What is oolong tea. Origin, technology, taste | TEA SIDE
26 Apr 2018

What is oolong tea

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Oolong tea type

Oolong tea is a separate kind of tea, such as white, green or black. Its name comes from Chinese ‘wu long’ which means “black dragon”. Here black means dark, the color which the tea gets in the process of fermentation (which is actually oxidation) and roasting. This kind we call dark oolong now. Thus unlike green tea oolong is oxidized but unlike black is not fully.

Oolong is semi-oxidized (or semi-fermented) tea. Its technology assumes gradually slowed down oxidation alternating with roasting and twisting of the tea leaves. For different kinds of oolongs, the range of oxidation and roasting can vary from 10 to 80% and combined differently.

Withering Oolong Tea Leaves

Withering Tea Leaves - The first stage of Oolong Tea processing

Usually strong roasting applies for highly and medium oxidized kinds, for example, dark Dong Ding oolongs. And light oxidation usually comes with mild roasting. For this last type they also have another Chinese name - 清茶, “qing cha” (dark green or greenish-blue tea) to specify its light infusion color. Newbies often confuse this kind of oolong with green tea or just call it green. That’s incorrect.

Oolong Ball Rolling Technique

Oolong Ball Rolling Process

Oolong tea taste

Oolong is famous as very tasteful and aromatic tea, it offers a huge diversity of flavor which depends on the process the leaves undergo.

Cupping Oolong Tea

Cupping freshly made Oolong Tea

Light oolong tea leaves are partially oxidized along the edge. Mild oxidation brings sweet floral and fruity notes to its flavor and gives fragrant aftertaste that are so typical for light oolongs. Delicate processing preserves beneficial compounds of the plant that makes light oolong tea a bit better for your health then the dark one.

Deeper fermentation brings a wide range of new flavors - from fruity-berry to honey and nutmeg or even chocolate. Highly fermented oolongs are easily identified by the dark red or ruby infusion. They are closer to black tea in taste and color.

Roasting Oolong Tea

Roasting Oolong Tea

Roasting also affects the taste. It results in baked notes akin to milk caramel, cream cakes, bakery or nuts. High fire (strong roasting) gives tastes of bread crust or roasted grains. The color of the infusion is golden, dark amber.

What is oolong tea made from

Oolong tea is made from leaves of the oolong bushes (Camelia Sinensis var. Sinensis or its hybrid). Bushes can be endemic, that means originally growing in the region, imported from other countries or cultivated. There are a lot of varieties of Oolong bushes and their hybrids, but, by and large, there are only two real "suppliers" in the world, it is mainland China and Taiwan. By the way, oolong teas from Thailand are Taiwanese varieties.

Oolong Tea Plant

Oolong Tea Bush

Each cultivar has its own taste characteristics. Therefore, an experienced tea connoisseur is able to identify a variety of the bush, regardless of processing technology the tea underwent. This may seem impossible for beginners.

Fresh harvest Oolong Tea leaves

Freshly harvested Oolong Tea leaves

So we have a huge number of bushes kinds growing in different countries in a locally specific environment (terroir) and processing by the technology with many parameters. Each of these factors affects the result (taste and aroma of the tea).And there is still more to come. The harvest season and weather conditions, as well as for wine production, also matter. For example, winter harvest oolong is valued not less than the spring tea and has its own special taste qualities (try our Winter Jin Xuan Oolong Tea). And, just like in the case of pu-erhs, with aging oolong is gaining taste, Qi power and the cost, acquiring collectible value (1995 Lao Chin Shin Oolong Tea). That is why we find oolong tea is so exciting to go into it.

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