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
3. Extra Choice or Extra Fine
5. Fully Superior
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!
Loose leaf tea is a delightful, delectable tea that is packed with health benefits for you. But protecting this tea, and keeping it fresh and delicious, involves storing it in a proper container. Heat, air, light, and moisture, are some elements that could potentially damage the tea or drain it of nutrients, so it’s important to keep the tea protected from these elements.
Loose leaf vs. tea bags
Sure, tea bags may seem to be convenient. But in the long run, they can be harmful to you. Tea bags are almost unrecognizable as tea anymore. The nutrients and antioxidants have been beaten out of it, resulting in little more than “tea dust.” The processing of these teas may also have left traces of harmful chemicals that will bring on inimical side effects. Loose leaf tea on the other hand is intact, with more antioxidants and nutrients, and more flavor. It is processed through simpler methods and allowed to retain its sweet, rich aromas and the taste is far superior to tea bags. When you brew loose leaf tea, the water has room to move around the leaves, which brings out the flavor.
Health benefits of loose leaf tea
Drinking tea every day yields many results that are beneficial to your health. It can help you to lose weight, help lower your cholesterol, prevent you from developing high blood pressure, prevent cardiovascular disease, and improve your dental health. Regular tea drinking may prevent you from developing cancer. It may also help improve your sleep, ward off headaches, improve your memory, improve cognitive functions such as learning, and help to prevent you from developing arthritis and types of dementia. Tea is just packed with an almost countless number of health benefits. Green tea has even been shown to lead to a longer life-span.
How to store tea
Tea of course should be stored at room temperature, and the best way to protect it from heat, moisture, and other elements is by keeping it in an airtight container. Tea can’t be sealed and put in a freezer, as this will damage it. Likewise it cannot be kept near a toaster, stove, or microwave or any other type of heat, as this will also damage the tea. If kept in a pretty, but not airtight container, the tea will lose its flavor fairly quickly.
Try not to use containers that are clear plastic or clear glass. This leaves the tea accessible to light which can damage it. Try to store tea away from any foods or spices that are strongly scented or flavored, as teas can easily absorb the flavor and aroma of the food around them.
Don’t keep tea for too long, as over time, even in the best of storage containers, tea will lose its flavor and nutrients. Tea is meant to be consumed. And drinking a few cups of tea every day will help improve your health and has even been shown to lengthen your life. So brew some tea. You can even brew tea and refrigerate it to enjoy refreshing iced tea all week.
Is there even an argument of loose leaf over using tea bags? Loose leaf tea has been left in its natural state and the brewing of it brings out the flavor of the tea. It’s not really a contest over flavorless tea bags.
And green tea is delicious; it has a sweet, natural flavor. It can be paired with certain fruits or sometimes spices or nuts to complement its flavor. Beyond being completely delicious, green tea is a healthy choice.
Green tea has just enough caffeine to give you energy, but doesn’t lead to the crash effect that coffee or espresso can give. The way caffeine is released from tea is in such a way that regulates how the caffeine is released, due to a compound that exists in the tea itself.
Green tea also reduces stress. There are compounds that occur naturally in tea leaves that have a calming effect, which decreases the stress response in your body. Try brewing some green tea when you’re worried or stressed.
Research has also shown that tea may help speed up the metabolism. This would help people who are trying to lose weight. Newer studies have found catechins in tea which help reduce fat in the abdomen. Catechins are found in weight loss supplements, but why take those when you can drink brewed, naturally occurring tea leaves?
This tea has also been proven to fight off cavities. It reduces gingivitis and it reduces the bacteria in the mouth. The tea leaf has fluoride which occurs naturally, and is a substance that helps build up strength and health in teeth. Green tea also destroys the bacterium that causes strep throat.
Green tea helps ward off many viruses and sicknesses. It has the most antioxidants among the four types of teas, and also has naturally occurring polyphenols, catechins, and many other naturally occurring compounds which increase immunity in the body.
It also helps reduce inflammation. Green tea has anti-inflammatory properties which are natural. It’s a better choice than taking even over the counter chemical compounds.
Another benefit of green tea is that it can reduce cholesterol. Studies have shown that consuming green tea regularly can reduce levels of the “bad cholesterol” while increasing “good” cholesterol.
Helps Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease
And green tea also helps protect against Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia. Research shows that green tea can help improve memory related learning and have also been shown to help reverse mental deterioration.
Green tea may also protect against cancer, and it possibly kills off existing cancer as well. Research has shown that drinking between four and eight cups of green tea every day can really help when fighting off these diseases.
Beyond all this, remember that green tea is also delicious. The most benefit of course comes from high quality loose leaf tea. These have less caffeine and more antioxidants. It doesn’t even seem like that difficult of a choice. The loose leaves can be brewed again to make three to six cups of tea. It’s affordable, delicious, and helps with everything from maintaining healthy weight and teeth to fighting off infections, preventing cancer, and even reversing the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Green tea truly seems like a magical elixir.
The choices of flavors of teas can be overwhelming. There are literally thousands of different types and flavor pairings of teas. There are more types of teas in existence than a person could ever possibly try even in an entire lifetime. So, there are some things you should take into consideration when choosing a tea to taste.
There are four main types of tea: black, oolong, white, and green. Among these there are many varied flavors, but most teas fall under one of these varieties. Another thing to consider is the quality of the tea. Tea that has been processed by hand has the best flavor, much better flavor than teas that have been processed by other means. The quality of the flavor is another thing to take into consideration. Natural flavorings are always the best choice.
Among the different types of teas, it’s important to know the main differences to begin trying out which ones you might like. Black tea is the most consumed worldwide but it has a strong flavor and the highest level of caffeine. It can handle strong flavors such as chocolate and strong fruits.
Green tea tastes sweet but has a very natural almost plant-like flavor. Most fruit flavors work well with green tea, as do herbs and spices. There are some flavors that could overpower the tea, however.
White tea has a sweet flavor and aroma but its flavor can be overpowered by others very easily. Certain flower or fruit flavors do enhance the tea quite well. Melon and jasmine are examples which enhance the white tea flavor. Peaches, pears, and roses are also excellent to be paired with this type of tea.
Oolong tea has complex flavors, and it varies in flavor depending on how it is processed. It can range from being very similar to a black tea, to being very close to green tea. Peaches, apples, or oranges can be paired with this type of tea to enhance its flavor, but almonds or other types of nuts make good parings as well. Some spices and flowers can be paired with oolong tea as well.
The Health Benefits
There are many flavors of tea, but the health benefits of certain types of tea may alter your decision as well. Green tea and white tea have the most natural antioxidants of the other types of teas. When pairing these teas with healthy fruits full of antioxidants, you’ve brewed a drink exploding with health benefits. There are many fruits, spices, and nuts which have health benefits of their own that can be deliciously paired with white or green teas.
So How to Choose?
Learn what flavor teas you enjoy the most. Take some daring risks and try some flavor pairings you might not think would go well together. There are many different combinations of flavors of tea. Try out some different flavors and see which types of tea and which pairings you like the best. And by all means have some tea adventures and risk trying some bold new flavor pairings.
The beneficial qualities that tea brings to both mind and body have long been recognized by the vast majority of people around the world. However it’s always the green leaf variety that takes the plaudits with other varieties playing second fiddle at best, and often times ignored. We are constantly bombarded through the media and treated to information overload to the extraordinary attributes of the green tea variety. It is certainly then no surprise that it is to green tea that one’s thoughts first turn while looking for a healthy drink to refresh. Whilst it is certainly true that green tea does come packed with an incredible health-giving pedigree, the black tea variety, or ‘crimson’ as it is known in Chinese and languages influenced by Chinese, should most certainly not be ignored.
What's the Difference?
Black tea has as much to offer as the green leaf variety to those that choose to give it a try. A fact of which many people are not aware is that both black and green tea comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The larger leaves from the Assamese plant are used for the black variety, with the smaller leaves from the Chinese plants being used for green and also white tea too. Whilst much has been said of the health giving qualities of green tea, those benefits can be said to be present in black tea also as they are essentially derived from the same source. This is despite its more intense processing and consequently lower levels of antioxidant. There also tends to be more caffeine in black tea and hence black tea can be considered more stimulating.
It is often of a better flavor too as green tea tends to lose its flavor after a year or so, whilst black leaf tea can retain the flavor for many years more. It is due to this attribute of black tea that it has long been used a commodity for trading, and black tea bricks were even used as a form of currency in the 19th century in countries such as Mongolia, Tibet and Siberia. TF-2 is a compound present in black tea. It is an antioxidant and as such is very helpful to the human body in the fight against cancer, diseases of the heart and other inflammatory ailments.
Black Tea Research
Studies carried out in Europe spanning a decade have shown that drinking in excess of 2 cups of black leaf tea a day can cut in half the incidence of heart problems in males. The best method by far with which to imbibe tea is in its loose form, and in the authors opinion the bagged variety should be kept firmly on the shelf. It’s not just a great flavor from which you will benefit with black tea but also the extraordinary health-giving benefits that it will bring to your body. And there are of course many brands from which to choose with varied tastes and flavors. All without exception compete admirably with their green leaf counterparts in health properties and arguably make a more enjoyable and flavorsome drink.