Loose Leaf Oolong Tea: The Process Of Fermentation

by Elena Popec 24. September 2010 12:39

Oolong or Wu Long means "Black Dragon". Oolongs are half-fermented (or semi-oxidized) teas that are in the specialty tea family. Half-fermented because the processing of Oolong tea requires only a partial fermentation (oxidation) of the leaves. Oolongs occupy an intermediate position between non-fermented green teas and fully fermented black teas and are the most diverse and interesting loose leaf teas. Oolongs can have varying degrees of oxidation that ranges somewhere between 10-35% in classic Chinese Oolongs to 60-70% in classic Taiwanese (Formosa) Oolongs. Oolong specialty tea is often made from mature leaves, collected from older tea trees.

Processing Oolong is considered the art of tea, where the character of tea is created. Tea masters participate in Oolong tea processing competitions to demonstrate their professional skills at this fine art.

Let’s take a look at Oolong manufacturing process.

There are no standard recipes on how to manufacture oolong tea; it is up to the discretion of each tea garden or tea master to decide on processing and the level of oxidation.
 
Immediately after gathering, the tea leaves are spread in a thin layer on special bamboo mats under direct sunlight for withering that will let most of water evaporate. The withering process time varies depending on the ambient temperature.
 
The next step of processing is very peculiar, withered leaves are placed in a large bamboo basket and put in a shady area. Approximately every hour, the tea leaves are shacked and gently tumbled in order to bruise the edges of the leaves to start an oxidation, at the same time avoiding breaking or crushing them. This procedure has to be done several times, until following effect will be reached: bruised up edges of the leaves due to the fermentation become brown blush (like 'rusty'), while veins and parts of the leaves should remain green.

Once the desired level of fermentation is reached, the oxidation process should be stopped immediately. This is achieved through the heat drying phase of raw materials in scorching air called "panning". The pan roasting of the leaves requires extensive experience in Oolong tea processing.

Most Oolongs are dried in two stages: first is partially, primary drying and rolling of tea leaves, then a final finish drying. Some highly fermented Oolongs undergo an additional stage of wetting and softening.

The partially drying process is carried out manually. This stage is necessary to stop the fermentation. Partially drying can be done in 2-4 steps, when the raw material is taken out of the oven, quickly cooled, then rolled. Then again dried in the oven, rapidly cooled, then rolled again, and so on. Afterwards, the leaves go through a final drying phase, ending oxidation and often followed by baking (roasting). Several kinds of Oolong are not rolled just dried after panning. With such a "multistage" technology, taste and degree of fermentation of Oolongs differentiate. Although, manufacturing Oolong is very intensive and meticulous process, unique aroma and flavor profile of this specialty tea makes this tea worth the trouble.

Good quality Oolongs are only loose leaf teas, not tea bags!

The most widely known and actively exported Oolongs are Chinese (Fujian and Yunnan) and Taiwanese (Formosa). Among the most well-known are Formosa Oolongs. Grown and manufactured in Taiwan, named after the province in which grown, these teas are considered the best in quality and affordability among Oolong the loose leaf tea family. Taiwanese Oolongs are often called "Champagne of Teas". Typically Taiwanese Oolongs are specifically labeled that indicates the quality of tea:

1. Fanciest or Extra Fancy
2. Fancy
3. Extra Choice or Extra Fine
4. Fine
5. Fully Superior
6. Superior
7. Good
8. Standard

Chinese Oolongs are famous for the fact that are used in a Chinese traditional procedure named Gongfu Cha and withstand up to 7 steepings.

Brewing Oolong is a very delicate process because it strongly depends on the type of oolong, more precisely, the degree of its fermentation. A lightly fermented Oolong is closest to the brewing of green tea with 190-195 degrees water and the brewing time 1-3 minutes. More fermented Oolong (such as Formosa) is brewing a little longer 4-5 min in hotter water 203-212. After brewing a quality Oolong has pronounced specific characteristics that cannot be mixed with any other kinds of tea.

 The best quality Oolongs expresses a strong and rich floral aroma and a remarkable peachy flavor with a honey-sweet aftertaste. Oolongs that closer in oxidation to black teas, have a nutty, toasted flavor. Color of brew is very diverse: from light yellow with green notes (like green tea) to a dark red. Oolong specialty teas contribute 2% of tea consumption of all the teas all over the world.

Enjoy a great cup of Oolong, happy drinking!

The Wonderful health benefits of White Tea

by Elena Popec 16. February 2010 20:42

White tea is truly a pearl among the different varieties of tea. These teas are a specialty of the Chinese province Fujian. White tea is the most expensive, and this fact is not surprising because white tea is widely considered the most effective (health-giving). It contains a maximum amount of useful substances and vitamins, which are found in the other varieties of teas in smaller amounts due to fermentation process.

White tea is one of the rarest teas in the world: the buds are picked before they unfurl, which means the tea can only be plucked for a few weeks each spring only in the morning from 5 to 9 AM. White teas have a very strict procedure for the plucking and processing. The tea pickers are prohibited from eating spices, garlic, onions, and consuming alcohol, as well as other strong-fragrant foods in order not to contaminate the aroma of tea leaves. The unopened buds and two young leaves are plucked by handWhite Tea then withered to allow natural drying. White tea is minimally processed, therefore contains the higher level of antioxidants. The main difference of white tea is that it leaves are not broken or twisted, which is why tea looks a little sloppy. The fermentation of white tea is a natural way without the use of any special technological innovations. In fact, the process of drying of white tea is the only process where manufacturers can somehow affect the final product. That is why the drying process is approached with special care.

High-quality white tea leaves remain whole after the drying process despite the fact that they become distorted, the leaves maintain maximum integrity. Another characteristic feature of good white tea is the presence of small silver fibers on the leaves.

White tea requires very careful handling. If you already shelled out for expensive and good product, try to brew it so as to preserve the maximum benefit and enjoy this drink. For brewing white tea, use water at a temperature ranging from 176 to 194 degrees F, and steep it not longer than 2-3 minutes. If water used is too hot it will not allow the unique aroma of white tea to unfold. White tea should be stored in a tin box, so there is no access to different odors, since it instantly absorbs all extraneous scents. The brewed liquid has lightly amber color with a slight greenish tint. It is very transparent with thin unique floral, slightly herbal flavor.

There are few traditions and rules imposed to the consumption of white teas. The fact that subtle and delicate taste of white tea is fairly weak, tea drinkers should not enjoy white tea after spicy, salty or astringent foods, because of strong food aftertaste. Therefore, white tea should be drunk by itself.  For those who prefer to add a fruity accent to white tea, ESP Emporium offers an innovated White Grape Premium Tea blend. It is your turn to decide whether our choice was the correct one. Fresh juice from sun-ripened grapes,  red berries and the blue/violet color of blossoms, set on a bed of rich green (China Pai Mu Tan, China Cui Min), invite you to simply enjoy this excellent blend.

White teas, regardless of grade offer great benefits to our body. They are rich in antioxidants and slow down skin aging process, prevent the emergence of malignant tumors. White tea also has an antiviral effect, strengthens the cardiovascular system, and reduces the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

 

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