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Oolong Tea: How to select, sip, and savor

Oolong tea is in the media a lot because people are fond of calling them diet teas.

If you want to know my thoughts on the latest research on the health benefits of teas, click here.

However, oolong teas are amazing to me because they’re easy to drink – especially for those newer to loose leaf teas.

While green and black teas may become bitter if you let them steep too long, a lot of oolongs are more forgiving. You can forget about them in your kitchen (happens to me all the time, it seems), and come back to your teacup with a brew that’s strong but not gross.

Today we’re focussing on three oolongs that I’ve been sipping lately.

But first, let’s learn bit more about oolongs, shall we?

What is oolong tea?

There are tons of varieties, but oolongs are a cross between a green tea and a black tea because of the way the leaves are processed.

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These three examples of oolongs are all rolled, but there are many oolongs that are twisted. They’re just as yummy.

How are oolong tea leaves processed?

A tea master oversees the decisions over how they’re processed. Each step creates the specific aromas and taste profiles they want in a tea.

Tea leaves destined to become oolongs are plucked, withered, twisted or rolled, and fired (heated) at various times during their processing.

The twisting and rolling causes oxidation. The more the leaves are handled, the more they’re oxidized. The more oxidation, the darker the tea leaf and the more caffeine in the tea.

Oolongs may be rolled and keep their green color (as well as lower oxidation rate) by firing the leaves at certain points during production.

How do you brew an oolong tea?

My first suggestion is to follow the brewing tips on the packaging.

If there are none, or you want to play, I usually start with about 2 teaspoons (or about 3 to 4 grams) of tea per 1 cup (8 ounces) of water. I heat the water to 195 degrees (or boil your water then let cool five minutes).

My first steep is about 2 minutes longs, then I experiment with time and heat for each additional steep. I add time, and I increase the heat to extract more flavor from the leaves.

The same leaves can steep three or four times usually.

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From left to right: Forever Spring, Milk Oolong, Dark Roast Tieguanyin.

Examples of Oolong Tea from Around the Globe.

TAIWAN

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Forever Spring Oolong Tea

Forever Spring is named for its cultivar, Si Ji Chun, which means “Four Seasons Spring.” (A cultivar is a cultivated variety of tea leaf to show off certain characteristics of that leaf.)

While most tea plants produce tea two to three times per year, the Si Ji Chun plant does so continually throughout the year.

This particular tea leaf is cultivated for oolong tea. The leaves are hand-plucked from a tea garden that doesn’t use chemicals or pesticides. Then they’re crafted using withering techniques to reduce moisture, then rolled to bring out the flavor of the leaf through oxidation.

Female Tea Master Ai Fong crafts this tea, and she’s a 4th generation tea maker. Her family originated in China (where oolongs originated), but they fled to Taiwan when the Communist Party took over. There her family has cultivated tea gardens and continued their mastery of tea.

Ai Fong’s mother, Tea Master Fu Chen, is nicknamed “National Treasure” to give you an idea of the respect with which this family is held amongst tea farmers.

To be the first to know about when you can grab this tea, click here.

Milk oolong

One of my favorite oolongs right now is this Milk Oolong grown in the Lishan Mountains of Nantou County, Taiwan.

It’s a delicious dessert tea, so if you have a sweet tooth, you may want to give this one a go.

It’s from the Jin Xuan cultivar, which translates to “Golden Lily.” The grower, Mountain Tea, cultivated this particular tea plant for a creamy tea.

The Jin Xuan tea leaves have a naturally milky taste profile. It’s not artificially flavored like you may find with lower quality milk oolong teas that use different cultivars.

This tea will be part of the upcoming 14 Day Tea Tour. Click here to be the first to know when it’s available.

SUMATRA INDONESIA

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Dark Roast Tieguanyin

Tieguanyin means “Iron Goddess of Mercy.” Originally popularized in China, this particular Dark Roast Tieguanyin is an oolong tea grown on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia.

The tea plants take root in mineral-rich volcanic soils. Once plucked, the tea leaves are withered, then tightly rolled to create a highly oxidized tea. The leaves are then fired with charcoal to dry them.

When brewed, this tasty oolong has notes of caramel and dark chocolate with a bit of smokiness to it.

You may like this oolong tea if you’re trying to kick a coffee habit because it’s a bit richer than the other oolongs we’ve talked about today.

You can grab these teas soon. To be the first to hear about when they’re released, click here to get a reminder.

Do you have a favorite oolong? Tell me your fave in the comments.

Xoxo,

Dina

 

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