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!

Four Main Varieties of Loose Tea

by Elena Popec 10. June 2010 10:11

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.

Black Tea May Lower Blood Sugar

by Steven Popec 9. June 2010 07:17

Many teas have health benefits, and black tea has many such benefits. This tea, which has been used for thousands of years in China, has many positive effects on the body, including lowering blood sugar.

Black Tea and Diabetes
   
Black tea is known to improve the health of the heart and to improve the immune system. Recent research also indicates that black tea can lower blood sugar. This would help people who suffer from diabetes. Research studies have found a substance in black tea that works in the same way that prescription medication which is used to control blood sugar levels work. These medications are used in patients with type 2 diabetes, and a substance that works in the same way is in black tea. This naturally occurring substance is found in higher levels in this type of tea than in others such as green tea.

How Does it Work?
   
The polysaccharides found in black tea help to inhibit an enzyme which changes starches to sugars. This decreases blood sugar levels, and this is the same process the prescription drugs use. Polysaccharides help to stop the absorption of sugar, and research has pointed out in the past that this might help people who have diabetes. Black tea also is shown to possibly help prevent cancer and other diseases.

So Can You Drink Black Tea in Place of an Oral Diabetic Medication?
   
No. Talk to your doctor before ever making a change in your treatment. These studies are not clear whether drinking the tea would be enough for treating diabetes. The study extracted the polysaccharides from the teas using chemical methods, which is not the way you brew tea at home.

Why is the Tea Black?
   
Traditional teas actually come from the same plant. The difference in color is due to the amount of processing. The black interacted with oxygen until the leaves darkened, in a process called oxidation. The process of the black variety only involves the tea leaves and oxygen. There’s no yeast or fermenting involved in this tea making process.

Black Tea has a Higher Level of Caffeine

   
This method does, however, leave much higher caffeine content in the tea. Black tea has a much higher level compared to other teas, including green and white teas. A cup of black tea has just about 50% less milligrams of caffeine in it than coffee has. A cup of black tea is used in many parts of the world instead of coffee in the mornings.

Where Can I Buy Black Tea?
   
Black teas are available at most grocery stores. Organic brands are becoming more readily available in stores, or they can be purchased online or at local health food stores. It may be available as a single tea packet, or in a blend. There are many different brands, and the choices can be a little overwhelming. Try a few different brands and types. Find the flavor you most enjoy. Brew the leaves in a pot-bellied teapot for the most delectable experience of the drink.
   
And drink up the deliciousness, and know that’s good for you too! The benefits of this drink are many, and it perhaps could lead, with more research and study, to another breakthrough for helping to lower blood sugar.

So What's Really in Green Tea?

by Steven Popec 3. June 2010 06:53

Green tea has a reputation for having tremendous positive effects on your health but what are the reasons behind it? This article will help explain the reasons. What are the compounds included in green tea that makes it so good for you? Below is a list of what the most significant ingredients are, and how they benefit your health:

Polyphenols - a powerful-acting antioxidant, which is naturally occurring and most responsible for the color, flavor, and taste in fruits, vegetables, seeds and types of plants. The benefits include lowering the risk of heart disease, cancer and other types of diseases. The properties in polyphenol can be such that they serve as an anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic.

Catechins - a class of polyphenol, commonly in high doses in green tea. Benefits include anti-carcinogenic, lowering of cholesterol and LDL levels, prevention of high blood pressure, prevention of red blood cell clots, prevention of allergies, anti-biotic acting functionality, and improvement of digestion and elimination of body odor.

Flavonols - another class of polyphenol with anti-oxidant properties. Benefits include the trapping of free radicals and peroxides, and the prevention of destruction of body tissue. Works in conjunction with vitamin C, helping to strengthen the walls of blood vessels.

Glycosides - complex sugar. Prevents blood sugar increase.

Carotene - compound which is organic and found in most orange and yellow vegetables and fruits. Helps to make body produce vitamin A. Benefits include prevention of oxidation, improves immunity and has anti-carcinogenic properties.

Flouride - mineral which helps strengthen tooth enamel, thereby preventing tooth decay.

Caffeine - diuretic. Benefits include speeding of nervous system, prevention of asthma, increase in metabolism.

Vitamin C - vitamin which helps fight against infections and helps the immune system.

Vitamin E - vitamin which helps in prevention of breakdown of body tissues. Also helps with infertility and is anti-carcinogenic.

Vitamin B - vitamin which helps in metabolism, maintenance of healthy skin and muscle tone, enhancement of immune and nervous system, promotion of cell growth, and reduction of certain cancers.

Zinc - mineral which helps in prevention of skin inflammation and helps in maintenance of immunity level.

Selenium - mineral which helps in prevention of oxidation and heart muscle deterioration.

Magnesium - mineral which helps in prevention of oxidation, prevention of heart-related diseases, and maintenance of bodily nerves, muscles, and bones. Also helps in the synthesis of protein and cellular metabolism.

Green Tea May Fight Off Eye Ailments

by Steven Popec 23. May 2010 00:30

Westerners have recently rediscovered the green tea. It has its origin in China; the Chinese believe that green tea has the ability to prevent many hazardous diseases, and even treat symptoms of others. This belief has now passed on to the western world, through word of mouth, and of course, the most well-known promotional tool in the world: the Internet. The west is now slowly adapting to the taste of green tea instead of black tea; not everyone likes the idea of 'green' tea, but the color is paler, not green, and the flavor is crisper. Green tea is made from a leaf called Camellia Sinensis, most commonly. These leaves do not require a high amount of oxidation and which makes green tea a good source of the antioxidants known as “Catechins”.

Antioxidants & Catechins

Antioxidants are agents that fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals can cause cell damage and a number of other diseases, --free radicals, are abnormal foreign agents, in some cases, and they are linked to the development of various kinds of cancer. Catechin in green tea is what gives it the strong taste and smell. Catechin also has the capability to move up to infiltrate our body's natural digestive system. It once absorbed by our digestive system, it’s filtered through the blood, where it eventually, reaches our retina, and eyes. The catechins then protect the eyes and reduce the occurrence of eye diseases. Research has been done on whether or not green tea can prevent glaucoma; the findings are pretty amazing. Glaucoma is a disease that can cause loss of eyesight, visual impairment, and even permanent blindness.

How it Works

An experiment was conducted on mice to prove that green tea can fight eye ailments. The tiny animals were fed green tea orally on a regular basis, and then their eye tissues were analyzed. The analysis revealed that the retina absorbed the highest number of catechins. The antioxidant lowered the harmful oxidative pressure in the eye and the effect lasted for about twenty hours. Many people are also aware of green tea's effect on weight loss; everyone seems to be jumping on some kind of green tea fad diet. Well, these diets aren't just trendy, 'here today, gone tomorrow', weight loss schemes. When used in your regular diet program and health regime it is extremely beneficial. People who replaced coffee for green tea rarely come back to coffee.

Add Green Tea for a Healthier Future!

Because of its medicinal values in the last few years Green tea has become an important subject of scientific research and analysis. These studies have proven that green tea also has other medicinal effects and benefits that help in reducing or preventing some hazardous diseases like cancer. Even more studies have proven that green tea may be effective in the treatment of joint diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, or impaired immune disease and other serious illnesses associated with the liver. A cup of green tea is a good refresher and pumps in a high amount of energy in to the system, --and don't forget, it tastes great too!

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