Production / Manufacture
Farmers wait until the buds have opened and thickened to pluck the leaves. This is important because the leaves need to be robust enough to endure the shaping process later on.
Withering typically happens under the sun to allow the flavor to develop.
Bruising & Oxidizing
Leaves are bruised by shaking in baskets, rolling lightly or tumbling. This leads to cellular damage which starts the oxidation process. Bruising, withering and oxidizing is repeated until the desired oxidation level is reached.
Next, leaves are heated in tumblers with hot air or fired in pans to stop oxidation between approx. 10 to 80%. This range is the reason why oolong tea is often described as a tea between green tea and black tea.
Traditionally leaves are shaped into one of two forms most of the times, either the strip shape or the half-ball shape. For the strip shape, the leaves are rolled into long curly leaves by twisting them length-wise, which is done by hand or by a machine. To create the half-ball shape, the leaves are wrap-curled into small beads with tails by wrapping leaves in cloth and kneading them repeatedly, which is mostly done by a machine.
Drying & Roasting
Leaves are dried in large ovens or less common in baskets over hot coals. Often there is a second drying process where leaves are roasted to add complexity to the flavor profile.
- Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe)
- Shui Jin Gui (Golden Water Turtle)
- Tieluohan (Iron Arhat)
- Bai Jiguan (White Cockscomb)
- Rougui (Cassia)
- Shui Xian (Narcissus)
- Tie Guan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy)
- Huang Jin Gui
- Ben Shan (Original Mountain)
- Mao Xie (Hairy Crab)
- Jin Guan Yin
- Dan Cong (Phoenix Oolong)
- Dongding (Frozen Summit)
- Dongfang Meiren (Oriental Beauty)
- Alishan Oolong
- Lishan Oolong
- Baozhong (Wrapped Kind)
- Ruan Zhi
- Jin Xuan
- Black Oolong
- High Mountain Oolong
Naming & Origin
Even though it is hard to define one certain origin, there are some adopted explanations.
Because the leaves look dark, long and curly it was first named black dragon tea.
Another explanation comes from a tale of a man named Wu Liang who discovered oolong tea because he was distracted by a deer and when he returned back to his farm his tea already started to oxidize. Later on his name was falsely handed down as Wulong or Oolong.
While in Chinese the terms wulong and qīngchá are used, the term oolong is the most wide-spread in the western world.
Brewing / Preparation
Oolong tea often needs a lot of space because the twisted or rolled leaves expand greatly. While tea balls don’t provide enough space to unfold, leaves can unfold perfectly directly in the brewing vessel.
The water temperature varies between 80 and 95°C. (180 and 205°F). The greener and less oxidized the tea is, the lower the temperature. The darker and higher oxidized the tea is, the higher the temperature.
In China and Taiwan oolong tea is widely brewed with the Gong Fu brewing method and multiple infusions. To brew Gong Fu style, steep 5g per 100ml for 25s and add 5s for every infusion.