Wu Long tea is the traditional Chinese name of Oolong tea, which literally means black dragon heart. This is also referred to as Qing Cha. It goes through a variety of meticulous processes to come up with fine flavors that made this tea popular, especially with the tea connoisseurs in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world.
This tea comes in different versions. Every variety undergoes a unique process to come up with different tastes and flavors. Chinese teas are known for their rich flavors and aromas. The flavors depend upon how they were processed and the kinds of plants that were used.
Four Major Categories
The Oolong tea is available in different flavors. Among these, the most popular include the ones that are grown and processed in the following regions:
Southern Fujian Province. The well-known Oolong tea from this region is the Tie Guan Yin or Iron Buddha. This comes in a forest green color and looks curly and rolled tightly into the shape of a half ball. It undergoes a light oxidation process to achieve the green and flowery flavor.
The tea smells sweet and refreshing. It tastes sweet and feels smooth in the mouth and leaves a sweet aftertaste.
Northern Fujian Province. This is where the Wu Yi Tea is processed. This is also called Da Hong Pao, Cliff Tea or Rock Tea. The taste is complex, with a medium tinge of smokiness. It leaves a strong aftertaste that is rich and sweet.
Guangdong Province. The most popular tea from this region is the Phoenix Oolong or Dan Cong tea. Dan Cong means single brush. The leaves are harvested to process the tea from a single brush. It has a rich flavor and has a strong floral aroma.
Taiwan. This is where the Taiwan Oolong or High Mountain Oolong is processed. The leaves come in a dark color, which makes the tea appear heavy. Its aroma is a mixture of fruity and flowery scents. It has a rich flavor that tastes sweet and feels smooth in the mouth. This is highly sought after for its balance and complexity.
History of Oolong Tea
This kind of tea is a result of many years of evolution. It originates in the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907) in Fujian Province. It was first called Beiyun Tea, named after the region where it was discovered. This was the first tea that was made as a tribute tea. It happened during the Song Dynasty (960 to 1279). It was highly favored because of the unique flavor and superb quality. As a tribute tea, it was given as a present to the royal court.
Through time, the strong and rich earthly taste of the teas from the Wuyi Mountain region was discovered by visiting monks, scholars and government officials. It was quite far from the unfermented Green tea, the type that these people were used to and the only kind of tea that was available in China at that time. This was how the Wuyi or Cliff Tea came about.
The emperor requested for a tribute tea from Wuyi and he was given a Dragon Phoenix Compressed tea, which became famous as well. The use of Wuyi teas as a tribute tea continues throughout the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
The tea producers from the Anxi region in the Fujian Province adapted the old methods used in creating the Wuyi Tea and incorporated advanced technology in the process. They were able to develop a new tea that was named Oolong. It was in 1796 when the Oolong tea was introduced to the northern part of Fujian Province and in Taiwan.
This day, every region that makes Oolong tea offers distinctive taste, flavors and aroma.
Processes of Oolong Tea
Harvesting. The tea leaves are harvested once or twice a year during summer, spring and autumn. Autumn tea is referred to as the winter tea. It is created from the mature leaves with one bud and up to four leaves. The autumn and spring teas are regarded more highly than the summer tea.
Harvesting is typically done by hand picking. While the hands are facing upwards, the harvester will hold the stem of the leaves in between the index and middle fingers. He/she will then gently break the stem using the force of the thumb.
The Champagne Oolong tea is perceived to be the most exotic tea of this kind. Younger leaves are used in creating this and the harvesting process is similar to how it is done with green and white teas.
Withering. This aims to remove moisture from the freshly picked leaves. The level of moisture in the leaves will determine the rate of oxidization of the tea polyphenols. This is done with great caution. The leaves cannot be overexposed to the sun because this will result to overheating. The leaves are alternately left indoors and outdoors.
As the leaves lose moisture, these will become soft and thin. The process reduces the grassy taste of the leaves.
Bruising. This is also called shaking because in ancient times, the leaves were only shaken using a wicker basket. Now, one can use a machine that helps in efficiently breaking down the leaves in a mechanical way. This balances the taste of the tea and removes any bitterness.
Fixation. This is hastily done to set up the leaves for the next step. It stops the natural fermentation without causing any damages to the leaves. This involves techniques, such as steaming, hand pressing and baking. This kills the enzymes of the leaves.
Rolling & Shaping. The leaves go through hot or cold rollers to establish the shape and strengthen the flavor of the tea.
Drying. This is done through pan heating, use of hot air and exposing the leaves to the sun. This step establishes the moisture content of the leaves and make sure that these will not develop molds. This also intensifies the tea’s aroma and removes the remaining grassy leaf taste.
Completion. The leaves are sorted in order to pick the ones with the best quality. There are teas that are instantly made in the mountain and other types are reheated and cooled before packing.
Does Oolong Tea Have Caffeine
Yes, caffeine quantities in Wu long tea are not high compared to black tea of coffee. However keep in mind there are various types which are all processed differently. This effects the caffeine levels present, with high oxidised varieties higher levels of caffeine will be present in your cup of Wu long tea. Generally there can be up to 70-80 milligrams of caffeine per cup although some will contain lower quantities.
Health Benefits of Oolong Tea
Oolong tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. This is the same plant that is used in creating black, green, white and all other true teas. The main difference lies in the process through which the teas are made. Green tea is unfermented and the black kind is fully fermented.
Some health benefits of Oolong tea are the following:
- Boosts the immune system
- Aids in treating diseases, such as heart problems, osteoporosis, cancer, high cholesterol and eczema
- Prevents tooth decay because it contains polyphenols
- Acts as a muscle relaxant in the bronchial tract
- Good source of Vitamin C that is beneficial to the skin
- Helps in increasing the rate of fat metabolism
- Helps in regulating body temperature
The tea has a high antioxidant content. It also has important minerals and vitamins that are beneficial to one’s health. The tea contains caffeine that helps in stimulating the central nervous system, the muscles and heart.
Oolong tea caffeine content also helps in improving mental alertness. You can take this as your energy drink, which will help you to perform and think better throughout the day.
It is believed that drinking this kind of tea on a regular basis can help in preventing ovarian cancer. If the sickness runs in the family, it is recommended to drink two or more cups of Oolong tea each day. This will cut the risk of developing the disease by almost half.
How to Brew Oolong Tea
As you get used in brewing Oolong tea, you will develop your own techniques depending on how you like your tea. Steeping is traditionally done using a clay Yixing teapot or an Asian-style gaiwan. If you don’t have any of these, you can use any kinds of teapots.
If the tea is shaped into balls, use a teaspoon for every six ounces of water. With the same amount of water, use two tablespoons of the tea if this comes in the form of large open leaves.
You can use filtered, spring or tap water that is fresh and cold. Choose the type that tastes good. Avoid using distilled water that tastes flat. Allow the water to heat up to 200°F.
The steeping time ranges from one to five minutes. The leaf style teas require shorter time than the rolled style. You can taste the tea every minute to check if it already meets your preference.
You can brew the leaves directly in the pot and use a strainer when you are pouring the tea on your cup. You can also use an infuser to allow more room for the leaves to release their flavor and aroma.
You can reuse the leaves up to three times if you are using a large teapot and up to five times if you have a smaller teapot. Each brew will produce new flavors and aroma.
How oxidised is oolong tea?
Varied. Anywhere starting at around 10% up to a high oxidisation of around 80-85%
Does oolong tea have caffeine?
Yes, around 60-80mg
How does oolong tea taste?
Between black and green tea the flavours can be very complex and variant. Sweet, fragrant, grassy, earthy and sometimes bitter. Grassy flavours tend to come from lower oxidisation where earthy and bitterness are produced from higher oxidised oolongs. Keep in mind brewing times as this both effects taste and the oolong tea caffeine levels!
What is oolong tea?
Semi oxidised tea between black and green tea to try and find a great balance to flavours and tastes.
Where to buy oolong tea?
Available in a range of places such as tea shop, health stores, tea clubs and online. Its best to try and visit a tea shop but online sellers such as amazon are a great way to get tea with ease.
What are the Oolong tea benefits?
Check out the oolong health benefits section above. All true teas provide similar health benefits it’s simply processing before and after harvesting that can affect this significantly.