Quick Recipes and Easy

What is Oolong Tea?

One variety of tea that is very well loved in Asia but just gaining recognition in the US is oolong tea. Sometimes referred to as Wulong tea, as well, oolong literally means black dragon. Wulong, but, refers to the originator of the tea Wu Liang. According to Chinese legend, Wu Liang was busy collecting and processing tea leaves when he spotted a river deer. He stopped to kill and prepare the deer and it interrupted his tea processing for the day, and he forgot to dry out the leaves.

He remembered the tea a day later. By this time it had begun to change color, and Wu Liang was worried it had gone terrible, but chose to end drying it anyway. After completing the drying process, he made himself a cup and found that he had made a very flavorful and aromatic tea – and oolong was born.

Oolong tea, in terms of processing, falls somewhere between green and black tea. Oolong tea is semi-fermented, meaning that it does go through a fermentation process, but for a shorter time than black tea.

Tea leaves for oolong tea are picked early in the day and then dried indoors to promote fermenting. But, the fermentation process must be stopped when the leaves are 30% red and 70% green. Stopping the fermentation process is the most critical step to making excellent oolong tea. Once fermentation has stopped, the tea leaves are rubbed, which releases the aroma, flavor and texture. Finally, the leaves are dried using charcoal, before they are graded for quality and sent for packaging.

Most oolong tea is grown and processed in China, in the Fujian Province. Chinese oolong tea is exported all over the world, and is known as the national tea of China.

Oolong tea is also grown in Taiwan, and a small amount is grown in the Darjeeling region of India. In Taiwan, oolong tea is referred to as Formosa tea, in reference to the country’s original name. Oolong tea from Taiwan is more hard to find than Chinese oolong tea, but it is worth the effort. In Taiwan, oolong tea is often fermented for a shorter period of time than in China; sometimes the leaves are only about 15% fermented, compared to the typical 30%. These Taiwanese oolong teas are known as “pouchongs”. In addition, Taiwanese oolong teas are dried in the sun rather than in the sun.

Oolong teas are unfamiliar to many people in the West. But, the flavor of a excellent oolong tea is one that has wide appeal. They have a fruity flavor and aroma and are one of the most fragrant teas produced. They have far less bitterness than black tea and a less grassy flavor than green tea. All in all, unless over brewed, oolong is one of the smoothest cups of tea you can brew.

Oolong tea is also quite healthy. Because it is partially fermented, its anti-oxidant content is a bit different than either black or green tea. Oolong tea holds an especially high level of the anti-oxidant polyphenol, which contributes to its flavor as well as its health potential. Polyphenol is a very potent anti-oxidant; one of the ones found effective in preventing heart disease and cancer. Many people also report that oolong is very effective at promoting weight loss. Much like green tea, the anti-oxidants in oolong tea seem to speed up the metabolism and help oxidize stout, both of which contribute to weight loss.

Oolong tea is brewed a bit differently than other teas. Tradition calls for you to “wake” the oolong tea leaves before brewing them, to release the flavor. To do this, pour water that is nearly to the boiling point over the leaves in the teapot, simply rinsing them by pouring this water off very quickly. Now that you have awakened the tea leaves, pour a second batch of hot water over the leaves and allow them to steep for about one minute. It’s vital not to use water that is too hot when brewing oolong tea. Water that is too hot will reduce the fruitiness of the tea. Over brewing oolong will cause it to be bitter.

Right tea connoisseurs brew several pots of oolong from the same leaves. Each infusion will have a different flavor, but each will be tasty.

If you’ve never tried oolong tea, you’re in for a real treat. Most of the best tea shops will carry at least one variety of oolong tea. In addition, many fine tea shops will carry flavored oolong teas. Oolong tea is particularly flavorful when blended with fruit flavors. Since oolong tea has a bit of a fruity flavor on its own, combining it with fruit flavors enhances the flavor of the tea.

So, go to your favorite local or online tea shop and buy some oolong tea. It’s sure to be a favorite – a bolder taste than your favorite white tea, milder than your favorite black tea and just as healthy as your favorite green. It’s the perfect combination of all the things that we find so wonderful about excellent tea!

Jon M. Stout is Chairman of the Golden Moon Tea Company.

For more information about goldenmoontea.com tea, goldenmoontea.com/wholesaletea wholesale tea and goldenmoontea.com/blacktea black tea go to goldenmoontea.com

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