First, there needs to be a comment on the name of this tea, "Dan-cha". Arthur stated that the teamaster at Dong Cheon Tea, Kim Jong Gyun, prefered to call this tea "Dan-cha". This is interesting because red tea in Korea is commonly known as "hongcha", the Chinese transliteration. What is also interesting is that this tea is not named the literal red colour in Korean which is "Bbal kang". So this begs the question, "Why is the name "Dan-cha" preferred?
The name "Dan-cha" has Daoist roots and implies good health. More specifically "Dan" here is alluding to the "Dantian" or "cinnabar field". Essentially it is referring to a deeper essence of red or cinnabar red. It has health implications because it suggests that the chaqi of this tea can touch our essence as it traverses the three chambers of our body. Arthur has since commented that the name was intended to imply "Dan-yak" or "miracle cure", another Daoist view of the teas potential health benefits.
Let's sit down with this tea meditatively and see if this tea is truly red tea, if it stands up to its name, and if its chaqi is at all penetrating.
The dry leaf is comprised of small black saejak grade leaves. They smell of deep, meaty, licorice notes with light woody-raisin notes in the distance. There is an interesting meaty-pungent odour in there as well.
These leaves are placed in a warm pot and water that spends only seconds in the cooling pot is makes its way over these leaves.
The first infusion presents with smooth-creamy bitter-sweet mild astringent black tea initial taste. The colour of the pour is a vibrant red-brown- if any doubts about it being a hongcha have arisen they are completely gone. A woody-raisin taste with a smooth sweet finish fills the mouth. There is a lingering mahogany-date quality to the finishing taste. The mouthfeel is full and goes down to the lower throat, coating it. One breaks a sweat all over, cheeks feel flushed, ones mind accelerated. A maple syrup-like sweetness is left on the breath appearing minutes later.
The third infusion has tangy notes that are almost citrus and present first over the wood-raisin base. They evolve to a creamy, raisin, walnut, almost-chocolate, deep wood taste. There is a prominent and even sweetness throughout. The mouthfeel is more chalky and thick but a soft quality coats the full throat and mouth. A sweet syrupy-nut-raisin is left in the long aftertaste.
The fourth has a soft chalky wood start which becomes tangy before the deeper raisin wood is revealed. It turns tangy again as the wood-faded raisin sweetness holds in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel now has a soft, dry quality to it. The qi still pushes hard with each cup.
The fifth sees the soft, sweet, deep walnuty-wood taste becoming lighter now and evolving into a deeper mahogany raisin which comes out later and lingers with sweetness.
In the sixth soft, sweet, tangy wood start fades into a juicy and faint fruity nutty watery raisin taste. The fruit notes come out in this infusion. The mouthfeel is slowly coming out of the throat and more into the mouth, it is a little drying.
The seventh infusion is much the same with fruit notes more obvious and a touch of malty-syurpy sweet finish noted. The mouthfeel continues its evolution to a thinner chalkier type.
The eighth infusion presents more of the fruity-wood bark initial taste with that red tea astringency gone this tea now tastes like quality balhyocha. It evolves into a deeper woody taste. The mouthfeel hold the upper throat and mouth.
This tea is enjoyed for another four or five pots. Here woody notes are more dominant but still full complex flavours can be found. Of note are the appricot and faint coco undertones enjoyed in these late infusions.
Link to Cha Yi Ji's Tasting Notes
Link to dicipleoftheleaf's Tasting Notes
Currently 2011 Dan-cha is available from the following vendors:
Morning Crane Tea
Phoenix Tea House