Types of tea
- The tea plantation
- Tea growing countries
- History of tea
- Tea grades
- Tea ceremonies
- Our tea classes in NYC
- How to prepare tea
- Tea tasting
- Care of your teapot
- Books and Guides
- Our founder's blog
Oolong teas means “black dragon” in Chinese and refers to the very dark color frequently taken on by theleaves during drying. Oolong teas, a specialty of China’s also known as “blue green” tea by Chinese, are semi-oxidized teas. Unlike green teas which are not oxidized at all or black teas which are fully oxidized, oolong teas’ oxidation process is interrupted part way through. As a result, more mature leaves with less caffeine and tannin are often used for this category of tea. Oolong teas are a specialty of Taiwan and China's Fujian Province.
Traditionally, there are two main categories of Oolong: lightly oxidized teas (10%-30% oxidation), made according to the so-called Chinese method, and those that are more oxidized (from 60-70%), made by a method developed in Taiwan. In practice, the parameters for the manufacture of Oolong teas are fairly flexible. Each region has its own expertise and produces teas oxidized to a degree that does not necessarily fall within these percentage specifications. Nevertheless, regardless of the local practice, all semi-oxidized teas have to undergo the following process.
The leaves are withered in the sun or in a withering hall, for a period of one to four hours, after which they are left in a cool, damp room. Repeated twice more, this process tenderizes the leaves.
Oxidation occurs during the most important stage called “sweating”. It is a delicate process during which different aromatic tea compounds begin to appear and is the most important stage. The leaves are placed in a room kept at an atmosphere maintained at a temperature of 71 to 77°F (22-25°) with 85% humidity. The oxidation of Oolong is gentler and begin naturally as soon as the leaves are plucked. It continues while the leaves are stirred and tossed continuously with every-increasing force.
The optimum degree of oxidation has been reached when the texture of the leaf is sufficiently supple and the bouquet ideal. When using the Chinese method, oxidation is stopped when it reaches a threshold of 10 to 30%. This produces light teas with vegetal and flowery notes. The “Taiwanese” method, which involved a longer period of “sweating”, allows the oxidation level to rise to 70% and produces a darker, fruitier, woody infusion.
Once the required level of oxidation has been reached, the leaves are then fired in pans or ovens with revolving drums to allow the enzyme reaction to be stopped. This process is same as the procedure of green teas.
Rolling the leaves brings the essential oils to the surface that have been revealed during oxidation. It is carried out immediately after firing when the leaves are still warm. Like green teas, rolling process leave teas with twisted shape. The leaves are often very large and are simply creased or rolled into large pearls like Dong Ding teas.Dark Tea or Pu-ErhSmoked Tea