There are two main types of oolong, one grown in China and the other grown in Taiwan (Formosa). Oolong from China is oxidized only 12-20%, resulting in pale yellow liquor with a distinct, fresh taste. Taiwan oolong on the other hand, is usually 60% oxidized and is known for its golden liquor and exquisite, flowery aroma.
COLOR: Pale yellow to golden
AROMA: Flowery, orchid-like
TASTE: Fresh, floral
The fresh tea leaves of the tea plant (Camellia Sinensis) are picked.
The leaves are softened, and the moisture content of the leaves is reduced by half, allowing the leaves to be rolled without breaking.
To start oxidation, leaves are tumbled in a basket, kneaded or rolled over by heavy wheels. This method has replaced hand rolling the edges of each leaf.
The chemical structure of the leaf is altered, allowing key flavour characteristics to emerge. Long oxidation means a softer taste. Oolongs are semi-fermented.
ROLLING & SHAPING
Leaves are put into 4-15 pound bags which are rolled tightly to create a ball shape that curls the leaves. Some leaves are preferred flat so they are not rolled or shaped.
The leaves are pan-fried to halt oxidation and begin drying. Underfired leaves will mould over time while over-fired will lose flavours. Leaves then cool off on bamboo mats.
Leaves are graded and put into categories: whole leaves, broken leaves, fanning, dust.
MAKE THE PERFECT CUP OF OOLONG TEA
Oolong is especially good for digestion, so it is naturally a great tea to drink after a large meal. It should never be drunk with milk, sugar, or lemon.
The perfect type of teaware to use for steeping oolong is a yixing teapot. The Ming belief that “tea should be drunk often but in small quantities” led the development of yixing teapots, which were first made during the 1500s. Yixing teapots were first adopted by Buddhist monks. They felt that the simple lines and minimal decoration embodied the classic Chinese concept of harmony and beauty, and thus the true spirit of tea. Throughout the years, yixings evolved into beautiful, artistic expressions incorporating symbols of daily life.
Yixings are made from the famous purple clay, ‘zhi sha’ from China’s Yixing region. Because the purple clay is so porous, the pot absorbs a little of the flavour and character of the tea with each infusion. It is said that if one uses a yixing pot for many years, the teapot will be so seasoned that one can make tea by simply filling it with hot water.
ESSENTIAL OOLONG TEAS
IMPERIAL TUNG TING OOLONG
IRON GODDESS OF MERCY