As I mentioned in the beginning, I wanted to see what my Taiwanese father-in-law would say about this tea. My experiment was almost certain to yield negative results, but I still wanted to try. This is a man who can hardly eat a banana without pointing out its minor flaws or lack of perfect sweetness. Once several years ago, when I was new to the family and didn't know him so well, I made a trip to Alishan with friends and brought him back a bag of Alishan tea purchased from a souvenir shop, as per the Asian custom of buying a souvenir (usually cookies or some kind of snack) for friends and family when one takes a trip. When I handed him the gift, he grabbed it, didn't say a word, got out his equipment, brewed a pot, and then unapologetically pronounced that the tea was junk.
Not only does my father-in-law ONLY drink Alishan High Mountain tea, but he only drinks the good, expensive stuff, which he acquires from a source that he doesn't seem to be willing to share. Therefore, it is practically a pointless venture to even get him to try other styles of tea. But here goes.
First off, he didn't instantly hate it, which was his reaction when I brewed some Oriental Beauty for him previously. He didn't say much, except that we should try one more round. After the second round, he declared, “不(not)甘”. 甘, or 甘甜 is difficult to translate to English. It means sweet, but the kind of natural sweetness found in tea, coffee, or perhaps other plants and vegetables. It wouldn't be used to describe, say, a cake. He kept pointing to his throat when he said it. The way I interpret this is that he is totally used to that super long-lasting, back-of-the-mouth sweetness of the Alishan tea, and can't tolerate anything lesser.
“So is it decent or not good?,” I inquired, hoping to get a clearer thumbs up or down. He replied with, “還可以”, which translates roughly as, “It's doable/acceptable.” And this is the best I could have possibly expected from him. I didn't dare hope for a “還不錯” (literally “not bad”, but in Chinese, “not bad” means exactly that. It means that it is good, and if you emphasizes it in a certain way, it can actually mean “surprisingly, effing good”).
I can't deny that my father-in-law is able to identify very high quality tea (more precisely, high quality Alishan), but honestly speaking, judging from his reaction to any other tea I've seen him try, I kind of think he's full of shit.
So take this how you want it. My experiment didn't really prove anything, except to confirm that people have preferences and those preferences aren't easy to change. And I think the mere fact that my father-in-law didn't instantly reject this Dong Ding or call it junk, means that it is at the very least a totally passable, drinkable, mid-range tea, and is a great introduction to the style if you are a newbie like me (maybe someone more experienced out there could take on the task of comparing this particular Dong Ding to others). I prefer this style over Alishan, and for the time being at least, I would go as far as to say that this is my favorite tea.
Note: Ai-Want Formosa Tea has indicated that their 2015 winter Dong Dong is nearly sold old, so get some soon, or wait for the spring harvest, which should be going on sale by mid- to late- May!