Loose Leaf Oolong Tea: The Process Of Fermentation

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!

Green Tea & Kidney Stones

Loose leaf green tea is truly marvelous. It will help purify your body, give you health benefits galore, and beyond all that, it’s an incredibly tasty beverage. In this world of processed, sugar and corn syrup packed products, it’s hard to find a sweet, delectable treat that is pure and natural. Compared with other drinks, green tea truly seems to be the closest thing to what would be the nectar of the gods. It’s wonderfully aromatic, and the delicious scent of this drink treat gives you a hint of what’s to come.

Health benefits
And now let’s move on and start talking about its countless health benefits. There are simply too many to discuss them all in depth. Loose leaf green tea can appear to some to be a miracle drink for your health.
This type of tea is packed full of nutrients and compounds that all promote tons of health benefits, and is almost like a miracle elixir. It can do all sorts of wonderful things for your health, including improving memory, improving the health of your teeth, fighting off cancer, boosting your metabolism, boosting your immune system, improve your heart health, help alleviate allergy symptoms, help regulate blood sugar, along with a multitude of other health benefits. It almost makes one wonder if there’s anything green tea can’t do for your health.

Preventing kidney stones
New studies now show that drinking loose leaf green tea on a regular basis may have even another healthful effect on your body; it may help to prevent kidney stones from forming. How does this work? Compounds in green tea may help to prevent this painful condition by making it more difficult for certain types of kidney stones to form. They may even prevent the compounds from forming before they form crystals.

What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones can cause pain in the abdomen, rib area, and it can be a drawn out painful experience. If you have ever suffered from kidney stones, then you now how excruciatingly painful they can be. This condition affects around five percent of the population, and is caused by a high concentration of minerals which cling together and form crystals that can cause a great deal of pain. The most common type of kidney stone is formed when a high concentration of calcium clumps together to form these crystals. This type of kidney stone is called calcium oxalate.

The research
Studies have shown that green tea compounds can combat these types of kidney stones from forming. The compounds from the green tea will bond to the crystal, making it lose its shape and become less likely to form a kidney stone.
Drinking green tea may help prevent this painful condition. When you regularly consume this tasty beverage, you’re doing your body a favor. By drinking just a few cups of green tea every day you can help to prevent kidney stones from forming and save yourself from being in a great deal of pain. In addition to that, regularly drinking tea on a daily basis, you will be improving your overall health on the long term.

Four Main Varieties of Loose Tea

There are thousands of varieties of tea throughout the world, and even among these the tea can be processed in a unique and different way. India’s Assam region harvests the most tea, and second in total world production is Sri Lanka. Among the varieties of tea are oolongs, assam, darjeeling, silver needle, wuyi, gyokuro, sencha, dragon well, white peony, and ceylon. There are thousands of types of teas, and the choices can be overwhelming. Most of these different types fall under four main types. These four main ones are ones which you are probably familiar with if you are a regular tea drinker: green, black, oolong, and white teas.

Do the Different Types of Teas Come from Different Plants?
There is only one type of plant that tea comes from, which may surprise someone who is new to the world of tea. All tea comes from the Camellia sinesis plant. There are some teas, called tisanes, which don’t come from Camellia sinesis. These include chamomile and herbal teas. But a newcomer might wonder how the single plant produces so many different types of teas.

If Teas All Come from the Same Plant, What Makes Them Different?
Anything can change the outcome of a tea. And there is a lot that affects the Camellia sinesis plant. Changes in the weather or different altitudes can impact how a tea turns out. Different parts of the world have different climates and different compounds of soil. These account for very varied types of teas that exist in the world today. A look at the four main types of tea:

Green Tea
Green tea is pretty well known these days and it offers many health benefits. It’s harvested in the spring, and after harvesting the oxidation process is stopped. Green tea is fermented a little longer. Some types are grown in the shade, and some are grown in sunshine. It’s a common variety of tea and can be found in most grocery stores, but there are certain types of this tea which are incredibly expensive. Some types of green tea can cost hundreds for a few ounces.

Black Tea
Black tea is oxidized more than the other three types of teas. The leaves are left to dry until they turn dark. It is also known to have health benefits as the other types. Black tea has much more caffeine than the other types of tea, and is consumed more world wide than the other types of tea.

Oolong Tea
Oolong, also called wu long, has a longer oxidation process, like black tea. Oolong tea varies in taste, but can have a woody or flowery flavor. Oolong is similar to green and black teas, and is a cross between the two.

White Tea
White tea is harvested in the spring, like green tea. It’s sweet in taste and has a delicious aroma. It is the least fermented type of tea and goes through a very simple process. It’s simply left out to be dried by the sun or in a room with specially controlled climate. It has health benefits that include its ability to fight cancer and fight off organisms that cause disease.

White Tea Benefits

Many people around the world, including chefs and even scientists believe that white tea has numerous benefits towards everyone’s health. But do you really know what exactly white tea is and how you could benefit from white tea leaves? The immature tea leaves are alternatively called white tea. These loose leaves are picked from the tea plant just before the plant has fully bloomed. The name ‘white tea’ came from the fine silvery fuzz covering the tea leaf and making it white in color. The four distinct varieties of white tea include the White Peony, Silver Needle, Long Life Eyebrow and Tribute Eyebrow. The difference between them is the proportion in which the tea leaves are blended with the tea buds.

Harvesting White Tea

Usually buds turn into tea in two days after they are picked. When two tea leaves are mixed with one tea bud, it forms the White Peony and if the mixture is made completely of buds, it is termed as the Silver Needle tea. The low quality tea variety called Long Life Eyebrow is made by mixing up the left over leaves after the White Peony and Silver Needle harvest. Tribute Eyebrow is processed using a special tea bush and is also a lesser quality tea. All four white teas can be purchased in loose leaf forms. On the other hand, teas available in bags have comparatively less quality and flavor than white tea. Tea bags are generally tea leaf dusts that remains at the bottom of tea bins after harvesting, reducing the desired quality and flavor.

White Tea Research

Scientific research has also shown that white tea provides additional protection against skin cancer, colon cancer, stomach cancer and even prostate cancer. Studies on the effect of white tea extract on skin exposed to direct sunlight has shown improved protection and reduced cell damage. A partially repaired immune system was also observed in some test subjects that consumed white tea leaves. Scientists found a wealth of antioxidants present in white tea and they suggested it may have anti-aging effect. Some compelling evidence has also been found in the direction of disease prevention using white tea leaves. It is shown that the white tea leaf extract may have the ability to stop pneumonia and the bacteria that causes Staph infection. It is also used to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, plaque and even bad breath.

What Else Can White Tea Do for You?

It is also believed that white tea leaf has anti-fungal effects. Recent studies have shown that some fungal types became inactive when the fungal drugs are consumed along with white tea leaves. Results of this study also show that white tea leaves might be used to prevent the fungus growth in certain similar conditions. Cholesterol is a health requirement and there are two kinds of cholesterol: good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. It is the bad cholesterol that causes the hardening of the arteries that could lead to heart attack. A type of antioxidants called catechins has been found to reduce bad cholesterol; white tea also helps raise the good cholesterol in the human body. It has been suggested that white tea leaves could lower the blood sugar levels, and thus reduce the occurrence of diabetic symptoms. More scientific research and results can be expected in the near future as the research on white tea continues.

Iced Tea Time! How to Properly Brew Iced Tea

ESP Emporium Iced Tea

According to “urban legend”, iced tea was discovered accidentally by an enterprising Englishman ­ Richard Blechynden who had come all the way from Calcutta, India to represent teas from the Far East at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.  Not meeting with much success in the stifling heat, Mr. Blechynden poured the tea over ice and met with a near instant success. However, the oldest printed recipes for iced tea were published in 1870. Russian tea with sugar and lemon slices was fashionable in the USA and served in hotels in 1860th under the name “tea a la Russe” both hot and cold.


America is unique in its tea consumption habits. In the United States over 85% of the tea is consumed as an iced beverage. Iced tea has gained wide spread popularity as an alternative to carbonated soft drinks being an attribute of a healthy life style. This refreshing drink is traditionally served sweetened or unsweetened with lemon slice over ice cubes in a tall glass. Black tea is the classic ingredient used to make iced tea.  With incredible offers on the market today for black and green teas, Rooibos, blended teas, ayurvedic, flavored, herbal and fruit teas, try to find your preferred beverage by experimenting with such a variety. For iced tea to have consistent strengths from start to finish, use ice cubes made from leftover tea.


Here are three ways for making perfect iced tea:


Hot Water Method

Boil water. Steep your favorite tea with double the amount of loose leaf. Strain prepared drink to remove the tea leaves. Sweeten with sugar or honey if desired. Pour the strained tea into a pitcher with ice cubes. Serve in a tall glasses filed with additional ice cubes, garnish with a lemon slice and a spring of fresh mint.


Cold Water Method

This method is the best to achieve a crystal clear drink result. Fill a large pitcher with cold water and loose leaf tea (8 teaspoons of tea per 4 cups of water), let it chill overnight. Strain the mixture to remove tea leaves. Sweeten with sugar syrup if desired. Serve and enjoy.


Sugar syrup: combine equal amounts of water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer until clear, about 7 minutes. Cool and store in refrigerator. You may add lemon zest to the mixture while boiling, proceed as directed, discard the zest and enjoy lemon sugar syrup with your favorite iced tea!


Sun Tea

“Sun tea” is tea brewed by being left to steep in the sunlight. In a glass jar, combine water and loose leaf tea (8 teaspoons of tea per 4 cups of water). Place the jar in a warm, sunny location for 3-4 hours. Strain the mixture to remove tea leaves. Sweeten with sugar syrup if desired. Chill in refrigerator. Serve and enjoy!


There are also lots of different variations of iced tea.  Common modifications to the traditional recipe include adding fresh fruit, flavored syrups, cranberry or orange juice, sparkling water and even champagne to make a delicious tea drink. Bubble tea is very popular in Taiwan and worth to try on a hot summer day as an exotic desert. A strong black tea sweetened with condensed milk and served cold with large tapioca pearls. Great low calorie desert that quenches your thirst! The possibilities for making a unique and refreshing glass of iced tea are virtually countless. Experiment and enjoy your summer!