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In the early days of tea, tea production was as simple as simply picking and drying and/or roasting the leaves. But during the Ming Dynasty people noticed that tea leaves can actually be allowed to wither and oxidise. These allowed the leaves to develop more flavour and black tea was discovered.
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Dan Cong is a famous category of oolong teas from the phoenix mountain, in Guangdong. Oolongs from this region are considered the biggest competitors of oolong teas from Fujian's Wuyishan tea region. Especially, in the past years, Dan Cong has become increasingly popular. Like many other famous Chinese teas, there’s a legend to be told about its origin.
Emperor Zhao Bing’s Elixir
During the Song dynasty, emperor Zhao Bing fled to the Wu Dong Mountain (乌岽山) during a war.
According to a myth, he was extremely thirsty and local farmers let him chew on the leaves from the tea bushes. This didn’t only quenched his thirst, but allowed him to regain his energy. Due to this miracle, Dan Cong tea was referred to as the the Tea of Song (宋茶 'Song Cha') and later also named the Song cultivar (宋种 'Song Zhong') raising the potential status of Dan Cong to an imperial level.
The Fall of Song
However, it took hundreds of years before Dan Cong became a tribute tea, because Zhao Bing wasn’t able to survive the war and return the favor to the local farmers. As according to historical records he jumped into the sea and died at an age of 8, consequently resulting in the fall of the Song Dynasty. Luckily his body was found by a Monk of Tin Hau (Queen of Heaven) temple in Shenzhen, Guangdong and eventually got buried there. See pictures of the temple below.
The Rise of Dan Cong tea in the Qing Dynasty
It was during the reign of emperor Jia Qing (image below) in the Qing Dynasty, when the Dan Cong bushes finally where rewarded for their ultimate quality. The tea region began to develop into a more mature production region, and more trees where planted. With pressure as well as financial support from the emperor, the trees enjoyed exceptional care. As a result they naturally grew into large ancient trees which you can still observe today.
Interested to try out this legendary tea? Visit our Dan Cong tea page to buy tea online direct from the Phoenix mountain! For more information about the different types, you may read our expert article on Dan Cong tea types & classification.
Read about how tea became the second most consumed beverage in the world. From how Shen Nong accidentally discovered tea until Mongols treatened the tea culture in China, to how the East India Company monopolized the tea trade and spread tea all over the world.