Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mystery Dong Ding Tea

How many times has it happened that you've tried an amazing tea, but you don't know what it is?

One of my lindy and blues dancing friends said that a friend of hers gave her some tea from Taiwan, and that it was really good and she thought I'd like to try it. It's pictured on the right. The only markings on the container are five traditional Chinese characters, Dong Ding (凍頂), Oolong (烏龍), Tea (茶)...it's clear what this is!

I've had mixed experiences with unmarked canisters; if anything I think that the unmarked ones tend to be lower quality because companies selling the best tea want to be identified by name. This one is not only an exception, but it's by far my favorite unmarked "mystery" tea yet.

The brewing and the review:

I confess that I do not often brew "properly" (i.e. gong fu style: although I do this on occasion and am aware that it often produces better results, I can be a bit lazy). I brewed this tea the most common way I brew teas--in a mug (about 12 oz.) using a Finum (M) infuser basket. I used very little leaf (much less than 1 teaspoon--which unfurled to the rather large quantity on the left, filling the infuser about halfway) and the results were extraordinary.

1st Infusion (3 min, 190 degrees): intensely aromatic and floral, with bold presence of lilac, orchid, honey, and cinnamon. Full-bodied, and mildly sweet with nothing I'd describe as bitterness or astringency, only a hint of pleasant tingling sensation after drinking it and and a lingering warm quality.

2nd Infusion (5 min, a little over 190 degrees): the floral tones are present but weaker...now the honey is dominant in the aroma, still some cinnamon, and there is also a suggestion of fresh parsley that was absent in the first brewing. I found this infusion just as smooth as the first, and even more full-bodied--perhaps due to the longer steeping.

I suspect this would do for a third brewing in the mug; maybe next time. Bottom line? Good stuff...and especially amazing how strong a cup I was able to get out of such little leaf. I noticed that even after the leaves expand, I was using only a little over half what I normally use to make Dong Ding.

Why don't these outfits label their canisters with a brand name or something that could be used to identify them to locate it for future reference? If anyone recognizes the canister though, I'd be grateful to know what this is both so that I can give due credit, and also so that I can get some more of it once this supply runs out!


  1. Goodness! I've had a few good and bad run ins with mystery containers as well!
    Although this Dong Ding sounds extraordinary! I wish I could get my hands on some of this to rid my memory of my Rou Gui!

  2. Since the tea is from Taiwan, it's quite normal that a good tea is not marked with company name. In Taiwan, many great teas are not brand named, and many sellers use generic design packages. After buying from a few Taiwanese sellers, I've found some of them basically use similar vacuum packs although their teas are not from the same places.

    I too, think traditional dong ding is very good for mug brewing!

  3. Thanks for the explanation Ginko.

    This is interesting...it makes sense that the concept of brand naming is a cultural concept that hasn't really reached everywhere (perhaps this is a heartening sign that global capitalism hasn't successfully imposed its uniform will on every region of the world).