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Oolong Tea Guide

Intriguingly smooth and rewarding, Oolongs sit somewhere between green and black teas.

Full, Smooth & Intriguingly Delicate

Highly revered in Asia, oolongs constitute one of the great Chinese tea families. Also known as Wu Long – which literally means ‘Black Dragon’, referring to the dark colour of the dried leaves – oolong teas are semi-oxidised. Stylistically, this places them somewhere in between green teas, which are not oxidised at all, and black teas, which are fully oxidised. While there are many different types of oolongs, their taste is typically soft, smooth and fragrant, with a long, sweet finish.

Tea Growing

Due to differences in tea bush varietal, pluck and regional styles, Oolongs come in many forms, shapes and colours. However, many make a general distinction between the lighter, more floral oolongs, which are less oxidised, and the darker, spicier oolongs, which are more heavily oxidised. Production occurs primarily in China’s Fujian province – home of the revered ‘rock oolongs’ grown in the legendary Wuyi Mountains – and in Taiwan. Interestingly, naturally caffeine free rooibos tea, which is made in South Africa, uses techniques inspired by the oolong tradition.

Tea Making

Oolongs are considered one of the most complicated teas to manufacture. The craft lies in carefully controlling the oxidisation process. The tea master repeatedly stirs, tosses, rattles and gently bruises the leaves, using his senses of smell, touch and sight to monitor the operation. Once the ‘sweated’ tea begins to release the desired flavours and aromas and the master believes the optimal level of oxidisation has been reached, the process is stopped by the swift application of heat. The warm leaves are then rolled or twisted into the desired shape and dried.

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