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phoenix oolong: bouquet styles

oolong: phoenix bouquet
Bouquet style Phoenix oolong
Lanhua Xiang Dancong
This is a newer cultivar (relatively) from high altitude. The matte surface is a good visual clue of a well executed processing. The leaves are evenly twisted, though not as tightly as some other fine Phoenix oolongs. This is a visual character of leaves which are thicker but more brittle, not so appropriate for intensive twisting.

The infusion is highly aromatic with the bouquet of a sweet, uplifting kind, but I really cannot pin point what flower. Infused properly, the liquor can be dense, velvety, and bitter sweet with long, sweet aftertaste.

Lanhua xiang, xue pian
A winter harvest from the same cultivar, as the above, except from a mid-altitude. Higher altitude typically produce no winter harvests. Notice the less even twisting. The greener leaf ends indicate less fermentation time, therefore, a shorter body, typical of xue pians. This batch is highly fragrant though, and keeps very well, which is a rare quality for xue pians.

Zilan Xiang Dancong
This is a traditional bouquet style dancong with 500 years of traceable cultivar lineage. Notice the finely twisted leaves that is the same as Huangzhi Xiang in the classic style. Same yellow ends signifying earlier harvests and proper zuoqing. This is another of my personal favourite with its therapeutic aroma and a soothing, tinkling bitter sweet liquor. Especially in times of stress or late nights. This batch is from Shizitou, a reputable high altitude region. It has a crisp, bright body and clean, slick texture.

This is a good quality from a mid-altitude farm. Compared with the other samples shown here, except for the xuepian, the pluck quality is less even, but the processing looks decent with ample fermentation and sufficient twisting, and the baking seems thorough and not hastily done. The bitterness is slightly on the high side but the aroma is pleasing enough to out-weigh it. The taste otherwise is bright and lively, with pleasingly sweet aftertaste. The price for this one is a lot more affordable than the others, again except for the xue pian.

Bouquet style Phoenix oolongs, aka Qingxiang Fenghuang Dancong (fèng-huáng dān-cōng), aka floral style Phoenix "single bush" oolongs

as if it were Fragrant Blossoms

I do not personally like strong flowery aroma in my tea except only for that of Phoenix. This intrinsic fragrance, varied from one variety to another, is entirely different from any additives, natural or artificial, added to some other teas. It is innately spontaneous and so very clear, and thus a strong sense of purity. Purity is the essence of tea to me.

When you open an air-sealed pack of such tea, the bouquet simply rushes at you, as if there really were a bunch of fragrant blossoms in there. The aroma has a distinct clarity that is akin to certain wild Chinese orchids. That is why a lot of the names of the tea varieties have orchid names (the Chinese character for orchid is romanized as “Lan”, as you see in many of the Phoenix names). It can also be associated with the pure, sweet aroma of the popular Chinese sacred lily(1)Shuixian. That is why the main group of cultivars is called by that name(2).

A fine one can be infused to a silky texture with a crisp clarity, accented with a light bitterness and a clean, sweet aftertaste. And the bouquet always there.

There are two main harvests for fine bouquet style Dancongs: spring and winter. Spring ones are always fuller body, better balanced and longer taste. The finest ones are always from bushes plucked just once in spring. Compared to the spring harvest of the same variety from the same farm, a xue pian (i.e. a snow flake, which is a special name for winter harvest Phoenix) is often clearly more aromatic but relatively shorter and more bitter. Some people like it that way, though.

Tasting note

To maximize the enjoyment of the aroma, use more tea and shorter infusion time. I normally have it 5 to 7 grams to 150 ml water for 30 seconds in the first round, but that really is dependent on the quality of the particular selection.

If it is a really fine selection, I may infuse for longer time with a tiny bit less tea, so I can maximize the taste as well.

A clean air environment helps a lot too.

Health note

As mentioned in the health notes in the Phoenix health page, bouquet style dancongs are especially effective in reinforcing the body immune against respiratory infections. However, they are a lot colder in TCM term than classic style ones. Therefore if you have a TCM cold body foundation or condition, use a classic style instead. Xue pians are even colder than spring ones, so if you really need a chill, you know what to look for.

When you use a Phoenix oolong to help fight against respiratory infections, use more tealeaves and short infusions, such as 6 g for 20 seconds, in 150 ml water. Drink continuously, in small sips, for 300 ~ 500 ml.

Storage note

Some selections of bouquet style are purposefully lesser-baked for maximum fragrance, and therefore they may have a higher moisture content than the standard and can be stored in room temperature at best for 6 months. The aroma depreciates upon longer storage. It stays much better in the fridge, and depending on the dryness of the leaves, most can last two year. Make sure of air-tightness. (read more about storage) Finer ones are always properly dried in low fire baking for good shelf-life in room temperature. However, that means the aroma would still gradually depreciate and transform into other virtues of the tea. Respectable qualities matured for 3 years would still release impressive fragrance upon contact with hot water. Others are re-baked after a year if they are still not consumed. The tea picks on an entirely different profile afterwards. The rebaked Baxian is an example. However, this is a highly skilled art and I have seen many confident dealers doing it very poorly. I advise either consuming the tea within a year or putting into the fridge the amount you won’t consumed readily, if you are not sure the quality you are getting.


1. The Chinese Sacred Lily is a variety of Asian daffodil that has a very pure and distinctive sweet fragrance. The flower blooms in early Spring so it is popularly used as a Chinese New Year decoration in southern parts of China.

2. The main group of cultivars used to be employed in the Wuyi area is also called by the same name, except that in Wuyi they can never achieve the kind of aroma in the products. The name, however, had been used popularly in all mass market grade Wuyi — the Shuixian that used to be served in dimsum restaurants until very recently. <go to the Wuyi Shuixian page>

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