Our partners on Phoenix Mountain harvested and produced this batch of Duck Shit Oolong tea in winter of 2019. Some teas are so subtle in their complexity, it’s almost like they’re shy. However, Phoenix Mountain Oolongs are the extreme extrovert in the world of tea. Each sip sings flavors of toasted coconut and marzipan, and whispers of fragrant gardenias and carnations. Beyond its remarkable flavor, understandably, its name always raises eyebrows. So, let’s get to know this unique tea.
Duck Shit oolong tea comes from 凤凰山 (fènghuáng shān; Phoenix Mountain) of Guangdong Province. Each Phoenix Mountain tea’s cultivar usually doubles as its name in the global tea market. For example, this tea’s cultivar is 鸭屎香 (yā shî xiāng; literally Duck Shit Aroma), so Duck Shit is its name. A comparison to the world of wine usually helps our friends understand. A Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is very different than a Napa Pinot Noir. Although Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir are both grapes, they are different varietals of the grape. In the case of tea, we develop and cultivate the varietals, so they come to be known as cultivated varietals, or cultivars. The villages of Phoenix Mountain grow many, many cultivars of camellia sinensis. Duck Shit is the name of this particular cultivar.
Why the funky name?
A wise, even if somewhat paranoid, tea farmer developed the Duck Shit cultivar. After developing this new strand, they noticed that the bush had darker, thicker leaves than the other bushes. The farmers wanted to protect their unique bushes from curious thieves. So, they spread a rumor: the leaves were so dark and thick because they fertilized the bushes exclusively with the poopshit of duckbirds.
The villagers were disgusted. They imagined a stinky bush, a stinky tea, a stinky cup, and stinky breath! Success! The wise farmers celebrated their solitude and developed this tea’s ideal processing methods for years. They refined the processing. They maximized its flavor and aroma. Once they knew they had something special, they brought it to the local market. The village’s tea lovers quickly recognized and valued the unique flavors and aromas. In spite of the curious name, Duck Shit Oolong was a hit. Duck Shit now sits high on the list of prized Phoenix Mountain Oolong Teas. And the world of tea shines a little brighter thanks to the song of Duck Shit.
This tea offers a resonant brightness of flavor, like a ringing bell. Winter harvests usually exhibit louder flavors with a slightly quieter finish. All winter, tea bushes collect nutrients from their environment. The bushes remain dormant, like a hibernating bear. They silently gather energy for spring. Finally, in early spring, new buds shoot from the tips of the branches. These buds are packed full of the nutrients and energy gathered all winter.
As spring progresses into summer and autumn, bushes constantly produce fresh new buds. By the end of autumn, the bush settles into a rhythm of growth. While winter’s buds lack the density of spring’s, their flavor profile is usually a little more defined. The cup’s complexity jumps right out. Regardless of its shorter length of flavor, the fragrant attack is really satisfying.
Check out this page from our friend Tony Gebely’s blog, Tea Epicure. Tony breaks down oolong tea really well, and his work will help you understand the place of Duck Shit in the wider context of oolong tea in general and Phoenix Mountain in particular.