What is a Phoenix Dancong?
In recent years, the Phoenix Dancong has grown rapidly in popularity. Let us take a look at what is a Phoenix Dancong by examining its parts first:
What is a ‘Dancong’?
Dancong is the Hanyu Pinyin of ‘单丛’ which has been translated as ‘single trunk’ or ‘single bush’. Whichever classification you view the plant as, if taken literally then Dancong is THE bona fide single origin tea.
In its simplest form, Dancong is also the highest grade of tea from the Phoenix Shuixian cultivar with the next grade being Phoenix Langcai & Phoenix Shuixian.
The classification of a ‘Dancong’ though, has evolved throughout the years:
From the waning years of the Qing Dynasty- more specifically, the rule of Emperor Guangxu (1871-1908) – through the tumultuous years of modern China’s founding, the term ‘Dancong’ referred to tea that were produced from leaves harvested from a ‘single tree’ of a ‘Phoenix Shuixian’ cultivar. From production, to storage and sale, all the leaves must be from that ‘single tree’ in order for it to be classified as a ‘Dancong’.
From 1955 to the 1980s, the definition of a ‘Dancong’ was tightened to restrict the usage to tea leaves harvested and produced not only from a single tree but also specified those trees could be harvested from. These trees were usually painstakingly maintained by the farmers for 70-80 years or had a long history dating back for centuries. In addition, the definition also included restricting the production techniques for these tea leaves to be in accordance to the traditional methods in order for it to be classified as a ‘dancong’.
From the 90s onwards, with the spread of modern grafting techniques, the definition of Dancong too has taken a different slant. Through grafting, many more trees have taken on the characteristics of those ‘original’ trees and hence the definition of Dancong has expanded to include tea produced from leaves harvested from the same ‘family of trees’- i.e. grafted from the same parent- and produced according to the tradition methods. Hence Dancong has come to mean technically not necessarily a single trunk (though more valued and expensive variants continue to be from a single trunk) but a ‘single parent tree’.
The production methods of Dancong require a separate post on its own but we will take a look at the stringent picking requirement of the Dancong which sets the tone for its quality control:
Dancong has a strict ‘3 no pickings’ requirement:
i) No picking in the early morning
ii) No picking during rainy days
iii) No picking when the sunlight is sweltering
Generally Dancong is picked during the window period between 1400 to 1700- weather permitting. Weather though, is a big issue especially during spring season where the finest Dancong are harvested since it is raining approximately 80% of the days during this period. The rain literally puts a dampener on pickings since tea processed from leaves harvested during the rain fetches less than half of what it might have on a sunny day.
Upon picking, the leaves are processed immediately and the production ensues throughout the night to ensure its freshness and quality.
What is the ‘Phoenix’ then?
The Phoenix in Phoenix Dancong refers to Fenghuang Shan or Phoenix Mountains as well as Phoenix County or Fenghuang Zhen.
Located in Chaozhou district in Guangdong province, Phoenix County spans 231.73 square kilometers and has 27 villages under its jurisdiction with a population of circa 35,000. It gets its name from Phoenix Mountains where it is located in.
There are literally hundreds of mounts in Phoenix Mountains with elevations ranging from 350-1,498 meters above sea water. Out of which the tallest is Mt Niaoji. Mt Wudong though slightly lower at 1,391 meters above sea water, is considered the prime area of Dancong production.
Phoenix Mountain has ample rainfall with an average rainfall of 2,000-2,200 mm per annum and 140 raining days per year. Coupled with its high relative humidity, the ample moisture makes it a fertile ground for growing of tea leaves. In addition the average temperature of Phoenix Mountains is circa 17.4°C and has 1400 hours sunlight per annum. This is further accentuated by its natural granite, ample springs and perpetual mist- it is no surprise than Phoenix Mountain produces these wonderful teas.
In our next post, we will look at the different types of Phoenix Dancong- Mi Lan Xiang, Tong Tian Xiang etc and what is a ‘Song Zhong’.
For the next post and other tea related information, visit https://www.peonyts.com/types-of-tea/all-about-tea/