Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Oolong teas - who are they?

Oolong tea is one of the six main types of Chinese teas. Many of us tea drinkers heard of and had some oolong tea, most of my customers had never heard of it. Well, if you ask a random person on the street, most likely they have only heard of black tea and green tea, and nothing else.

Oolong tea is my love, and because of that very reason, I try my best to introduce oolong tea to any body, newbies, experienced drinkers and tea virgins.

If you were Chinese and think you know a lot about oolong tea because you drink tons of it, well there is always more to learn.

The birth of oolong tea was relatively recent compare to other types of tea, around the end of Ming dynasty 1600's. Early 1700's documented process of Wuyi oolong tea involved wilting fresh leaves under sun layered thinly in bamboo container, then fried and roasted to dry. Green portion is the effect of frying, the red portion is the effect of roasting. I'll explain this in an other article regarding processing and the chemical change during the process in detail.

In recent days, the process of oolong tea is the most complicated (procedures and chemical change), time consuming, labor intensive method, traditionally done by human hands. Picking, wilting, fermenting, tossing, repeat fermenting and tossing for 8 hours or more, kill green, rolling, frying, rolling, repeat frying and rolling, roasting, re-roasting multiple times. It's a sleepless 2 day continuous hard labor result.

What exactly is oolong tea? Is it a varietal or is it a process? Well, it's a combination of the 2. It takes suitable tea trees combine with the above method to produce oolong tea as a finishing product. There are 4 regions in the world produce oolong tea. Other regions produce so call oolong teas by using similar method, or some call semi-fermented teas as oolong tea. All oolong teas are semi-fermented, but not all semi-fermented teas are oolong teas.

Northern Fujian province, Wuyi mountain is the birth place of oolong tea. The processing method were then adopted by other regions, and modified to better suit local varietals for its unique flavors. Wuyi rock tea is macho by Yun, an experienced middle age man.

Southern Fujian province, Anxi Tie Guan Yin is the signature local flavor. Traditional heavy roast is like an old man, even tempered with lots flavor. Light roast TGY is like a young girl, likable with not much complication.

Taiwan oolong is every where, there's high mountain, baozhong, Tie Guan Yin, high fire, light roast, fisted, stranded, you name it. It's an united province of northern and southern Fujian. Women working in the city, in every level of the corporate ladder, administrative girls (jade oolong or Light roasted BaoZhong), middle management of the 30's (Dong Ding or High Mountain), the executive super women (Oriental Beauty).

Guang Dong Phoenix Dan Cong, the young married wife from a rich family in the old days. Beautiful hair with gem decorated gold/silver/jade pins, and a Yu Lan flower behind the ear, hand embroidered dress and shoes, slowly wondering among blooming azalea bushes, one hand holding a gaiwan, the other hand playing with the lid, occasionally taking a sniff through the lid, then a sip of Dan Cong. A young maid follows behind gently fanning her, birds chirping, water stream slowly running besides them, perfect harmony! Of course high maintenance too.

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