About Oolong Tea
Oolong Tea is a category of tea with much variety. Oolong tea may be light and fragrant (known as "green" oolong) or deep and roasted (known as "dark" oolong) or somewhere in between. The flavor profile will depend on the variety of tea plant, the area where the tea is grown and the goals and skills of the tea maker.
The finest oolong teas are said to produce an aroma like that of a ripened peach and many oolong tea makers strive to achieve this result. In Taiwan, most premium oolong tea tends to be very fragrant, with characteristics similar to green tea. In mainland China, where the preference tends toward a more roasted style, the oolong teas are more full-bodied with a flavor that lingers longer on the palate.
Oolong tea production
The production of fine oolong teas is extremely labor intensive and requires outstanding craftsmanship. The many steps involved in producing oolong tea result in a great range of flavors. After plucking, the leaves are wilted in direct sunlight for a short period of time. Then, the leaves are brought indoors where they are gently rolled in order to lightly bruise the edges, which initiates the oxidation of enzymes in the leaf. After a partial oxidation, the leaves are fired (or roasted) at high temperatures to stop any further oxidation. The freshly roasted leaves are then rolled a number of times before being re-fired. Once the leaves have cooled they are again rolled, and are then given a last firing. The rolling and roasting methods determine the final shape of the leaf and largely determine whether the oolong is a light tea or a dark, roasted tea. The skills of the tea-maker are of great importance during these procedures, as any mistakes can greatly diminish the final quality of the tea.
Oolong tea brewing tips
One of the key aspects of oolong tea is that one serving can, and should, be steeped several times. It is over the course of many infusions that the rich aromas and flavors of oolong tea are revealed. While oolong teas can be brewed in a regular teapot or mug just like any tea, we recommend gongfu brewing in order to appreciate oolong tea to the fullest. This Chinese art of brewing tea using small Yixing clay teapots, lots of leaf and short steeping times has been developed over generations and is still used today.