Oolong Tea Primer
Oolongs are the most complicated teas to manufacture. Oolong teas are made from large tea leaves and the appearance (form, shape, colour) of finished oolong teas can range from light green to brown, long & twisted or rolled into tight little balls. There's so much personalization and intricacy that goes into Oolong manufacture that they tend to have the widest array of flavours and aromas.
You might hear oolong tea referred to as "semi-oxidized" tea. Oolongs tend to be more oxidized than white teas, but less than black. The range is anywhere from 35% to 80% oxidation level.
How oolong tea tastes: Your cup of oolong will vary in flavour depending on the amount of oxidation and the roasting level. It may be sweet, creamy and soft (high mountain Taiwan) or roasted, complex and rich (Chinese Wuyi).
What is Wuyi Oolong?
The Apricot Oolong featured in the August box is from the Wuyi Mountains. It’s name is Shui Xian, or Water Sprite. The Wuyi Mountains boast the longest history of making oolong tea. Wuyi teas are grown on steep cliffs and are most commonly dark, rich and roasted in flavour. Soils in Wuyi are mineral rich and this flavour is transferred to the teas in the same way wines take on characteristics of their terroir. The flavour complexity of a Wuyi oolong is incredible and layered. In addition to the roasted character, there is a natural fruit-like sweetness and a warmth of spices, figs and dark chocolate. Add in the natural apricot and we have an exceptional tea.
Steeping the Apricot Oolong: Make sure you don't throw out the leaves after the first steep! Wuyi oolongs can be steeped multiple times. If you're unfamiliar with the idea, this means you can re-use the tea leaves to get more bang for your buck and to see how the taste changes with each steep. Increase the length of time you steep each subsequent infusion for.
The Legend of Oolong
The name Oolong comes from the Mandarin word wu long or ‘black dragon’. According to legend, a tea grower was walking in his garden in Fujian, thinking deeply about his tea when a huge black snake emerged from a tea plant. The tea grower was sure this was an omen, so he picked the leaves from the snake’s tea plant and created wu long tea.
Here's another version that may or may not be more realistic! Way back in time, tea growers would pick the leaves and bake them right away, producing a lacklustre brew. This was the case until a little boy named Wu Long came along. He was picking tea leaves one day and saw a particularly pretty bird. He started to chase this bird and in doing so bruised the tea leaves bouncing around in his basket. He was so tired from all the running, that he didn’t make tea that day. When he got around to making the tea, it tasted so delightfully different because of the oxidation of the leaves. Voila! Oolong tea was born. (see Teaviews for the detailed version)