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Oolong teas, known as partially or semi-oxidized (or partially or semi-fermented) and sometimes referred to as 'blue' or 'blue-green' teas, are traditionally manufactured in China and Taiwan, but other countries are now also producing them.
Two very different methods of production are used to manufacture two different styles of oolong - dark, open-leafed oolongs and greener, balled oolongs. Darker, open-lafed oolongs are made by withering the leaf in the sun outdoors and then indoors on bamboo baskets. This allows some of the water in the leaf to evaporate and starts the oxidation process. The leaves are turned every two hours and shaken or 'rattled' in the baskets to break the cells inside and on the surface of the leaf. When the oxidation level has reached about 70%, the leaf is turned for 5-10 minutes inside a hot panning machine to halt any further oxidation and then dried in hot ovens. These darker oolongs can be infused several times, give a pale amber liquor and have a soft fruity, honeyed character with undertones of peach and apricot.
The manufecture of the greener, rolled or 'balled' oolongs starts with the withering and tumbling of the leaf as for the darker oolongs. When they have reached 30% oxidation, the leaves are put through the hot panning machine for 5-10 minutes to stop any further oxidation, then dried and allowed to rest overnight Next day, the leaf is wrapped inside large cloths to form balls that contain 9 kg of tea. Each bag is tightened and then rolled in a special rolling machine to bruise and squeeze the leaves inside. The bag is then opened and the compacted leaf is separated and immediately wrapped into a ball again. This tying and rolling of the bags is repeated at least 36 times and sometimes up to 60 times until the leaves are tightly rolled up into rough green pellets. The semi-balled tea is then dried in large ovens. These greener oolongs can also be infused several times, give a very pale amber-green liquor and have a wonderful fragrant character that is often reminiscent of narcissus, hyacinth and lily of the valley.
Bao Zhong (Pouchong) teas are another type of oolong but because of a much shorter oxidation time, they are closer to green teas and have a much greener appearance.
The oolong tea is a semi-fermented tea, a unique tea variety of China. It is mainly produced in Fujian, Guangdong, and Taiwan. The oolong tea has the richness, freshness, and mellowness of black tea and the fragrance of green tea, but does not have the bitterness of the green tea and the astringent taste of the black tea.
Production of the oolong tea started by the end of the 16th century or the beginning of the 17th century. Its processing technique is very special. The fresh leaves should go through sunning, cooling, stir fixation (equivalent to green tea fixation), rolling, and baking. The dry tea is greenish brown and the tea soup is yellow and bright. The brewed tea leaves are bright. The tea soup tastes mellow and remains so after repeated brewing. After brewing, the tea leaves open up. The middle part is green and the edge is red, hence its nickname as "Green Leaves with Red Edge".
The oolong tea ranks first in preserving health. In addition, it performs well in resisting aging, cancer, and arteriosclerosis, and preventing and curing diabetes, reducing weight and keeping fit, preventing tooth decay, clearing heat, and countering the influence by cigarette smoking and alcohol.
Among the famous oolong teas are the Dahongpao from Mt. Wuyi, Anxi Tieguanyin (Iron Cioddess of Mercy), Dancong Tea from Mt. Phoenix, and Dongding Oolong Tea from Taiwan.
Oolong tea comes from subtropical Fujian province in Southern China, a medium-body brew that blends the advantages of black and green. Wulong is also credited with being the most fragrant of all teas, still redolent with the freshness of a green leaf, but having undergone enough fermentation to carry deeper notes than green can muster. Known for its deep floral characteristics, Oolongs can range in color from bright green and slightly fermented to dark and hearty brown.
Literally "black dragon" tea, Wulong's history has little to do with fiery serpents, and much to do with its inventor, Wu Liang, who like many great inventors was aided by happenstance. Having just picked a bushel of particularly fragrant green leaves, he was distracted by a buck, and chased it quite forgetting to spread out his new leaves to dry. When he returned to them a day later, the leaves were already starting to change color. Wu Liang followed the firing process regardless, and stumbled on a mellow, aromatic concoction unlike any the world had previously tasted.
Our oolong tea is semi-fermented tea and is somewhere between green and black tea. Our oolong tea has a beautiful taste that pleases the taste buds with a smooth, fresh flavor and a sweet, lingering aftertaste, the tea taste between and green, not cold not hot, can eliminate heat, but also restore body fluid.
By mastering how to oxidize tea leaves, Chinese craftspeople have, over time, created a new family of teas, called Oolong. Threy are different from black teas in that they are only partially oxidized, and so Oolong teas fall between green and black teas. It was in the 17th century that growers developed the method of processing these teas that come from Fujian Province, especially from the Wuyi mountains and the Anxi district.
Because of the vastness of the Chinese territory, the great variety of cultivars grown there and the different processing methods used, Oolong teas come in a wide range of aromas and tastes. However, Oolong teas fell into two main categories: teas that may be 10 percent to 45 percent oxidized and are close to green teas, and teas that may be up to 70 percent oxidized and are closer to black teas. As for taste, the Oolong teas that are less oxidized (green Oolongs) are generally distinguished by their more delicate, floral aromas, whereas the more oxidized Oolong-teas (black Oolongs) have more woody notes and are sometimes fruity or even a bit sweet.
In the following paragraphs we will examine the processing of Oolong teas more closely, and we will explore this further in the chapter on Taiwan.
Black Oolong teas are produced from highly mature leaves. The leaves will be larger and more mature than those chosen for the production of green tea, for example. Often three leaves will be picked in addition to the bud.
Withering is usually carried out on cloths outside, but bamboo racks are also often used. The leaves are left for about two hours, depending on the weather conditions.
Next comes the very important stage of oxidation, which governs the development of the sensorial characteristics of the leaves. When processed manually, the leaves are spread on racks and stirred regularly for 12 to 18 hours in order to break down the cell structure and release the oils, facilitating the oxidation process. During mechanical processing, the leaves are heated at ambient humidity in rotating cylinders at temperatures varying from 77 to 86°F (25 to 30°C), for about eight hours.
Next, the leaves are heated to stop the oxidation process. The traditional method uses the same type of vat used to dehydrate green teas. Mechanical processing involves using a rotating cylinder.
To obtain the twisted leaves typical of Chinese black Oolong teas, the same machine is used for preparing twisted-leaf green teas or rolling the leaves for black teas. Traditionally, the leaves were rolled manually on a bamboo mat.
DRYING AND FIRING
The leaves are then dried in a rotating cylinder for 10 to 20 minutes at a temperature ranging from 230 to 250°F (110 to 120°C).
Finally, the firing stage is the same as the firing process for Taiwanese Oolong teas but at higher temperatures. The leaves are usually fired twice, and temperatures can vary according to the region of production. In the case of mechanical processing, an electric machine is used to heat the leaves to higher temperatures. It must be noted that firing is not necessarily done immediately after drying the leaves. It is possible to wait several months after the initial processing. Tea Set Suitable for Brewing the Oolong Tea There are four major oolong tea branches, namely South Fujian Oolong, North Fujian Oolong, Guangdong Oolong, and Taiwan Oolong. Each branch has its own brewing techniques and unique requirements on tea set. North Fujian Oolong is known for its unique charm of rock. The representatives of this branch include Dahongpao (Big Red Robe), Baijiguan (White Comb), Shuijingui (Water Golden Turtle), Tieluohan (Iron Arhat), Shuixian (Narcissus), and Rougui (Cinnamon). They’d better be brewed with Yixing purple sand teapot, because purple sand can take some heat away from the tea. Besides, white porcelain tureen is also a commonly-used tea set for brewing rock tea. The representatives of South Fujian Oolong are Tieguanyin and Huangjingui. They'd better be brewed with white porcelain tea set or purple clay tea set. Guangdong Oolong is represented by Phoenix Dancong. It had better be brewed with the purple clay teapot. White porcelain tea set can also be used to enjoy the shape of the tea leaves and the color of the tea soup. The representatives of Taiwan Oolong include Dongding Tea and Mt. Ali Tea, both being slightly-fermented teas. They'd better be brewed with the porcelain tea set produced in Taiwan.