Oolong Tea: One of the World's Great, Under Appreciated Teas

[Zhi Tea, July 9th, 2008]

Outside of Taiwan or southeast China, Oolong (or wulong, wu lung) tea is possibly the least appreciated or understood of Chinese teas.

And yet, it is one of the most worthwhile teas that combine the freshness of green tea with the smooth body of black teas.

In the English language, teas are classified into three groups: Green Tea (un- oxidized), Oolong Tea (semi-oxidized), and Black Tea (fully oxidized). But in Chinese, oolong refers to one type of many semi-oxidized teas known collectively as “qing” or “ch’ing” tea. The word qing is difficult to translate as it refers to many shades of the color green.

Most oolong tea is rolled into tiny pellets and is meant to be steeped repeatedly in very small teapots and served in miniature cups. This method, often called “gong fu cha” or “skilled tea,” takes some education and practice, but is very rewarding. A pre- heated teapot is filled a quarter or third full with tea leaves, boiling water is added to “wash the leaves” and quickly dumped out. Next, more boiling water is added and the tea steeps for about a minute and is then drained into a small pitcher from which it is poured into cups. Several more steepings are possible with progressively longer steeping times. The tiny pellets slowly unfurl and release their full fragrance and flavor with each steeping.

Chinese tea drinkers often compare the flavor of oolong teas to ripe fruit, such as peaches and plums. Some astringency is prized, as well as the ticklish and sweet aftertaste that lingers at the back of your mouth and throat after tasting the tea. This sensation is called “hou yun” or “throat resonance.” Flavor and sensation lingers for a long time with high quality oolong teas.

Soil, altitude, weather conditions, and the skill of the farmer and tea roaster can result in an infinite variety of oolong teas. You could spend a lifetime enjoying and understanding this extraordinary tea.

For some great Oolongs go to:  ZHI Oolong tea

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