It's one of the most popular Taiwanese teas. It’s a classic for good reason - Dong Ding Oolong is a tea that retains the mellow green flavors of a high-mountain oolong along with rich, sweet notes due to oxidation and roasting. It’s well-balanced and makes a perfect tea to enjoy throughout the day.
The tea originally hails from Dong Ding mountain in central Taiwan. More specifically, it is from Lugu, in Nantou county. This tea gets its name from the mountain it hails from, Dong Ding Shan (Dong Ding mountain). Dong Ding translates to ‘frozen summit’ or ‘icy peak’. It doesn’t get this name because it’s particularly icy (it’s not that high as far as Taiwanese mountains go, at 800-1000 meters), but because it has the tendency for heavy rains, which caused farmers to carefully navigate slippery roads while working on the mountain.
Dong ding was originally made with the Qingxin cultivar. Qingxin translates to “Green Heart” or “Clear Heart”. The name Qingxin may look familiar to you, as it is the most popular tea cultivar used for high-mountain tea in Taiwan.
We currently carry four iterations of Dong Ding Oolong.
Other names For Dong Ding: Frozen Summit, Tung Ting, Formosa Oolong
The Qingxin cultivar was brought from Wuyi, China to Dong Ding Mountain about 150 years ago. It is reported that the scholar Ling Fong Chi went to Fujian to study and returned to Lugu with tea plants as souvenirs for his relatives. The weather conditions on Dong Ding proved to be perfect for growing tea, with its sunny days and misty afternoons. The tea quickly became famous in Taiwan.
Similar to a Darjeeling or Puerh tea, the name Dong Ding was an appellation- indicating that the tea was produced only on Dong Ding mountain. But as this tea became more popular, growers started producing the tea in other areas of Taiwan but processed it in the same style as Dong Ding. So, it’s possible to have a Dong Ding that does not come from the namesake mountain. Just be sure to pay attention to the packaging labels, to see where the tea was grown.
What Does Dong Ding Look like?
Dong Ding has the traditional ball-shape like many other Taiwanese oolongs. It is a dark, army-green color with slight hints of brown from the oxidation. The steeped leaves will be green in the center, with reddish brown around the edges. The tea liquor is a beautiful bright golden hue, pleasing to the eye and the palate.
It has a plucking of 3-4 leaves and may be picked by hand or machine. After plucking, the leaves undergo a withering process which is typically outdoors under the sun. After withering, the leaves are brought indoors for oxidation. They are then tossed and bruised on bamboo baskets intermittently to agitate the tea leaves, therefore enhance the oxidation process. After the oxidation, the leaves go through the final heating step to kill the enzyme and halt the oxidation, typically somewhere between 15%-30%. The teas are then rolled into its classic ball-shape then dehydrated slowly.
In summary, traditional Dong Ding oolong is roasted, typically to medium roast via charcoal or electric roasting process.
(Dong Ding Tea dry leaves, steeped leaf and liquor)
Dong Ding Flavor
The light to medium oxidation imparts nutty notes to the tea, along with a smooth caramel-like flavor. It retains a delicate, medium body, with very little astringency. As we mentioned earlier, Dong Ding often has a final heating over charcoal, which imparts a pleasant roasty finish to the tea.
A good Dong Ding should have a subtle toasty flavor, nothing too overpowering. The roast makes it a lovely tea to enjoy in the fall and winter months. But its medium body is appropriate to enjoy all year round.
Since Dong Ding comes from the camellia sinensis plant, it contains caffeine (as does all pure teas). Because this tea is rolled into a ball shape, the caffeine infuses slowly into the brew as the leaves unfurl.
The amount of caffeine in the tea has more to do with the brewing method (long vs. short steeps, for example), the processing style of the tea, and the cultivar used. Please refer to our tea and caffeine blog post for more information on this topic.
Brewing Dong Ding Oolong
Dong Ding Oolong: 6 grams
Water: 237ml/8 oz, heated to 212°F (boiling)
Add one heaping teaspoon of Dong Ding Oolong to your brewing vessel. Pour boiling water and steep for 1-2 minutes.
This tea can be steeped many times, until the leaves fully unfurl. Be sure to take a moment to observe the aroma and color of the brew and the leaves. This is an aromatic tea worthy of your attention.
You may use a gaiwan or small clay teapot to brew this tea. For more information on how to brew tea check out our tea brewing guides.