Besides being the tea with the funny name, what exactly makes an Oolong tea? Like all “tea”, Oolong comes from the Camilla sinensis plant, the determining factor in making an Oolong, is the right amount of fermentation and preparation. So lets go a bit deeper and answer, “what is Oolong tea?”.
Oolong tea leaves are something between green tea and black tea leaves, only partially oxidized while black tea is the most oxidized. The degree in which the Oolong tea has been oxidized can range from around 9% up to 85%, all depending on the variety of Oolong being produced. This range provides an equal variety of flavors among Oolong tea’s, sweet to grassy to bold and smoky.
Tea leaves come in two different styles, either wrapped into tight beads or rolled into long curly leaves. This allows the Oolong tea to unfurl in your cup, paying homage to its English name Oolong which came from the Chinese meaning “black dragon tea”. The tea leaves re-hydrate into long dark leaves resembling ancient Chinese dragons.
The exact origin of the famous Oolong tea is unknown, many have their own idea’s about which region it originated in or whom it was named after. A playful tale of a tea farmer named Wu Liang who discovered Oolong tea, it is said he was distracted after picking his tea leaves for the day. By the time he came back to his harvest it had already began oxidizing. No longer a pure green tea, but not yet a black tea, this was a new discovery. Or perhaps it was handed down from the dragons themselves.
Unlike other tea’s which you normally only steep once and then discard the leaves, Oolong is said to be best after 3 or 4 brews. Slowly enhancing and developing its full flavor profile, simply steep for a few minutes, remove the leaves and set them aside for the next steeping. Another method if you don’t want to drink 4 cups of tea to let the flavors develop, is to sit your leaves in the hot water for 30 seconds and then pour out the water. Discarding the initial sometimes unpleasant taste and allowing the leaves to “wake up” their flavors and provide a perfect cup of tea the first brew.
Have a great Oolong!
This ancient Chinese tea is the stuff of legends, passed down for centuries and each subtle nuance adding a new depth to this wonderfully diverse tea. There is an Oolong for everyone, whether you enjoy a bolder cup of tea with more pronounced acquired tastes, or a fresh easy drinking cup with more aromatic qualities, grassy and sweet notes. Watch the leaves unfurl in your cup, as they become the long dark leaves which gave them their name. Taste the flavors develop with each cup, this tea is truly magnificent.