Today is a special day in our house—it happens to be my mom's birthday—she turns 56 today. I can't be there to celebrate with her (we're in the middle of a crazy thundersnow storm), but I wanted to do something special in honor of her birthday, so I have a truly unique tea for you today.
A few months back Ginko from Life in a Teacup made an offer to the readers of her blog: a free package of tea to anyone based in the US and Canada. It was such a generous offer, one I appreciate immensely, especially since it meant I was able to sample one of the rare teas she carries—a Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong from the 1960s. I actually know very little about this tea, other than the fact that is was produced in Chaozhou, part of the eastern Guangdong province of the China, sometime during the 1960s, and it's been traditionally roasted, but two things about it immediately struck me as interesting:
- This tea is roughly twenty years older than I am.
- It's nearly (if not exactly) the same age as my mom.
Those two things alone are absolutely mind-boggling.
Armed with my gaiwan, a traditional lidded bowl used for brewing tea, and a notebook, I spent several days experimenting with this tea. I can't even begin to tell you how much fun this was and for that reason alone I'd suggest you seek out an aged oolong to experiment with. It really is exciting to see how the smallest of changes result in a completely different cup of tea.
Since I didn't have a suggested brewing method I decided to fill my gaiwan halfway with tea leaves, then use a pocket scale to determine how much the tea weighed (it ended up being exactly 5g.) My package of tea contains 25g and knew I wanted to have a little leftover for when my mom comes to visit in a few weeks, so I decided to try four different water temperatures: 185°F, 195°F, 205°F, and 212°F.
It's surprising really how much of a difference 10°F can make in a cup of tea. At 185°F this tea was slightly sweet with only the barest hint of a floral note. The strong earthy flavor obscured any of the more complex notes I was expecting, leaving the tea tasting more like pu'erh than oolong. Increasing the water temperature only accentuated the deep earthy flavor of this tea. If I had started out with a blind sample prepared with boiling water I never would have guessed I was drinking oolong. I also found it fascinating that unlike fresh tea, this tea didn't turn bitter or develop an astringency when I chose to use hotter water or an extended steeping time. The flavor only became deeper and more earthy, with a slight mineral note at the end.
Would I order this again? Absolutely! It's really hard to wrap my head around the fact that Iwas able to sample a tea that was 50+ years old. I can't thank Ginko enough for this opportunity. Sadly this tea is not currently available (but you can always email Ginko to see if she has anything similar.)
Production Year - 1960s (specific year unknown)
Production Region - Chaozhou, Guangdong Province
Style - Traditional roast
Where to Purchase: no longer available on the website
In an effort to be open with my readers I want to let you know that Life in a Teacup has sent this tea as a gift and not for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.