Oolong Tea

The word Oolong means “black dragon” in Chinese, originally being grown in the Fukien province of China and first imported to England in 1869 by a man called John Dodd. It is a semi fermented tea or partially oxidized tea, produced by the combination of processes used for black and green tea. Made from larger, more mature leaves, it has a more full-bodied flavor and the highest grade of Oolongs; known as Formosa Oolongs, are grown in Taiwan. They have dark brown leaves, but turn dark olive-green when brewed with a distinct aroma. It is best drunk with no milk, although lemon can be added.
The water temperature should be below boiling at 195F.

Production of Oolong:
The finest Oolongs are picked during the winter and spring: they require a rigorous standard and must not be picked too early . The leaves are withered in the sun immediately to reduce the moisture content. This makes them easier to work with. They are then placed in bamboo baskets and shaken lightly in order to bruise around the leaf edge before being placed in a shady area to dry. This process is done a few times. While the center of the leave then remains green, the edges of the leaf turns a darker brownish red color due to the semi fermentation the leaf is going through. The various types of Oolong experience different levels of fermentation: about 20% for the green and up to 60% for the famous Formosa. When the required level of fermentation is reached, they are pan fired which stops any more oxidation.

Types of Oolong include:
Formosa - this means "beautiful" and was a  name given to the Taiwanese island by Portuguese traders. The tea is harvested at the northern tip of the island, and is known for its floral aroma and hint of peach. The dark brown or coppery-red leaves have pretty silver tips and are graded by quality : Choicest, Fancy and Fanciest.  

Ti Kuan Yin – this is a very famous tea  from the Fuijan province of China, named after the “Iron Goddess of Mercy.” The legend goes that the goddess appeared in a dream to a local farmer and told him to go and look in a cave behind her temple. He did so and found a single tea shoot which he planted and cultivated. It has dark, crinkly leaves which open when brewed to produce a highly fragrant, medium bodied cup that can be infused several times.

Bai Hao Oolong - this tea comes from the mountainous Hunan province of South-Eastern China. It is gathered and processed by hand only during the month of June, meaning it is a limited production.

Jasmine Yin Hao - from the Fujian region of China, this oolong is infused with the delicate scent of night-blooming Jasmine flowers, which are picked daily and mixed with the tea at night. The next day, the flowers are removed and the process is repeated up to nine times for this high grade tea.  

Lichee/Lychee Pearl - an unusual green tea from the Fujian province, the young leaves are hand-shaped into round balls that look like lichee nuts. They open and turn green in the cup, producing a very delicate aroma and light taste. It can be infused several times.

Black Pearl – another tea from the  Fujian region, the leaves are expertly rolled into delicate pearls and infused with Jasmine flowers in the same way as Yin Hao. Once infused, each pearl opens to reveal two leaves and a delicate bud. This tea may be steeped a number of times, producing a sequence of different infusions.

Wuyi Shui Xian – grown in the Wuyi mountains in the Fujian province, it amazingly grows in gaps between the rocks. Of course, it is quite difficult to cultivate. The leaves are tricolor; green, red and brown, and like other fine oolongs, can be infused several times to produce a different flavor.

Dragon Pearl – another oolong tea scented with Jasmine flowers and hand rolled into tight pearls which open when infused. It produces a light ecru cup with an amazingly delicate flavor and characteristic floral jasmine aroma. My personal favorite.

Jade Oolong - a light oolong tea which is almost green in appearance. Instead of the normal two leaves and bud used for other oolongs, the bushes are allowed to grow into the summer, and entire shoots of five or six leaves are harvested and processed. The best varieties of this tea come from Taiwan's mountains of Alishan and Tung Ting.  

Pouchong - the name given to the lightest of oolong varieties. It is greener yet than the light Jade Oolong tea.

Se Zhong - a very strong oolong with a dark color.

Huan Jin Gui (Yellow Golden Flower or Golden Osmanthus) - from the An Xi district of the Fujian province it is one of the four famous Anxi Oolongs.  Its name comes from the golden liquor its yellowish green leaves produce and for its distinct Osmanthus flower-like aroma.

Shu Xian (Water Fairy, Water Sprite, Shui Hsien) - a very popular variety of Oolong from the Wu Yi Shan district of the Fujian province and a favorite for Gong Fu tea drinkers.   Oolong teas from Mount Wu Yi are also referred as Yan Cha or "Rock Tea" due to the rocky terrain where the tea plants grow.  The very large leaves produce a strong and full bodied cup with a floral aftertaste.

Da Hong Pao (Great Red Robe)

Loui Gui (Meat Flower)

Wuyi Yan (Bohea Rock).