Huang Zhi Xiang Is one of the ten ancestral Phoenix Oolong varieties. It is characterized by its bronze color and twisted leaves. It is medium-oxidized, with a tropical fruit flavor and a satisfying deep hui gan 会甘 or returning sweetness. An intensely fragrant tea with a tempestuous character, redolent with the scent of cooked tropical fruit with slight caramel and butterscotch overtones. Steeping notes: This tea, when brewed quickly, carries a bright and easy sweetness. Steeped too long, it can become bitter and astringent. This tea is representative of the Phoenix oolongs in that it is difficult to brew, requiring great precision and skill, but the results, when successful, are outstanding.
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Of the many varieties- and there are many- of Phoenix oolongs, duck shit or Ya Shi bears the distinction of having the most entertaining name. It’s curious moniker has an equally entertaining story behind it: the process of breeding a new variety of Phoenix oolong is time and labor intensive and requires an exceptional degree of skill and knowledge. The first step is to identify which plants you want to breed together, the seeds produced by this breeding event are planted and raised to an age of two to three years before the young plant develop their individual attributes, at which point the farmer decides which of them has the potential to become a successful breed. The chosen plants are raised to an age of 7 to 10 years before cuttings can be taken from them for the purpose of cloning. Each year only a limited number of clones may be propagated without causing excessive damage to the mother plant. The young clones must be raised for two to five years before they yield a substantial harvest. From the time a farmer decides to breed a new variety to the the time that they have pounds of tea ready for the market 20 years may have passed. The pay-off for all of this effort and patience is fame and fortune: the new variety is the sole property of its creator who is in possession of the mother plant. If the tea is good, its reputation will quickly spread amongst phoenix oolong lovers who are often willing to pay high prices for rare and novel varieties of tea. However it is not uncommon for unscrupulous tea farmers, seeing their neighbors hard at work breeding a new variety to “steal” the new plant by surreptitiously taking their own cuttings of the mother plant and propagating their own clones. When the rightful creator of the new variety does finally hit the market, the thief is able to undercut them by discretely offering the same product at the same price. The farmer who developed the tea now known as Duck Shit originally named his new variety Wu Jiao Zai or “the dark legged one” but, fearing that his neighbors would be tempted to steal the plant, he renamed it with the off-putting epithet, Ya Shi or “duck shit” in the hopes that it would discourage tea thieves. Despite its curious name or perhaps in part because of it, this exceptionally unique and flavorful phoenix oolong has become one of the most popular varieties. Duck Shit is an extremely fragrant varietal with prominent notes of honeysuckle, jasmine and sweet almond. The winter harvest, with its thinner leaves and consequently lower oxidation, has a delicate jade liquor, abundant floral notes, and lightly sweet flavor.
One of the ten original Phoenix oolongs, this tea takes its name from the Osmanthus flower, a species of olive, and one of the most celebrated of Chinese flowers. This lightly-roasted, low-oxidation oolong has an unmistakable sweet floral fragrance, with delicate notes of apple and pear.
Ye Lai Xiang, one of the ten original Phoenix oolong fragrances, is a remarkable example of how low oxidation processing can bring out abundant complexity. Master Lin Yao Bin first uses an electric oven to roast this tea, before finishing it with Longan charcoal. Tuberose refers to the cape jasmine, which this tea’s delicate floral perfume apparently resembles. In addition to the eponymous flower, this tea has a delicate grape-lychee fragrance to it.
One of the ten original Phoenix oolong breeds. Magnolia is called Yu Lan “Jade Orchid” in Chinese, and the Chinese magnolia is one of the most prized of flowers and floral fragrances in China. The Chinese magnolia has a different shape and perfume than the American magnolia. This tea really does have a fragrance evocative of the sweet summer smell of fresh magnolia blossoms, with high notes of rose, orchid, and lychee. One of our all-time favorite Phoenix oolongs, this tea is a masterpiece of careful roasting by Master Lin Yao Bin.
One of the oldest varietals of tea plants used for oolong, Shui Xian or “Water Immortal” is found in all 4 oolong producing regions - Wuyi Mt., Anxi, Taiwan, and the Phoenix Mountains. Genetic drift and localized breeding have given the regional breeds of Shui Xian very distinct characters over the intervening centuries. Our Phoenix Shui Xian is heavily oxidized and roasted by tea master A Long of Chaozhou. It has a deep, robust mineral taste with a restrained abundance of fruit and flower notes hidden beneath the roasted surface flavor. Unlike most Phoenix oolongs, Shui Xian ages well; this is the 2017 vintage and its two years of age and repeated roasts have given it a rich flavor and exceptionally strong, heady qi. It yields a deep red gold liquor. An excellent tea for oolong aficionados.
This classic Phoenix tea comes to us from Master A Long of Chaozhou. It’s dry fragrance is of dried strawberries and blueberries while the wet leaves take on a more sweetly floral aroma. The mouthfeel is distinctly creamy while the flavor vacillates between notes of yumberry (a Chinese tree berry after which the tea is named) and dehydrated strawberry, sweetened condensed milk with hints of rose and holy basil flower.
Hong Yin refers to the mushroom Amanita, and it is one of the ancestral breeds that lends its genetics to the rest of the Phoenix oolongs. Descended from the foundational oolong varietal - called, incidentally, Oolong - Amanita gave rise to the varietal Shui Xian, which is the direct ancestor of the 10 original breeds of Phoenix Oolong. Being an ancestral strain, it has a bouquet of complex floral and fruit notes, presumably the genetic source material for the multitude of Phoenix breeds with their specific and narrowly-defined fragrances.
According to local legend, this Phoenix Oolong, originally an 8 Immortals plant, was struck by lightning nearly 100 years ago. While half of the plant died, the other half remained but with altered Qi and has since been cloned many times over. Our version is the tea from the 2nd and 3rd generation clones. The demi-sweet fragrance of this tea is similar to that of kettle-corn and translates into a fuller sweetness in the after-fragrance, a slight buttery savor in the mouthfeel and a hint of the flavors of toffee, brûléed apricot, and grape jus; while the the flavor profile is recognizably similar to 8 Immortals, the Qi is far more clarifying and crown centric and it can also be electric and unpredictable.
One of the most bizarre of all the teas we carry, Pan Long is made from a unique feral tea plant that grows like a vine, coiled around a larger tree. A rare phenotypical morph of the tea plant, its name means “Coiling Dragon”. The tea itself is barely recognizable as tea; its leaves are rounder and less serrated than normal Phoenix teas, with an oily-sweet flavor and a brown liquor. The most remarkable aspect of this tea is the intense, nearly psychedelic qi. If you’re the sort of person who sees ghosts, this tea is likely to make you see ghosts. Processed more like a white tea - simply sun-dried - than an oolong, Pan Long is a specific 2012 harvest. Tea master Lin Yao Bin has been unable to find the unique tree that this tea is made from since 2012, meaning that this one limited harvest might be the only one we ever get.