I like saying this word, but what actually is it?
If you haven’t discovered oolong teas before I’m convinced they will make you step more fully into the world of loose leaf tea: they have big personalities, and like any family get-together, the more time you spend in their company the more differences appear.
Oolong (also called wulong) are somewhat of a hybrid variety, somewhere between black and green tea. This is because they are partially oxidised.
Wait, you lost me at oxidised.
The major difference between black tea and other types is that it is left to oxidise. The tea is left out at temperatures from 21 - 32 degrees and a high humidity, anywhere from thirty minutes to 18 hours.
Oxidation changes the chemical components in your tea, releasing tannins which give black tea its dark colour and give more of a bitter taste. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just a different set of flavours.
What makes oolong different, from like normal tea?
Oolong teas undergo more stages of skilled processing than any other tea, including withering (where the leaves are left out after plucking), oxidation, panning (heating the leaves to stop oxidation), rolling, drying and firing (and sometimes roasting).
As a result oolong teas are prized for their complex flavours, aromas and appearance. The colours can run from coffee-brown to amber to golden caramel and many more in between. This is connoisseur tea, full of complex notes, surprising aromas and long-running disputes in the tea world.
So are they speciality teas?
They can be, but they don’t have to be. Some oolong teas are sought after and prized like single-malt whiskeys or fine wines.
The Narcissus Wuyi Oolong from the Fujian province in China can sell for $6,500 per kilo. Our premium blends are much more reasonable, and are described below.
Where are they from?
The processes behind oolong teas were invented in China, but spread to Taiwan which is now famous for their production --specifically green oolong teas.
Taiwan has devoted itself almost entirely to the production of oolong teas, and its growers have developed a tea culture that is specific to their taste and the type of terrior (tea plantation) required for this variety.
Should I buy oolong that’s more like green tea or more like black?
That depends entirely on what flavours your prefer. The greener (less oxidised) teas tend to have more delicate, flower aromas --they are are light and refreshing, whereas the blacker (more oxidised) teas have woody notes, and can be fruity and even caramelised.
The variety of oolong teas is like asking where the colour red stops in a rainbow: there are too many degrees to make senses of. If this is overwhelming, don’t worry: start by finding out if your prefer the lighter, green oolongs, or the darker oolongs. Then explore from there.
How do I brew it?
You can steep it by adding a teaspoon of leaves to a teapot, adding 250ml of near-boiling water, and leaving it for about 3 minutes.
However, you could also try out the Gong Fu Cha method which brings out the particular flavours of oolong teas. We will be doing another blog post about the Gong Fu Cha method.