Summit Tea Party: Phoenix Dan Cong on Mount Harvey March 21, 2015 09:40

Will you agree that ambiance plays an important role in a tea ceremony? For us, the great silence and serenity of the mountainous landscapes often offers the ideal conditions for experiencing all the subtle nuances of a tea. On the summit, after an exhausting ascent, with rows upon rows of mountains around you, the sensations of taste, smell, touch become even more intense. But the calmness of the mountains can be easily disturbed by the weather. The tea from our previous tea party at Rainbow lake, Lushan Clouds and Mist green tea, could have gone very well with the kind of weather we faced the following weekend. Clouds and mist mixed with some rain and snow were the leitmotif of our following summit tea party dedicated to Phoenix Dan Cong oolong tea.

The weather forecast promised a grim and uninviting dreariness all around Vancouver, with one exception: the little village of Lions Bay had a small chance of decent weather and only before noon. The decision came fast: we were going to climb Mount Harvey. First, it is challenging enough, gaining 1500 m of elevation in under 7 km. Second, we have already been there twice, so we wouldn't miss out on the views. Third, we were hoping that the weather report would turn out to be correct.

Dawn met us on our way to the trailhead and brought the first drops of rain. So much for putting trust in weather forecasts. We started going up the old logging road, wondering whether we wanted to continue all the way to the summit. The final scramble section can be quite dangerous if the conditions become too harsh.

View over Lions Bay village

So, when we reached a viewpoint at a 1,000 m altitude, we decided to take a rest, get some hot tea, and think our plans through. With the weather quickly deteriorating, it made sense to take a few pictures just in case we couldn't reach the summit that day. Interestingly enough, the tea garden from which our Phoenix Dan Cong is harvested is situated at a similar altitude.

Truly a tea with a view

The warmth of the tea restored our confidence and we moved on. Another hour in, we reached Mount Harvey ridge and enjoyed a beautiful view back on the Lions Bay and Howe Sound.

Looking south-west over Howe Sound and Sea-to-Sky highway

To be honest, we were happy to escape the bitter pouring rain down the valley, even if it going through some snowflakes. From the ridge, the summit of Mount Harvey was basically within a hand's reach, which gave us an extra boost of motivation. The wind had started to pick up, but we were still sheltered from it by the trees.

The way to the summit

Once we reached the peak, though, we could barely stand straight due to strong wind gusts. Hadn't we hidden behind a pile of rocks that marks the summit, the wind could have easily blown us away, not figuratively. We had no choice but to move our "summit" tea party a few meters below, where the mountain would cover us from the elements.

Both Lions summits

Our Phoenix Dan Cong grows on the slopes of Phoenix Mountain, in the far east of Guangdong province of China. The warm climate with plenty of rainfall keeps the high-altitude tea gardens shaded by the clouds and fog a good part of the year. Due to significant temperature drops during the night, teas grown at a high altitude develop unique fragrance and often are of an exceptional quality.

Wind disturbs the tea

Our Phoenix Dan Cong is made from the famous Phoenix Narcissus (Shui Xian) cultivar, which originated in the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian. The distinct way of growing contributes to unique qualities of this tea. The trees in the tea garden are neither aligned nor pruned, as it usually done with other tea varieties. Instead, they grow as a tea forest, with individual trees reaching five meets height! The tall trees produce darker and more fragrant leaves.

Mountains reflecting in the tea cup

We steep our Phoenix Dan Cong for about four and a half minutes at 85ºC. The resulting infusion has a deep amber colour and a delightful fruity bouquet. The aroma of this tea is incredibly complex, revealing notes of wild rose, ripe peach, strawberry, cloves and dried wood. It has a pleasant full-bodied taste, and sweet and smooth aftertaste. As many other teas in our collection, Phoenix Dan Cong is perfect for multiple steeping.

Phoenix and West Lion

After being violently beaten by the wind, we couldn't get enough of that tea party and the surrounding landscape. Some peaks were blanketed by fog, and we could see dark clouds forming in the east, yet the visibility from out spot was nearly perfect. It felt like we were in some kind of pocket of good weather.

Anvil Island looks like a giant whale

Garibaldi park, where we held our Golden Buds tea party at Panorama Ridge, was getting its share of long due snow. During this winter, the mountains got only 20-30% of average snow cover!

Hut Mountain with Garibaldi Park in the distance

At the end of the day, hiking Mount Harvey on such a gloomy day was a great experience: we made it to the summit despite some less than ideal conditions and enjoyed not one, but two tea parties! Is there a better way to spend a rainy weekend?

You can find the full photo report on our Google+ page.