Types of Oolong Teas
Oolong teas are semi-oxidised teas, they are neither green nor black but a category of its own. Oxidation is a process that exposes tea leaves to air which in turn contributes to its dark colour and aroma. Similar to how an apple turns brown when its left out in the air for a period of time. Green teas are barely oxidised while black teas are fully so. Lighter Oolongs are oxidised for a shorter period, while darker Oolong teas are oxidised longer.
There are many types of Oolong tea, some of the more popular ones are Tie Guan Yin (from Fujian, China), Ding Dong Oolong (from Taiwan), and Dancong Oolong (from Chao Zhou, China). Even within each of these Oolong teas, there are sub-varieties. We will look at Dancong Oolong teas in this article.
Dancong Oolong teas originated from Phoenix Mountain (Feng Huang Shan) in Chao Zhou, China. There were records of the original Dancong oolong from this mountain as far as the Song dynasty (circa AD 1200s), when the last emperor of the Song Dynasty Zhao Bing was weary during his flight from this enemies, passed the area and was offered these leaves for food and drink. The meal reinvigorated him. Thus, another name for teas found in Phoenix Mountain to be called “Song Zhong” or plantation of Song.
The word “Dancong” is derived from “single bush” in Chinese, quality Dancong tea picked from a single tea plant to ensure evenness in flavour. Sub-varieties within the Dancong range differs in aroma and flavour. These sub varieties are created when farmers take a graft of the best Dancong trees and cultivate them until certain flavour profiles become more prominent. For example, there are sub-varieties such as honey orchid, gardenia, almond fragrance etc.
We currently stock two types of Dancong Oolong. Mi Lan Xiang 蜜兰香 and Ya Shi Xiang 鸭屎香. “Ya Shi” (directly translated as “duck poop”) is an unfortunate misnomer in every sense for this wonderfully fragrant tea. It is in no way related to the animal at all. It is merely grown in yellowish-green soil that resembles the former.
The story goes that a tea farmer discovered this new breed of tea in his farm. In hope of deterring potential theft and any further interest of this coveted prized tea, he gave the most unappealing name ya shi xiang(directly translated as duck shit fragrance) to mislead everyone. The name stuck for ages after. In 2014, this tea is given a more elegant-sounding moniker as ying hua xiang (translated as silver flower fragrance). Both names point to the aroma of this variety of tea, this variety is renowned for its unique fragrance.