance:
- Olive green, fairly in-tact, thicker leaves. Still well twisted with uniform shape and size.
- deep green, dull, wet sponge
- solid grren but little change in shape
- black color is now very reduced
- Sage green and brown, relaxed whole leaf
- Light to dark green in color, still twisted tightly
- Dark green, whole leaf, twisted
- lose curled long leaf
- green and black, still rolling
- not uniformly colored, some parts are green, some brown. Not fully opened, no tips
- Leaves remained tightly twisted after the first infusion and upon opening the leaves by hand, found them to be dark green with out much browing to the leaves.
- Twisted leaf still unfurled. No buds, no bugs. Very few stems. Maceration apperant but some whole leaf.
- Not uniform for the colors of leaves, even for each stalk and leaf. Good elastic feel.
- Dark Brown
- Dark Green / Slight Twist / Thin 

Wet Leaf Aroma:
- Light but obvious jasmine aroma. Sappy with slight vegetal quality. Firing is just right.
- unremarkable
- very slight aroma, earthy, floral in some way, honeysuckle
- wet mulch, sweet woody
- Light, slightly burnt, vaguely toasty/woody
- Wet hay, slightly sweet
- floral, fruity, not overpowering - fruity
- like perfume, very good, I hope to keep smell
- jasmin, hint of roasted aroma, light, white grapes
- The aroma was flora and pleasant.
- Slight loyality to dry leaf aroma with same roasted cocoa. Pleasant.
- Light fragrance with some sweetness,but balanced
- Malted / Sweet / Bright / Hint of Smokiness

Liquor Color:
- Dark amber/yellow with red tints developing as it cooled. Some brightness. Good body.
- pale yellow-brown, pinkish hue
- brownish gold, clear, light
- mild orange, not yellow
- Light reddish
- a little deeper than 1 & 2
- Yellow brown color
- light tan, like a light leather
- light amber
- light brown
- golden brown and yellow, pure
- The liquor was dark amber honey like.
- Color between aprocot and peach. Clarity neither bright nor dull. Aroma light and floral
- more camillia flowers and lilac than jasmine.
- Deep yellow, tuibid
- Dark Red-Orange

- Solid jasmine taste with sappy, thick mouthfeel. Some dryness as well as astringency but ok. Fills the mouth. Some hints of fire in the initial taste which then dissipate.
- sweet, milky, slippery, oily
-  little bit of astringency, clean subdued, hints of vanilla, straw
- very slight bitter or slight ashy with meadow flowers; sprouted grain, unflavored popcorn kernels; the dry hangs on end of tongue
- Green and vegetal, sharp and slightly sweet, some atringency, with a "cedar"-like aftertaste. Reminds me of a forest.
- Astrigent, vegetal in flavor, green bean, slight sweetness
- Pleasant on mouth, sweet finish. Bitter up front, alfalfa in the middle, and a sweet finish.
- roasted marshmellow with a lingering sweet plum
- taste was clear, like perfume, deep
- floral
- jasmine flower, lightly roasted, hint of nuts, black currant in the end
- The initial sip was astringent on the tip of the tongue and had minimal to vanishing finish after one minute.
- Not a lot going on. Slight sweetness. No flavors to complement aroma, but nice mouthfeel even though body is thin.  Bitterness builds substantially as liquer cools.
- Full and lingering fragrance and sweetness, smooth but light
- Spicy / Toasted / Floral / Astringent

- Some intensity in the aroma. Careful manufacture is evident in uniform twist of the leaves. A well-made, well-balanced tea. The gentle baking brings out an additional nutty note in the aroma. Hints of tobacco linger in the aroma.
- Warming of dry tea brought out more aromas…more malt, some sweetness  Second immersion accentuated earthiness and the astringency
- Maybe because it is mild, the lovely sweet/metal/woody aftertaste sadly disappeared in less than 1 minute.  Also, i think when the temp of the tea got about lukewarm, the taste diminished; so the trick was to drink it quickly.  I could see that a medium or large cup of this would be best to drink quickly, or, keep it in a preheated thermos.
- I very much like the aftertaste of this tea, and that it had some complexity to it. - Quite the surprise on how it tasted versus how it smelled. Pleasant to drink
- A nice light tea with good complexity
- love the color of this tea, smells very complex, the after flaver is my favorite part of the tea
- The 2nd, I felt like perfume, cool and beautiful. I can brew this tea more and more.
- Tea is nice, jasmine flavour remaind more overdried flowers, than fresh. Finish is sweet nutty.
- This tea is very fragrant with a sweet taste and smell; thick mouthfeel. Reminded me of sandalwood. The second infusion was better.
- I could not get a good flavor from this tea.  2nd infusion Gaiwan (180F/2min) still had a significant amout of unfurled leaf but taste was only slightly improved (slight Dan Cong Honey Orchid flavor).  Body remained thin but aroma remained good.  Chou Zhou pot infusion (7 gms, 150 cm pot, full boil, 15 - 20sec), was interesting in that the liquor aroma was now loyal to dry leaf. An undertaste of slightly sweet mushroom, burnt carmel and fig appeared prominent but not overwelming.  Chilled (2nd infusion Chou Zhou, 30 seconds, full boil, then cooled) did not work
- very bitter at both 62F (16.7C) and 53F (11.7C); however, it retained a light floral aroma at 62F but you would need a Champaign glass to serve.
- Very nice taste for full and smooth of liquor, comfortable and exciting smell of the infused leaf, reasonable degree of fermentation. I like this tea best.
- This tea is very fragrant with a sweet taste and smell; thick mouthfeel. Reminded me of sandalwood. The second infusion was better.

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 4 5 4 2  
Leaf Aroma 4 4 5 1 2
Liquor Aroma 2 7 2 2 1
Liquor Flavor 5 4 4 1 1