What Is Oolong Tea?
Oolong tea is a broad category, covering any teas that are partially oxidized. In this way, it is "between" green and black teas. Green teas are not oxidized, while black teas undergo full oxidation. Oolongs are everything between the two extremes.
This range covers a huge variety of crafting styles and flavor profiles. Teas tend to vary in style based on the regions that they come from. In general, newer oolong styles from Taiwan are less oxidized, or greener in color. Traditional styles from the Wuyi Mountains and Anxi County are more oxidized. These Fujianese teas are darker in color and less floral than greener oolongs.
How Is Oolong Tea Made?
To achieve partial oxidation, crafters twist and bruise the leaves. As the cell walls break down, the leaves oxidize, and turn brown. When the leaves are heated, the oxidation process stops. The leaves may go through these steps several times before the tea is finished.
Oolong teas are some of the most complex teas to craft. The process requires precision to produce the desired flavors. Expert craftsmen work rotating shifts to track the leaves during oxidation and roasting. Missing the right moment can mean a ruined batch of tea.
Signs Of Quality
Different oolong growing areas have different methods of grading. But in general we seek slow growth when sourcing teas in this category. A tea plant that must struggle to grow gives the leaves more time to develop flavor compounds. Slow growth also prevents the development of bitterness and astringency. All our oolongs come from traditional tea producing mountain ranges. These areas are famous for their high elevations or rocky soil, which slow the growth of the plant. Teas grown in these areas are famous for their complexity of flavor.
We also seek expert craftsmanship in our oolong teas. The intricacies of crafting can have a major impact on the flavor. Whenever possible, we source teas that are made using traditional crafting and roasting techniques. Many generations of tea farmers and crafters have perfected these methods and flavors.