Marching right along, it's my sensory pleasure to introduce one of my personal favorite tea types--Charcoal Roasted Dong-Ding. Charcoal roasted Dong-Ding has become about as crucial to my everyday survival as Wuyi Yan Cha oolongs, and that's saying something! Although we've recently had some really nice "contemporary"-style Dong Ding oolongs, I've still been hoping to get hold of some more traditionally roasted (with charcoal, rather than a baking machine) tea. Though both methods will caramelize a tea's sweetness, a well-done charcoal roast adds both a note of roast as well as a dynamic connection with the earth that just isn't there when a machine is used--surely traditional Chinese medicine would favor traditional charcoal roasting because it adds the element of fire to the tea processing, which contributes balance. Unfortunately even machine roasting isn't very fashionable right now and judges are choosing greener and greener teas as competition winners. Combine this with the fact that charcoal roasting is a difficult skill that is being passed down to fewer and fewer tea masters and you can see how a good traditional Dong Ding is becoming harder to find and more expensive.
Let me tell you--it's worth it. This tea is an excellent example of a lighter charcoal-roasted Dong-Ding: the charcoal note is present in the tea flavor, but it doesn't dominate. The tea's natural floral notes are still preserved but are made slightly acidic by the roast--the lively acidity is evident in the cup where the tea liquor starts out light orange but darkens quickly as it cools down and interacts with the air. The brewed leaves don't quite pop open as completely as green oolong, which is another sign of a healthy charcoal roast.
It's too bad that charcoal roasted Taiwanese oolongs are becoming more difficult to find abroad--it's hard to understand how both green oolong and traditional oolong can't just coexist equally on their respective merits, but popularity ultimately determines the availability of a tea. For now, at least, we can appreciate the best of both worlds!