Here are the three we tried:
It’s important to note that the “honey orchid” fragrance occurs naturally due to the specific cultivar Mi Lan Xiang (米蘭香) and to being processed by a skilled tea master. They are lightly oxidized but highly roasted and therefore the dry leaves are dark brown in color.
- Imperial Mt. Wudong Mi Lan Xiang (Honey Orchid) Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong – apricot/raisin/honey aromas in the dry leaves. Middle quality level.
- Premium Mt. Wudong Mi Lan Xiang (Honey Orchid) Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong – nutty rich aroma with a touch of fruitiness in the dry leaves. First quality level.
- Nonpareil Mt. Wudong Mi Lan Xiang (Honey Orchid) Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong – raisiny and honey-like aroma in the dry leaves. Top quality level.
Infused each one in about a half cup of water (4 ounces or about 120 cc) and about 5 grams of tea leaves (about a third of what comes in the sample pouch). Used water heated to just below boiling (209°F or 98°C) and did short infusions, starting with about 20 seconds for the first one and adding about 5 seconds to each subsequent infusion. For this tryout, we did only 5 infusions to keep our humans from overdoing it. (You should be able to get about 15 infusions from each 5-gram leaves amount. That’s about 7.5 cups of 8 ounces each of tea, making it a bargain when compared to those scented or flavored teas where the flavor disappears after one or two infusions.)
The Taste Results
Nero Wolfe, famed fictional human detective (yes, there are fictional teapot detectives, but that story will have to wait for another time), would definitely approve of this tea. It’s named after a most beautiful member of the orchid genus Paphiopedilum (paf-ee-oh-PED-ih-lum), in the subfamily Cypripedioideae (nicknamed “Lady Slipper”). I just had to do the infusing myself here and get a real treat. Unlike the Dancong Gardenia we reported on recently, this time the Nonpareil was the winner. All three, though, were great. The Imperial (#1) had honey, apricot and floral aromas in the cup with a mild, fruity, and floral flavor with a mere hint of vegetal flavor; subsequent infusions became more strongly floral with some roasty quality. The Premium (#2), which is the first end of the quality scale for these three (but still very high overall), started with a roasty aroma and flavor and became slightly edgy; subsequent infusions took on some fruity quality with the floral and roastiness getting stronger and ending up conflicting with each other (sort of like friendly sparring). The Nonpareil (#3) stood out, have a smooth honey-like and floral aroma and flavor to start, with the floral becoming more pronounced in the subsequent infusions.
More About the Cultivar and the Tea Names
The Song cultivar Mi Lan Xiang (米蘭香) is translated by some as “osmanthus fragrance” and by others as “honey orchid” due to its sweetness. The floral aroma is achieved during processing – nothing added.
Repeating what we stated in the Gardenia article: The key in part is to use only this cultivar when making the tea, and this accounts for the name “Dan Cong” which means it was made that way. “Phoenix” means the Phoenix Mountains in Guangdong Province in southeast China (see my earlier article for more info). This cultivar was propagated from a live tea tree carbon dated back to the southern Song Dynasty (13th century). “Imperial” often means something that was used as a tribute tea (handed over by royal mandate to the Emperor). “Nonpareil” means a person or thing that is unsurpassed or unmatched; peerless example. And of course “Premium” means the best. Last but not least, “Mt. Wudong” (Wudongshan) is a tall mountain kissed by mists; it lies in the greater Phoenix Mountain area. The teas from here are the most pure and natural Dancong tea groves, resulting in the most cleanly processed teas of all of the Phoenix Dancong region. The tea trees grow tall, with their roots reaching deep into the soil and allowing for the development of phytonutrients and aroma compounds unique to their tree group (gardenia, honey orchid, etc.).
Just to remind you, here is where this tea comes from (basically the same location as the Gardenia version):
More About Honey Orchids
Here’s a photo of a Honey Orchid by a talented human photographer named Patty Hankins:
So beautiful (especially since it’s my favorite color – yellow! TOOOT!) and having that distinctive slipper-shaped petal on the front (there are many varieties of Lady Slippers, each beautiful and inspiring orchid lovers, real and fictional, all over the world). What this bloom is supposed to smell like is another matter. My humans think it’s probably similar to honey, because of the name and because of the aroma of the dry tea leaves and infused liquid of this tea that is named after it.
A reminder: Unlike Jasmine scented teas on the market, this tea is not scented with flower petals. The flavor occurs naturally, making it all the more special and difficult to achieve.
Wow, an exciting tea adventure and quite a tea story to tell. We hope you enjoyed it and will be brave humans and try these teas sometime soon! TOOOOOOT!
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Disclaimer: This tea was provided by the company named. However, any opinions concerning this tea and the company are always strictly objective.
© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text – All rights reserved. No copying, posting on other sites, or other uses allowed without written permission of the copyright holder.