Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How to brew Feng Huang Dan Cong - Phoenix Single Bush Oolong Teas

Dan Cong is delicate and some what difficult to brew. Ok it might be the most difficult to brew. I had trouble when I first encounter DC. Either the aroma was not as pronounced or the tea became bitter fast for most of the commercial grade Phoenix Dan Congs Oolong Teas.

Like any tea, water, temperature and timing are crucial in maximizing the potential of the leaves.

DC prefers slightly higher PH water (7.25-7.5). Here in Southern California, tap water can be used after boiled with bamboo charcoal. For better result, filter tap water with Brita then boil water with bamboo charcoal, after water is boiled, simmer for 10 minutes with just enough fire to keep it hot but not bubbling. Well filtered water such as reverse osmosis filtered water can not bring out the aroma and the honey taste as well as the above method. Tea would have a soapy slippery texture without the honey and fragrance. When water is right, tea would have a buttery honey water taste.

1st boil = shrimp eye, lots little bubbles forming at bottom of pot, rising slowly, sounds like bamboo leaves swaying in strong wind
2nd boil = crab eye, medium size bubbles travel up fast, loud popping noise
3rd boil = boiling, fountain like water surface, no more bubble, constant humming noise

For new teas (under 5 yrs): use 3rd boil water for first infusion. Pour boiling water from low to high and make sure leaves tumble around. Force plus temperature will open up the leaves from aroma to taste. Use 2nd boil water for the next 3 infusions, 1st boil water when leaves open up entirely.

For old teas (5 yrs and older): 3rd boil for first infusion. Pour water from low for every infusion. 1 boil for the next 2 infusions, 2nd boil for subsequent brews.

For very old teas (20 yrs and older): 3rd boil for immediate in and out rinse, drain and shake all the water out, even just a few drops, leave lid open and wait till temp drop to room temperature, then brew as above method.

Old bush will not turn bitter or too astringent if left in water for too long.
Recommended time: 15, 10, 10, 13, 13, 15, 15, +5 to +10
# of infusions: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.....

Phoenix teas are closer to wild varietals compare to other domesticated varietals, it can be bitter when the tree is young, especially summer/fall productions. In situations like that, steep for shorter time (minus 5 seconds from above) for the first 3 infusions. Leave of this quality can last about 7 or 8 infusions. Old bushes can last 15 - 35 infusions.

Quantity (for old bush DC only):
3 to 5 g for old bushes, unless you like it strong like the chao zhou style then use 7 to 9 g when using a gaiwan or a clay pot no larger than 120 ml.

When not using kung fu style method, use 1 g in 120 ml gaiwan, steep for 2 minutes in boiling water.

Use gaiwan to enhance aroma. Use THIN wall small clay pot to enhance taste and texture, small chao zhou or zhuni pot would be good choices.

Ideal utensils:
Chao zhou stove, clay water kettle, olive pit charcoal, chao zhou red clay pot, do NOT use cha hai (pitcher) and aroma cups.

A little trick to taste/smell your tea. Use 2 fingers to close your nostrils, take a sip of tea, swirl it around your mouth to feel the texture. Then let go of your fingers, the flavor and aroma will purge through your nose, you can clearly smell the flavor with intense sensitivity. It's kinda like separating the taste and smell from the same sip of tea. You can experiment with other food too.


Brent said...

Great instructions, I'm sure they will help me out in my future dan cong endeavors-- I always have trouble brewing it! Just out of curiosity, why do you suggest not using a cha hai?


Imen said...


You're welcome! It's my pleasure o share what I can. :)

Dan Cong contains high level of floral aroma unlike any other teas, when tea is hot, the aroma is better accentuated. Using thin wall pot or gaiwan to brew, and skiping cha hai will keep the temp as high as possible. This is also the essence of chao zhou kung fu style.

Unknown said...

Hi Imen -
For non-old bush DC - what quantity do you use in your gaiwan?

Imen said...

Hi Geoff,

For young bush DC:

Start with 3g and increase to 5g after you can manage to minimize the bitterness.

Local Chao Zhou tea drinkers can go as far as 7 to 9g, or fill dry leaves all the way to the top. I have a hard time drinking with this much tea for it's too strong for my taste.

Herb Master said...

Do you still add some charcoal to the kettle when using a Chao Zhou stove?

Imen said...

Herb Master,
I don't, but you can try and please tell me the result. :)

Maitre_Tea said...

I find he instructions you've offered here to be extremely helpful. I was wondering if you know where to find authentic Chao Zhou Clay teapots?

kevin said...

What a wonderful site. I'm glad I found it. The time and care you take in explaining everything is wonderful. Thank you for helping me to understand this (to me) new and fascinating world.

kevin said...

What a wonderful site. I'm glad I found it. The time and care you take in explaining things is wonderful. Thank you for helping me to appreciate even more this (to me) new and fascinating world.

Imen said...


You are welcome, and thank you for stopping by! :)

Shufra Consultancy said...

Hi Imen, coincidentally, i brewed DC for the first time just this week in tea class. One of the things I learnt is that one must be quick when filling the tea pot with water and pouring the tea out. One question begs: as you suggest, no need for cha hai (fair cup), then how can you ensure that tea concentration is kept uniform. Also, I'm not very good with gaiwans and often it is easier to first pour tea into the fair cup and then distribute it.

Imen said...


Well, practice make it perfect eh?!
It's the meaning underlining Gong Fu for tea, practice, practice and practice more. Chao Zhou Gong Fu Cha looks easy, but difficult to perfect.

Put 3 cups together as a pyramid, pour in circular motion fast, observe color of each cup, even it out with tea. ie pour the last few drops of teas into the lightest color cup.

Have fun!

Sacha said...

Hi Imen,

Thank you so much for all this precious and precise information!

Just a little question: Do you recommend a quick rinse of the leaves of young/commercial "Dan cong"? Or if, as you say, the force plus de temperature is enough to make the leaves open? I just have the habit of rinsing all chinese teas before brewing...

Thank you in advance for your reply!

Imen said...


If you already have the habit then rinse it by all means. Rinsing isn't crucial to open up DC leaves.

Roasting prior to brewing accomplish the purpose. However, it's skipped in today's practice for many.

Sorry for the delayed reply. Comment emails were sent to my junk mail box.

Sacha said...


I read your post on roasting and I'll certainly try the technique to see the difference.

Thank you again for all this most valuable information you share on this blog!

Cosmin said...

Hi Imen,

I want to brew dan cong oolong(mi lan) in a zisha YiXing teapot(300 ml).
What quantity of tea leaves should i use for my teapot?
What about the timing?
Is my teapot a good choise ?

Thank you in advance for your reply,

Imen said...


DC performs better in a smaller size pot, usually under 150 ml.

However for a 300 ml pot, you might have to use up to 12-15 g of leaves for commercial grade, 10 g for old single bush tree teas.

Timing remains the same, for 1-3 infusions keep the time under 15 sec, increase 5 sec for each succeeding infusion.

Cosmin said...

ok, I got it, thanks.
So, i`ll use a gaiwan because i don`t have a smaller pot(a quality one) and i can`t afford one right now.
Maybe my next pot will be a chao zhou ,special for DC tea but i need to save a lot.
Btw, greetings from Romania! :)

Cosmin said...

Imen, do you sell teapots also in Europe? Or do you have any partner in Europe?
I am asking because of shipping cost.Thanks

Unknown said...

very good post
loose tea leaves

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H.Gerber said...

So glad I was steered to this post of yours as I am brewing Dan Cong for the first time tonight and asked my facebook-tea-group their thoughts. Lucky for me one of them found this wonderful information from you.
Off to go try it again!

Anna Schafer said...

Like any tea, water, temperature and timing are crucial in maximizing the potential of the leaves.Matchado

Truth and Go said...

This post is very useful, thank you. While drinking very much Puerh, i really like, and want to get more into Dancongs ...
this post makes it much more easy to approach it.
I started to use/learn the Chao Zhou Gong Fu Cha method recently... and looking forward to practice with DC based on your here presented knowledge/tips.

Norvald said...

Hi. I’m also struggling with Dan Cong here. I wonder; by the phrase “new, old/very old”, do you mean the number of years the tea have been stored, or is it about the age of the tree? Br Norvald