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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.
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.
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)
Shui Jin Gui(水金亀)
Tie Luo Han(鉄羅漢)
Bai Ji Guan(白鸡冠)
Shui Xian (水仙)
Dān Cōng (单丛)
As the name implies, Dancong ("single bush") teas are clonal or single-bush productions.
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)
Dong Fang Mei Ren (東方美人茶)
Other oolong teas:
African Oolong: made in Malawi and in Kenya
Last Update: 2014.7
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