Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Get to know Phoenix Tea (1) - Bird Beak Tea

We see phoenix tea, phoenix Dan Cong tea. What are the difference? Dan Cong - Single bush as we understand from the name. However what is the true meaning of dan cong? In order to explain this, we have to travel back in time a few hundred years to get to know this fabulous tea. Why it is named Phoenix tea, why Dan cong, why shui xian (not to confuse with Wuyi shui xian)? Tea is confusing period, therefore phoenix isn't excluded. Let's travel down the corridor of history and sort this out.

A mythical story often told by the locals of Chao Zhou, the last emperor of Song Dynasty Zhao Jing ran from the Mongolians traveling west from Fu Jian to Guang Dong, stopped briefly on top of Wu Dong mountain. Young Zhao Jing sat down feeling exhausted and thirsty. He asked for tea, but his servant replied where can tea be found on this foggy mountain top with no sight of a dwelling. He cried and kept asking for tea. Dense fog drifted apart, a phoenix appeared in sight with a branch in her mouth, she then dropped the branch by ZJ and flew off above rainbow clouds. ZJ picked up the branch, pondered, he plucked a leaf and placed it in his mouth. He shouted out "It's tea! It's tea brought by a bird's beak." He passed out all the leaves on the branch, leaving 2 husks. Inside the husks are 8 seeds. ZJ planted them on the ground, immediately 8 tea trees came to live, bloomed and fruited. ZJ was ecstatic, spreading all the seeds all over Wu Dong mountain. Tea trees were then spread all over Phoenix mountain range. The locals named it bird beak tea. It's also called Song Zhong - Song varietal. The oldest tea tree alive today on Wu Dong MT is over 900 years old. It's a white leaf Song varietal. The most famous tree on Phoenix mountain, however not very tasty.

An other more convincing theory is phoenix tea leaf shaped like a beak from the side. It's up to you what you want to believe.


Sergey said...

Hi, I know this is an old post (5 years!) but I wanted to ask you about the 900 year-old tree. I've been told in China and read multiple times that the oldest cultivated tea tree is the 800 year-old tree on Mount Nannuo in Yunnan. Does this mean that 900 year-old tree on WuDong is uncultivated?

Imen said...


Yunnan and Wudong share some similarities in tea tree cultivation. First of all, there are wildly grown trees in the jungle, then there are trees planted many years ago and now surviving in the wild with no human care. Then there are trees grown by families near village housings, the kind that just exist for generations as a tree by the house. Picking leaves from those trees are just for family uses. Then there is the true cultivation tea plants in the masses for economic purpose. The old trees survived are usually the first 3 types. There are no precise documentation of which tree is the oldest at this time since China tea producing area is so wide and the history is so long, many areas are not even tapped in for study, especially in the wild jungle. What ever text claim the oldest tree is just bogus. There are only old tree, oldest in one region, but not the oldest in the country or world.