Whenever someone says the word oolong I am immediately transported to a far-off, exotic land. That the word "oolong" translated is Black Dragon ups the mystique factor even more.
What are oolong teas, where do they come from and most important, how do they taste? (Hint: pretty incredible)
Oolong teas were originally produced in China and Taiwan about 400 years ago, pretty recent given tea’s 5,000-year history. The most prized oolongs come from China’s Fujian province and the Nantou region of Taiwan. Oolong teas are a green tea, typically grown at higher elevations. And they are the only green teas fired to stop leaf oxidation like black teas.
It takes skill to determine when to stop oxidation of the oolong leaves, anywhere between 10 and 90%. The sooner oxidation stops the lighter and fruitier the tea, like a Milk Oolong (left). Lighter oolongs are also receptive to blending, like a Ginseng Oolong (middle). Longer oxidized oolongs, like an Organic Roasted Iron Goddess (right), create a darker tea with flavour notes of chestnut, baked pear and granola.
One of the most intriguing character traits of oolong tea reveals itself in the brewing process. Tightly rolled in little green or reddish-brown nuggets, the leaves languidly unfurl as they are steeped, releasing lush flavour and aroma compounds that range from light and delicate to dark and moody. This is where the terms “light” and “long” oolong come from.
Oolongs are rich in antioxidants and have similar benefits purported in green teas. But where oolongs really shine is in their variety, unique tastes and aromas as dictated by horticulture and production style. Though perhaps most important is the day-dream adventure oolong tea will take you on from the very first sip.