D is for Dong Ding

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Other names or spellings: Tung Ting, Wu Long Cha, Oolong Cha

Did you know that…

The cultivation of the tea was first introduced to the Lu Gu region by a young scholar named Lin Feng Chi, who left his home town of Luku (which means Deer Valley) in Taiwan in 1885.  He crossed the Taiwan Strait to China, with the intent of taking an examination, which would qualify him to become a government official in Fujian Province.  He returned to Lu Gu with a diploma in his pocket and the exciting news that YES ! he had indeed passed the exam.  In addition, he brought back thirty-six tea plants from the Wu Yi mountains as a gift for his compatriot –  Mr. Lin Shan Xian-  who had helped pay for his studies.  Thankful for his gift and with the hope of great “tea  success”, Mr. Lin planted the cuttings at the base of the Dong Ding Mountain in Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range, which is located in Nantou County.

Just exactly where is Nantou County?

taiwan

http://www.choice-travel-china.com/destinations/Taiwan.php

Nantou County is in the geographical center of Taiwan.  It is the second-largest, and the only landlocked county in Taiwan.  Lu Gu Township, where mountain range is located, is one of the most productive tea regions in Taiwan.  The county is the principal tea-growing district in the country, producing over 12,000 metric tons of tea annually.  The area around Dong Ding Mountain is home to about 20,000 people, with about 60% of them in the tea business.  Dong Ding Mountain stands an impressive 2,427 feet, and the area is known to have a superb micro – climate for growing fine oolong tea.  It is usually wrapped in mist and fog, so the slopes are very wet.  There is a legend that because of the heavy rain and slippery roads, when the tea farmers moved along the mountain on their socks, their feet often froze.  After that the mountain began to be called Frosty Peak, (Dong Ding, literally means “frozen peak”).

A beloved tea…

Dong Ding is one of Taiwan’s most beloved teas, and many believe it’s one of highest quality oolong teas.  Due to the huge rise in popularity of Dong Ding Oolong, the area where it was originally grown (Lugu Township in Nantou County), can no longer cope with the high demand and consequently other areas around Taiwan have started growing and producing Dong Ding style oolongs.  It is now accepted by some, that Dong Ding not only refers to the original tea made from the Qing Xin cultivar grown in Lugu, but now has become the name to describe a style of tea that is very similar to that original Dong Ding Oolong.

Is there such a thing as “fake” Dong Ding?

Many tea purists however, do not necessarily agree with that.  There certainly are however, some fantastic versions of Dong Ding available – both in the more traditional baked style, as well as the more lightly oxidized versions. The technique for making  traditional Dong Ding is more complicated and requires considerably more time than the lighter oolongs.  Today, many young tea farmers prefer to produce Dong Ding tea with a lighter oxidation and roasting, primarily because it is easier and not so time-consuming to produce. Traditional-style Dong Ding is processed with 35-50% oxidation and with a medium-to-heavy roast.  The main criterion however, for a good Dong Ding, is taste. Some people tend to get a bit overly concerned that they bought a “fake” Dong Ding because it did not come from the Dong Ding mountain area, but that need not be the case.

Next… Dong Ding in my cup!

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