Oolong (Wulong) Tea

A frequently overlooked category of tea, oolongs vary widely in taste & character and bring a complexity and depth not always present in other tea types.

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Regions



One of the most noted oolong tea producing regions in the world is Taiwan, also known as Formosa. Taiwan has been producing highly prized and rare oolong teas for centuries and has mastered the craft. The meticulous nature of producing a fine oolong is considered, by many, to be an art form and is often passed from one generation to the next. The "tea master's" expertise, watchful eye and personal style are all recognized in the cup.

China also produces wonderful oolong teas and is credited for teaching the original production style to the Taiwanese tea masters. Grown primarily on the mainland, Chinese oolongs differ greatly in oxidation and firing. This firing, a necessary part of oolong and black tea production influences the tea's taste, character and coloring (see “Oolong Tea Production” below).

Sri Lanka (better known as Ceylon among tea people) and India are not as well known for producing oolong tea. For years, the oolong teas produced in these regions were considered standard grade at best, and could not compete with the time honored teas created by their Asian counterparts. However, in recent years the oolong teas from these areas have greatly improved.

While they are still very different than Taiwanese and Chinese oolongs, these unique oolong teas are recognized for their own special qualities and nuances.


Production



The leaves are typically harvested during late spring into summer. Once the leaves are plucked they are sorted and spread out to dry. Once drying is complete the leaves are then withered. This withering is done by vigorously shaking the leaves in baskets. The shaking bruises the edges of the leaves which begins the oxidation process. They are then fired to halt the oxidation and de-enzyme the leaves. The freshly roasted leaves are then rolled and fired several more times. After cooling completely, they are fired one final time.

Oolongs are categorized between green and black teas and range dramatically in oxidation, between 15-75%. The length of oxidation is responsible for the tea's character, taste, and caffeine content as well as the color of the leaf and the liquor in your cup. Oolongs that are oxidized for a longer period are considered “dark oolongs” while those with less oxidation are referred to as “green oolongs”.

The complexity, regional characteristics and oxidation levels are what make oolong teas such an adventure; trying different types from various regions all with their own distinctive qualities.
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Beth Johnston, a tea importer and noted tea expert, publishes an informative monthly newsletter on tea, tea history, health and lifestyle enhancements. To learn more about the world of tea, join her free newsletter at http://www.TeasEtc.com/Newsletter.asp or visit http://www.TeasEtc.com.

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