This is an historically important dan cong, and one of the most-sought after, due to to the fact that it is a very specific sub-category of FHDC that belongs to the Zhi Lan Xiang (Orchid Flavor) family. The original, ‘mother’ tree of Ji Long Kan can be found in Zhong Ping Village, on Wudong Mountain. The appearance of the mother tree (and the subsequent habit of its descendants, the modern Ji Long Kan trees) are reminiscent of the traditional Chazhou-style chicken cages of the region. ‘Chicken cage’, or more accurately ‘chicken pen’, transliterates to Ji Long Kan in the local Chaozhou dialect. So this FHDC tea varietal was named for the silhouette of its most famous tea tree. The modern cultivar Ji Long Kan evolved naturally by pollination of the original, single tree with local shui xian dan cong plantings, and now the contemporary stock that has been planted in the area during the last century was bred from this evolving Ji Long Kan / Shui Xian lineage.
The Ji Long Kan leaf is rolled tightly and is dense and heavy for its size. The color of the leaf is a light brown, mottled with a lighter tan. The liquor colors up to a clear golden yellow. The fragrance lingers long, like its namesake the orchid flower. The base flavor is smooth and rich. This dan cong has a penetrating aftertaste and the leaf can be re-steeped as many as 25-30 times due to the short time of each steeping (10-25 seconds only).
In the cup, the taste is generally fruity. We taste a strong berry presence and cherry pip, and it is not floral or sweet. As with most other dan congs, there is always at least a hint of floral sweetness in the background taste. This is especially true of the ‘Orchid Oolong’ family. One unique aspect of this family is the inherent ‘creaminess’ of the liquor. This is a result of the chemistry of the varietal, and is quite special.
This dancong has good staying power in the cup. The aftertaste is pleasant and leaves the mouth feeling refreshed.
Many tea enthusiasts find that a new dan cong requires several attempts (at first) in order to be steeped successfully over time. In general we recommend that you try cooler water and longer steep times for better results; however, this Ji Long Kan does prefer short steeping, although the water temperature is often best if on the cool side. Being harvested either early or at the peak time for dan congs, in most years the Ji Long Kan oolong leaf can tend toward showing the elusive dan cong rawness or astringency. A short steep will mitigate this and allow the incredible intrinsic flavor of the original plant to shine through the shui xian influence.
When we sourced this leaf in 2019 we made the educated decision to not offer it for drinking at that time, because we felt that it was too young. We have been monitoring it for almost two years, and it is now ‘ready for prime time’, as they say! It is still showing a bit of its adolescent self (a ‘brightness’ bordering on astringency) but it has matured well and should be enthusiastically enjoyed for at least five years or more (2026/2028+/- depending on storage).