Floating Leaves Tea Home ---Shiuwen's Blog!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dong Ding and Hong Shui Oolong

One of my favorite teas of the spring season sold out a couple of months ago. It was a Dong Ding Oolong. I simply loved the way it felt in the mouth. I thought I would wait for the winter season to arrive, but some customers fell in love with that tea and simply couldn't wait.

I called the Dong Ding farmer and asked him if he had any tea for sale. He told me yes, and I talked to him about what I liked and how I liked the previous batch of tea I purchased from him, and how the other types didn't work for me. Then he suddenly said," Oh, what you like is Hong Shui Oolong."

I asked him if Hong Shui Oolong was the traditional way of making Dong Ding. I also asked if I should be seeing the clear red edges when the leaves opened up and how come I didn't see that from the previous batches of his tea. "Miss Tai, don't listen to too much of what people have said about tea," he said. I told him I needed to know because that's part of my job. I needed to tell people the right information.

He went on with saying that the tea has the "appropriate" oxidation level and I will like it. I knew I was not going to be getting much more from him on this particular subject, so I asked him what he thought of the weather for the upcoming winter tea. He said," Why do you care about the weather? You don't grow tea. You only need to choose tea. So weather is not your issue." I bursted out laughing and thought that was totally him.

I called a tea friend in Taiwan that had tried that Dong Ding tea. I asked him about his opinions on Hong Shui Oolong. He told me he liked the tea and it was a Hong Shui Oolong. When asked why, he didn't really know how to explain it. I was getting frustrated and turned on the computer to see what I could find. I read a couple of articles from the myteastories blog and Houde blog and found both of them interesting. I got on the phone again after reading, and talked to one more tea friend in Taiwan. He said, "紅水烏龍是台灣烏龍的一種做法,茶葉發酵度高,茶湯呈橘紅色,沒有花香而是帶熟果香,茶湯入口柔順而且很有喉韻".

I swear I could taste the tea when he was telling me how it supposed to taste like. If you can't read Chinese, here is the translation: " Hong Shui Oolong is a traditional way to make Oolong tea in Taiwan. The tea has a higher level of oxidation. The tea liquid is orange/reddish color. This kind of tea no longer carries a floral bouquet, instead, it has a sort of ripe fruit taste. The feel of tea water is very smooth and it has a good 喉韻(Hou Yun - throat smoothness).

Then he went on," 在以前,紅水烏龍指的是毛茶,現代的定義有一點混淆,有些人把烏龍茶焙一焙,茶湯呈紅色,就叫做紅水烏龍." Translation: "In the old time, Hong Shui Oolong refers to Mao Cha. Nowadays, the definition is a bit muddled. Some people roast their tea to show a reddish tea liquid and they will call that kind of tea Hong Shui Oolong, too."

I told him the original style sounded very delicious and asked why we aren't seeing more of that type. He told me that it took more time and skill to make. Not many farmers have those kinds of skill anymore. I could see that he was very busy. I thanked him and told him I would call back again.

Some of you will have more insight and notes on my new Hong Shui Oolong and I would love to hear from you. I have a new Hong Shui style Dong Ding and I also have a modern style lightly oxidized Dong Ding, too. I would like to give out samples of both types to you if you agree to please write me back with what you think of them after you compare them.

Please write to me at tea@floatingleaves.com to request the Dong Ding samples; include your name and address. Only the first 30 requests will get the tea. If you live in Seattle, please just show up and try these teas with me.


Paul Dray said...

..popular topic for discussion today it seems! :)

Tea Masters: 1990 Spring Hung Shui Oolong from San Hsia

Shiuwen said...


Thank you for giving me the information from Tea Masters. I read it and it was a great post!

Eric G. said...

One of the first things I noticed when I tasted this teas was it's similarity to genmaicha. This Hong Shui has a distinctive rice taste to it, not as pronounced as genmaicha, but very similar. The texture, however, was very different from the Japanese flavored tea, it has a hint of buttery smoothness that stayed on my tongue but didn't stick to it. Unfortunately it didn't give me that warm feeling I sometimes get inside when I drink a good tea. Of course only a few teas have ever done that for me so I'm not putting this one down. I would drink it just for the flavor (Amazing), but I wouldn't spend my lunch money on it.
This type of tea is also featured in #4 of The Art of Tea magazine. If you have it, take a look at page 22.

Anonymous said...

First, thanks for the samples. Yesterday I tried the hong shui. This is the third "hong shui" that I've tried. It is a very enjoyable tea to drink - the oxidation level is between that of the other two that I've tried as well as the most complex. The edges of the leaves are clearly oxidized with the occasional red/oxidation in the middle/leaf vein area. While it is clear that this tea has been roasted from examining it, it has none of the harshness of a newly roasted tea so either this was roasted a while ago or was just expertly done. I have found a number of low roasted Taiwan teas to taste rather harsh for quite some time but not at all here.
This is a very enjoyable tea to drink, especially in cooler weather. Hopefully I'll get a chance to try the green dong ding you sent tomorrow. Keep finding these great teas please!

Anonymous said...

Kind of like a genmaicha? Sounds pretty good, actually. A good rice tea can be quite appealing. And I do like fruity Oolong teas more than floral since I tire of drinking women's perfume. --Teaternity

Shiuwen said...

Hi Efglass,
Thank you for sharing your experiences with me. I am happy to read that you can detect the "mouth feel" of this tea. That's what makes the tea special.

See you very soon for a cup of tea!

Shiuwen said...

Hi TokyoB,

Thank you for your comments. I am so glad to know that you enjoyed the tea.
Seattle is getting colder now, too and I noticed I craved for a cup of tea like this!
If I am not wrong, this tea is roasted in April of 2009 and I quite like this kind of roasting.
Yes, I will keep looking for good teas. Will let you know when the new season's tea is here.

Anonymous said...

Today I tried the green dong dong you sent. Again, it was very good. While clearly less oxidized than the hong shui it still had a bit of oxidation. It was also roasted very well - no strong roasting taste. Another great tea - very hard to find dong ding of this quality.

janita said...

I want to thank you for your generousity of sending me the teas to try! I just tried the green one this morning. It is very interesting. No definite flavor that I could put into words. The first pour was weak, next ones not weak. I used about 2tsp in a small clay pot say about 5 T of water. first steep was 15 sec adding up to 20 when I lost track by accidentally adding a minute instead of another second to my timer! I can feel the taste of it on the back of my tounge. It leaves a nice lingering feeling that I like. I just did another few steeps after that increasing the time to 2 min. I hope to try the other tea tomorrow when I have more time! thanks, janet

Shiuwen said...

To Jason Witt,

Sometimes a good cup of floral High Mountain or Baozhong is just what one needs

Shiuwen said...

To Janet,

I am glad to know that you had a good experience with the green Dong Ding. I hope you had a chance to try the Hong Shui one. If you can, please pay attention to how the tea feels in the mouth. And let me know what you think!

Shiuwen said...

To Edward,

Thank you for sharing with us your Hong Shui Dong Ding experience. I did find it a bit tricky for the first 2 infusions, and then the tea will get smooth from the third one.
Glad to know that you like it!

Owen said...

Of the two samples, I highly prefered the Hong Shui. It has a very sensual roastiness and a slippery, supple mouthfeel that I find to be uncommon in the teas that I have tried. The fact that the floral notes are more muted is not a problem when the malty, almost-chocolate roast flavors are this well developed.

I prepared this tea gong fu style and with a basket infuser. Gong fu brewing yielded a very delicate transition between the early florals and roastiness over many short steeps. Using the infuser yielded three very nice steeps. It was nowhere near as subtle as the gong fu steeps... the florals were far less prominent and the roast was bold and strong. I preferred this one brewed with the basket. I would purchase several ounces of this were it available.

The Dong Ding Green was the exact opposite. I felt the florals took a beating brewed with the infusers and the tea seemed short-lived. Gong fu brewing allowed this tea to gently develop and blossom. The florals slowly changed from the brighter notes and showed some deep, dark, less sweet florals. The mouthfeel started with a bit of slipperyness but this passed early. Longer and later infusions reveal some bitterness and astringency. I didn't care for this one as much but it certainly wasn't bad.

Shiuwen said...

To Owen,

Thank you for your comments on both Dong Dings. I will try the Hong Shui one in the basket. It sounds interesting.

Oh, the Hong Shui Dong Ding is available. It's the Traditional Dong Ding on my website.

Maitre_Tea said...

I received a sample of this via Rich from the My Tea Stories blog, and this was a very interesting experience for me, since I've never tried a Hong Shui Dong Ding before. The dry leaf, when put into my pre-heated pot, has that nice toasty honeyed aroma, kind of similar to the genmaicha mentioned above but more toasty. The dry leaf itself has a woodsy, roasted aroma which is nice. It's fruity, but it tastes sorta like ripe fruitiness. Excellent mouth feel, with a lingering sweetness. To sum it all up, it tastes like autumn and the bounty of a fall harvest. A fitting tea for this kind of weather

cwbrynan said...

Dear Shiuwen,
Golden, soggy, wet leaves formed a path as we made our way to the Hickory Park Pavilion. Tai Chi class on another rainy Saturday morning. You'd think this was Seattle not Fall in Pennsylvania. However we did have a treat from Seattle. Ms Tai of Floating Leaves Tea has sent two Dong Ding oolongs for us to experience at gongfu cha . Since we were at a park I heat the spring water and transport it in a thermos; the trunk of my car displays the tea setting: tailgating. The Dong Ding Green was this morning’s sample. I passed around the (yixing) pot with the rolled green balls of oolong still dry for all to smell. We were intrigued by the calm, fresh aroma. After a single wash of the leaves the second infusion was poured into the tea ocean and again the pot was passed around for another olfactory sensory hit. This time the warm unfurled leaves placed absolute smiles on all our faces…did we even need to drink this stuff. One of my students looked warily around as if we were engaging in an illegal activity.
We did sip several infusions and most thought the initial taste to be smooth and mild, but as we chatted I asked how does your mouth feel? The lingering effect was a drawing of the sides of the tongue. One said the back and not the front another student used the word piquant. I’m personally looking for that pleasant-bitter taste and this oolong approaches but not totally there; however, the aroma in the pot gave us much to enjoy, like a warm summer night walking in the vegetable garden. Thank you Shiuwen!
Charles/Pear Garden Tai Chi

Evan Meagher said...

Thanks for sharing your Hong Shui in the store today! I had about 10 steepings of it with my freshly-purchased gaiwan when I got home this evening. Gave me lots of mouth feel practice as per our discussion.

Mark said...

Hi Shiuwen,

thank you again for the samples. Not many tea vendors would do this, so I very much appreciate the chance to learn for free and commend you for this!

I tried the green dong ding first. It had been a while since I had a green dong ding, so the familiar aromas were very welcoming. However, I found the tea to be mediocre. It was sweet, but had a slightly bitter edge to it. It also made my mouth a little dry as I drank more infusions.

The hong shui was much nicer for me. The first time I tried it, it was the mouthfeel that stood out. There was something else that seemed so familar about it, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Yes it was roasted, but it was also quite sweet.... hmmm. The next time I tried it I realized what it was... It reminded me of oriental beauty! I guess because of the higher level of oxidation. In the end I really enjoyed the tea and am very grateful for the opportunity to have tried it.

Thanks again!

Shiuwen said...

To Maitre_Tea,

I totally agreed with what you felt about the Hong Shui Oolong.

Shiuwen said...

To Evan,

I am glad to know that you can get 10 infusions out of the tea!

Shiuwen said...

To Mark,

Thank you for sharing with your thoughts on both Dong Dings.
Glad to know that you liked the Hong Shui one.

Laura said...

Hi Shiuwen:

I shared the green Dong Ding that you sent with a few friends over Thanksgiving, and it was enjoyed very much. I found it to be smooth, not very bitter as others have mentioned here. I am anxious to try the Hong Shui style in the upcoming month--I will let you know our thoughts!

Many thanks for all that you do! We are blessed to have a teacher who loves her teas as you do.

Dennis said...

Hi Shiuwen: Sorry it's taken me so long to thank you for these samples. Very generous of you. I've been drinking the Hong Shui at work for the past two days, and even though I only have an infuser here (and microwaved water!), it's coming out very nicely. I'm getting sweetness, smooth and subtle fruitiness, and a very long aftertaste. I like it.