Taiwan Dong Ding Oolong Tea, History, Processing & How To Brew

Last Updated on 10/25/2020 by Desmond

Oolong tea is what Chinese people favorite, especially popular in Fujian Province. Taiwan, the province only an ocean away from Fujian, the oolong drinking culture also profound. Dong Ding oolong tea is famous which originated there and is regarded as “holy of tea.”

Dong Ding Oolong Tea Origin And History

Dong Ding oolong tea is originated in Lugu town, the middle region of Taiwan. And there is a mountain called Dong Ding; the earliest Taiwan oolong tea was birth from the tea trees there. “Dong” means cold in Chinese, and “Ding” means the top. That doesn’t mean the temperature there is cold or the mountain top is frozen. In fact, the climate there is warm all year round.

The real meaning of “Dong” is one pronounce of the local language, which means “stand on tiptoes.” Because the mountain is heavily foggy, the road is wet and steep. People need to stand on their tiptoe to walk when they go picking tea and avoid falling down.

The ancestors of most Taiwan people were migrated from Fujian at the late Ming Dynasties(1368 to 1644) because of the war. So now, most Taiwan people take the Fujian dialect(Hokkien) as their daily language.

A story about Dong Ding oolong tea origin happened in the Qing Dynasty(1644 to 1912). A Lugu town student named Lin Feng Chi wanted to go to Fujian and take the exam, but he got no money. The villager pool money for him as the traveling expenses and hopes he can bring something back from hometown, to relieve their homesickness.

Lin Feng Chi finished the exam successfully and be an official. A few years later, he planned back to Taiwan. He picked 36 Qingxin type Camellia Sinensis from Wuyi mountain and bring them back to Taiwan. 12 tea trees of them were survived and planted in the Dong Ding mountain. After a long time of cultivation, they grow into a large tea plantation. People also use Fujian traditional tea processing methods on tea-producing, then the Dong Ding oolong was born.

Phoenix, Yonglong, and Dong Ding lane villages of Lugu town are the 3 main producing regions of Dong Ding oolong tea in Taiwan. The tea plantations are located at about 800 altitude meters, foggy and warm, suitable for tea trees growing. Many times people also regarded Dong Ding oolong as high mountain tea, but it isn’t right.

High mountain tea means the tea from the plantations at an altitude of over 1000 meters. But due to the Dong Ding tea brand is famous, and there are lots of plantations over 1000 meter altitude in Taiwan. So people usually call all the oolong tea from Taiwan as Dong Ding, some of them really belong to high mountain tea. Of course, the Alishan Cha and Oriental Beauty tea from Taiwan also famous.

How Dong Ding Oolong Tea Processing

The processing of Taiwan Dong Ding oolong tea is similar to the Tieguanyin tea. Still, Dong Ding emphasizes the roasting more, so the aroma of them has a significant difference.

Picking

Dong Ding tea can be harvested all year. The picking standard is one bud, and the second to the third leaf, the best picking time is 10 am to 2 pm.

  • Spring tea: late March to late May;
  • Summer tea: late May to late August;
  • Autumn tea: late August to late September;
  • Winter tea: late October to late November;

Withering

After picking, the leaves need to be sun withering for several hours, let the water evaporate, and make the body soft. Even though it doesn’t need to care about the strong sunshine, the temperature better stays lower than 40℃. Sun withering also can help to remove the herbaceous smell.

Tossing

Tossing is the most essential step in oolong tea processing. Leaves after withering, the tea masters will put them a rest indoor for a while to let them cool down. Then begin tossing.

Tea masters put the leaves on a big bamboo sieve, tossing and make them crash each other. The edge of the leaves will break, the broken part will oxidation faster and turn red. The juice also outflows and cover the body, to create more taste when brewing. That’s why oolong tea is called partially-fermented tea.

Typically, placing and tossing will alternate several times. In this way, the tea master can identify the fermentation degree of tea better. And the Dong Ding oolong tea also classified into three levels according to the fermentation degree:

  • Light fermented: about 20%;
  • Middle fermented: about 40%;
  • Heavy fermented: about 70%;

Fixation

To process Dong Ding oolong needs to take fixation to stop the leaves from going on fermenting. In traditional, tea masters will do this job in a pan-frying way, that easier to control by their rich experience. 

In modern, people will finish the job by machine. Fixation stops the leaves from fermenting and can remove the herbaceous smell and create some cooked aroma.

Rolling

Rolling is to shaping the Dong Ding oolong tea. One thing different from the other tea types is that the local authority demands that Dong Ding tea must be rolling into a ball shape

The leaves after fixation, tea masters will put them into a special cloth bag, then rolling by a machine or by manual. During the processing, it needs to open the cloth bag several times for radiating. The leaves’ body’s shape will change into a ball after repeated times, different from the common strip-shape tea we saw.

Roasting

Roasting is a significant step to decide the Dong Ding oolong tea fragrance-type. During processing the Dong Ding tea, rolling and roasting jobs are alternated. As for the specific method, every tea manufacturer has its own secret.

Because oolong tea has not been completely fermented, the sugar and amino acid it retains will be caramelization when roasting, thus creates various fragrances.

Some tea lovers like to store Dong Ding oolong tea and take them out re-roast every year, to make the taste stronger. So there is a saying about Dong Ding tea is “middle fermented and heavy roasting.”

Dong Ding Oolong VS Tieguanyin

Even though all oolong tea originated in Fujian, people prefer to compare the Dong Ding tea and Tieguanyin more, but not the Wuyi Da Hong Pao tea. Because Dong Ding oolong and Tieguanyin looks similar. Make clear the differences between them, and you will not confuse when buying.

Dong Ding oolong tea VS Tieguanyin tea
Dong Ding oolong tea VS Tieguanyin tea

Origin

Most Tieguanyin and Dong Ding oolong tea are made from the Qingxin type Camellia Sinensis, but the regions they grew are different. Tieguanyin mainly from Anxi, Fujian, and Dong Ding tea is from Taiwan. About the plantation’s altitude, Anxi belongs to the plain, and Dong Ding mountain belongs to the medium height. Typically, teas from the high altitude plantation are better in flavor and richer in benefits; but the gap won’t be large. 

What is worth knowing, in recent years, many tea merchants from these two places, sending the raw tea to the opposite side for processing. Then named the products with the local brand, to cheat the customers.

Color

Because of the different fermentation degrees (Tieguanyin is about 10%-30%, Dong Ding oolong tea is about 20%-70%). In most cases, they got a different color. 

Tieguanyin, due to the low fermentation degree, shows dark green; Dong Ding oolong tea fermented deeper and has been over and over roasting, so it shows brown. Still, some low fermented and roasting Dong Ding oolong tea hard to distinguish from Tieguanyin by the color.

Appearance

Both of Dong Ding oolong and Tieguanyin tea are ball shape. But if you look carefully, you will found that the Tieguanyin leaf is a spiral curl. And the picking standard of Dong Ding tea is one bud, second to the third leaf; Tieguanyin only picks the second and third leaf, not buds contain. 

Besides, due to the different picking methods, Dong Ding oolong typically contains more stem in the products than Tieguanyin. That may because, in China, the Tieguanyin tea stem can be the independent sale to the low-end restaurant for serving customers.

Fragrance

The Tieguanyin tea dry leaves are with an orchid aroma; after brewing, it will be stronger and tastes a little sweet. Dong Ding oolong tea is with a strong roasting fragrance; after brewing, it will send out huge osmanthus or fruit fragrance.

After all, even though these two types of tea look similar, but they taste totally different. Both of them are worth to have a try.

How To Brew Dong Ding Oolong Tea

To brew Dong Ding oolong tea, use a porcelain Gaiwan may be more suitable.

  1. Preheat the teawares;
  2. Take about 5g Dong Ding oolong tea into the Gaiwan, just full the bottom;
  3. Fill in some hot water to preheat and wash the tea, then pour out the wastewater soon;
  4. Add 95℃ or higher hot water in for steeping. A novice can add water against the edge of Gaiwan. And the veteran can have a try on “high brew” way, which can make a stronger fragrance;
  5. Cover and steep for about 15s, then pour out the infusion into a fair cup;
  6. Serving;
  7. Oolong tea got a feature that is resistant to brew, and Dong Ding oolong tea typically can make over 5 infusions. The steeping time of the following infusion should add 10s in turn.

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