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Oolong Tea

What is Oolong Tea

Oolong (traditional Chinese: 烏龍; simplified Chinese: 乌龙; pinyin: wūlóng) is a traditional Chinese tea (Camellia sinensis) somewhere between green tea and black tea in oxidation. It ranges from 10% to 70% oxidation.

In Chinese tea culture,semi-oxidized oolong teas are collectively grouped as qīngchá (Chinese: 清茶; literally "clear tea"). Oolong has a taste more like green tea than black tea: it lacks the rosy,sweet aroma of black tea but it likewise does not have the stridently grassy vegetal notes of some green tea. It is commonly brewed to be strong,with the bitterness leaving a sweet aftertaste. Several subvarieties of oolong,including those produced in the Wuyi Mountains of northern Fujian and in the central mountains of Taiwan,are among the most famous Chinese teas.

Wholesale Chinese Oolong Tea

Oolong tea leaves are processed in two different ways. Some teas are rolled into long curly leaves,while some are pressed into a ball-like form similar to gunpowder tea. The former method of processing is the older of the two.

The name oolong tea comes into the English language from the Chinese name (traditional Chinese: 烏龍茶), which is pronounced as O·-liông tê in the Min Nan spoken variant. The Chinese name means "black dragon tea".

About the Name Oolong

There are three widely accepted explanations on how this Chinese name came about.

According to the "tribute tea" theory,oolong tea was a direct descendant of Dragon-Phoenix Tea Cake tribute tea. Oolong tea replaced it when loose tea came into fashion. Since it was dark,long and curly, it was called the Black Dragon tea.

According to the "Wuyi" theory,oolong tea first existed in Wuyi Mountains. This is evidenced by Qing dynasty poems such as Wuyi Tea Song (Wuyi Chage) and Tea Tale (Chashuo). It was said that oolong tea was named after the part of Wuyi mountains where it was originally produced.

According to the "Anxi" theory,oolong tea had its origin in the Anxi oolong tea plant. A man named Sulong, Wulong or Wuliang discovered it.

Another tale tells of a man named Wu Liang (later corrupted to Wu Long, or Oolong) who discovered oolong tea by accident when he was distracted by a deer after a hard day's tea-picking, and by the time he remembered about the tea it had already started to oxidize.

  tea garden in wuyi mountain
  Tea Graden in Wuyi Mountain
  plucking wuyi cliff tea
  The Plucking of Wuyi Cliff Tea

Classification of Oolong Tea

Tea connoisseurs classify the tea by its aroma (often floral or fruity),taste and aftertaste (often melony). Oolongs comes in either roasted (炭焙) or light (密香 or 清香). While most oolongs can be consumed immediately post production,like pu-erh tea, many oolong can benefit from long aging with regular light roasting with a low charcoal fire (烘培, pinyin:hōngpeì,literally:bake cultivation or 焙火, pinyin:peìhǔo, dry roasting by fire). Before roasting,Oolong tea leaves are rolled and bruised to break open cell walls and stimulate enzymatic activity. The process of roasting removes unwanted odours from the tea and reduces any sour or astringent tastes; in addition,the process is believed to make the oolong tea more gentle on the stomach.

Varieties of Oolong Tea

Wuyi cliff tea (武夷岩茶 Wǔyí yán chá) from Fujian province

The most famous and expensive Oolong tea are made in Wuyi mountains but the production is still usually accredited as organic. A lot of Shui Xian is grown elsewhere in Fujian. Some of the better known cliff teas are:

Da Hong Pao(大红袍)
Literally translated into Big Red Robe Tea,a highly prized tea and a Si Da Ming Cong (四大名樅, literally: The Four Great Bushes). This tea is also one of the two Oolongs that make it to the list of the 10 Chinese most famous teas.

Shui Jin Gui(水金亀)
Golden Water Turtle in Chinese, a Si Da Ming Cong.

Tie Luo Han(鉄羅漢)
Iron Arhat in Chinese, a Si Da Ming Cong tea.

Bai Ji Guan(白鸡冠)
White Cockscomb in Chinese, a Si Da Ming Cong tea. A light tea with light, yellowish leaves.

Rou Gui(肉桂)
Cinnamon in Chinese, a dark tea with a spicy aroma.

  shui xian oolong tea
  Shui Xian Oolong Tea

Shui Xian (水仙)
Water Sprite in Chinese, a very dark tea, often grown elsewhere.

Fujian province

Tie Guanyin
Iron Guanyin in Chinese, this is a tea from Anxi in South Fujian. It is very famous, in fact a 'Chinese famous tea' and very popular.

Guangdong province

Dān Cōng (单丛)
A family of stripe-style oolong teas from Guangdong Province. The doppelganger of teas, Dancong teas are noted for their ability to naturally imitate the flavors and fragrances of various flowers and fruits, such as orange blossom, orchid, grapefruit, almond, ginger flower, etc.

As the name implies, Dancong ("single bush") teas are clonal or single-bush productions.

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Taiwan

Tea cultivation only began in Taiwan in the mid 19th century. Since then, many of the teas which are grown in Fujian province have also been grown in Taiwan. Since the 1970s the tea industry in Taiwan has grown at a rapid rate, in line with the rest of Taiwan's economy. Due to high domestic demand and a strong tea culture, the majority of Taiwanese tea is bought and consumed by the Taiwanese.

As the weather in Taiwan is capricious, quality of tea may differ from season to season. Although the island is not particularly large, it is geographically varied, with high, steep mountains rising sharply from low-lying coastal plains. The different weather patterns, temperatures, altitudes and soil ultimately result in differences in appearance, aroma and flavour of the tea grown in Taiwan. In some mountainous areas, teas have been cultivated at ever higher elevations to produce an unique sweet taste that fetches a premium price.

Dong Ding Oolong (凍頂)
The name means Frozen Summit or Ice Peak. Dong Ding is a mountain in Nantou County, Central Taiwan. This is a tightly rolled tea with a light, distinctive fragrance.

Dong Fang Mei Ren (東方美人茶)
The name means Oriental (Eastern) Beauty. Also known as Bai Hao Oolong. This tea is tippy (the leaves frequently have white or golden tips), with natural fruity aromas, a bright red appearance and a sweet taste.

Alishan (阿里山茶)
Grown in the Alishan area of Chiayi County, the dried tea are large-rolled in a purple-green colour. It is grown at an elevation of 1000 to 1400 metres. There is only a short period during the growing season when the sun is strong, which results in a sweeter and less astringent taste. It produces a golden yellow infusion with an unique fruity aroma.

Lishan
Grown in the north-central region of Taiwan this tea is very similar in appearance to Alishan teas but is often considered to be one of the best teas from Taiwan. It is grown at an elevation of above 1000 metres with Dayuling, Lishan, and Fusou being the best well know regions and teas of Lishan.

Pouchong (包種茶)
Also romanized as Baozhong, the most delicate and floral Oolong, with unrolled leaves of a light green to brown color. Originally grown in Fujian it is now widely cultivated and produced in Pinglin Township near Taipei, Taiwan.

Other oolong teas:

Darjeeling Oolong

Vietnamese Oolong

Thai Oolong

African Oolong: made in Malawi and in Kenya

How to make Oolong Gongfu Tea

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Last Update: 2014.7
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