Dancong is a Chinese oolong tea. It is difficult to brew correctly and can easily become bitter; however, when done right, a high-grade cup is regarded by many as the ultimate tea. Known for its ability to imitate the flavors and aromas of various fruits and flowers, it can taste and/or smell like longan (a popular fruit in China) orchids, honeysuckle, dried fruit, ginger, almonds, grapefruit, cinnamon, sweet apricots, peach and mango.
Where to buy
This tea is not always easy to find. Your best bet are specialty tea shops or online tea vendors. If you are unsure where to begin, you can check out some of my recommendations below.
How to Prepare Dancong Tea
The preparation instructions given here are for loose leaf teas. For tea bags, you can just follow the instructions given on the box.
The ideal brewing temperature is 90-95ºC (194-205ºF), which is just below the boiling point. You can simply boil the water using a regular stove-top kettle and then let it cool for 30 seconds.
If you plan on trying a lot of varieties of tea and/or coffee it might be worth it to invest in a water boiler/warmer or an electric kettle with a variable temperature setting. Personally, I recommend this Cuisinart kettle, because it has presets for every type of tea, so you always get the perfect temperature:
This tea is best brewed in a traditional porcelain vessel called a gaiwan and that is what I will use for these instructions.
- Fill both your brew cup and tasting bowl about halfway with hot water to preheat them. Tilt them a bit so that the water creeps up the side and then rotate them so the insides get wet all the way around. Then pour the water out.
- Put 2 teaspoons of tea leaves into the gaiwan. If using a different vessel, use 2 teaspoons for every 6-8 oz. (177-236 ml) of water.
- Fill the gaiwan with 90-95ºC (194-205ºF) water.
- Place the lid on the gaiwan and let the tea steep for 30 seconds.
- Pour the tea into the tasting cup and enjoy your tea!
- You can get 8-10 infusions out of most varieties if brewed in this manner. Increase the steeping time 30 seconds or so for each infusion. How many infusions you do depends entirely on your taste and the quality of your tea. Experiment.
Use the amounts given in these instructions as a rough guide. If you find the resulting tea too weak, add more tea leaves; if it is too strong, reduce the amount of leaves used. Similarly, try increasing or decreasing the steeping times.
My favorite Dancong teas come from Generation Tea, despite their hideous and outdated website. This company specializes in high quality Chinese teas and their 2015 Wild Duck Shit Guangdong Dancong is on another level. And don’t worry: there’s a perfectly good, non-disgusting reason for the name.
The duck shit tea is incredibly expensive. The Ya Shi Xiang Phoenix Dancong from Teavivre is also an incredible tea, but not nearly as rare. It costs a lot less as a result.
If you’ve looking for something a bit less expensive still, try Teavivre’s Da Wu Ye (Big Dark Leaf) Phoenix Dan Cong. Obviously the quality is not as high as the two choices above, but it’s still a really good tea.