What is Oolong Tea?

What is Oolong Tea?

Black Dragon Tea

In the world of tea, there are few varieties as unique and exquisite as the fabled Oolong. The origins of Oolong tea are as mysterious and mystical as the tea itself. Many different stories exist that describe how Oolong may have come about. 

One story holds that Oolong was originally a brick or tea cake. One presented as a tribute to the emperor and was called “Long Fang” or “Dragon Phoenix” before the name changed to “black dragon” in reference to the tea leaves’ draconic appearance. 

Some other theories hold that the tea came from the Wuyi mountains in China. Others claim the birthplace was in Anxi and named after the tea farmer who developed this unique type of tea. Whatever the true story may be, what can be known, is Oolong skyrocketed in popularity before crossing over to Taiwan, where the tea has been truly perfected. 

In the true tea family, which includes any tea made from the Camellia sinensis plant, there is a range of different oxidization types out there. This scale is what differentiates white, green, Oolong, Black, and pu’erh teas from one another. It is determined by how long the tea leaves are allowed to oxidize before being exposed to a heat source and processed. Oolong tea just so happens to be between green and black tea in terms of oxidization which gives it a truly marvelous array of colours, flavours, and aromas. Let’s find out a bit more!

Processing Oolong Tea

The method for processing Oolong goes a little something like this: first, the leaves are picked, bruised, and shaken. They are then laid out in the sun to wither for up to several hours or so. Next, the leaves are cooled by fans and then rolled and twisted. This step is important because it gives Oolong its unique appearance and can also yield the small round little tea leaf pellets that are so common with Oolong teas. Now, the leaves are allowed to fully oxidize, which will alter the colour, flavour, and aroma of the tea leaves. This process may take a few hours. Then, the leaves are pan-fired to cease the oxidization process and impart some more subtle flavours. Finally, the leaves are given their final twist and roll, dried, and ready for packaging.

Flavour and Aroma Profiles for Oolong Tea

The choicest Oolong teas still come from Fujian province in China or the many areas of Taiwan, though some excellent Oolong also comes from Nepal, Japan, and other regions. Oolong is, like many other true teas, truly diverse with its flavour and aroma palette. Some Oolong can taste toasty like bread, others are creamy, while others still are fruity, tropical, citrusy, and sweet. Some Oolong teas are referred to as “the champagne teas” like Taiwan’s Alishan tea. Other famous varieties include the illustrious Iron Kwan Yin Oolong and the classic Wuyi Oolong, just to name drop a few!

Caffeine, Preparation, and Enjoyment!

Brewing Oolong tea is a real art form, but feel free to have fun when preparing your Oolong! Each leaf is different, so keep in mind that one leaf may need more heat or steeping time than others. Also, don’t forget to rebrew your leaves a few times to explore the nuanced flavours that may emerge. Oolong, being a member of the true tea family will also possess some caffeine. The longer leaves are steeped, the higher that content may be, so keep this in mind if you plan on winding down the day with this truly fantastic tea!

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