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!

How to Find a Great Blend Tea

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.

The Basics
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.

Black Tea
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
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
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
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.

Flavored Tea: A Guide

If you're new to the tea-drinking world, you'll want to have some fun experimenting with different flavors. However, at first you may feel overwhelmed. It helps to know something about how tea is grown and processed to start with. There are some similarities in the ways any tea is processed, and it's good when you're choosing a particular flavor to know what the process necessitates.

Tea Harvesting and Processing

First, the uppermost leaves of the plant are harvested and then they're left to wither for a day or so. There are chemicals inside these leaves that need to be released, so then the leaves are crushed. After that, the crushed leaves are rolled and left in the air to oxidize over a few hours. At the end, they're heated so that all dampness is removed. When the leaves have been completely oxidized, the result is black tea, which is probably the most commonly used in the world. Around seventy-five percent of people in the world regularly drink black tea.

Green tea, on the other hand, is heated before the leaves are rolled, so it is not oxidized and stays green. That green tea accounts for the other twenty-five percent of the tea that people drink. It's less common, but is becoming more popular as its health benefits are being realized and its taste is being appreciated. There's a vast array of tea flavors, so you'll probably want to focus on those within the category you prefer the most. If you like black, or green, or white teas, select from within that category to make it an easier choice.

A Question of Quality

Select loose tea that's been picked early in its growth to really get a great taste. You can go for cheaper teas, but you'll be glad if you don't stint on quality. It's always best to use teas that have been grown in gardens without chemicals and that have been processed manually over time without the aid of chemical additives that are meant to hurry the process along. Artificial flavors are also to be avoided as they take away from the tea's flavor, giving it a more harsh taste. If you like strong flavors, like licorice or blackberry, a black tea is your best bet. Its robust quality can withstand the addition of stronger flavors.

Flavors to Your Taste!

Coffee drinkers often take to black teas that are well flavored. Green and white teas are more delicate, so choose them if you enjoy more subtle flavors such as pear or mango. Green tea is so subtle and delicate that it really goes well with light fruits or herbs such as mint or ginger. That's especially true of white tea, also. It has an aura that you take in almost as if you're inhaling the sweetness of roses or strawberries as you drink. You can be sitting in your kitchen and feel as if you're lounging in a tropical garden. However, for total well-being, don't just opt for the flavors you like.

...But Remember to Try New Things Too!

Look into the health benefits of particular teas, also, and find those that help you deal with your own particular set of health issues. There are so many to choose from, and you can find out more online or at your local health food store. Green and white teas especially are filled with anti-oxidants that can prevent cancer and help lots of other physical issues you may have or want to prevent. If you haven't fully explored the world of flavored teas, this is the time to begin your adventure. Body and mind will be glad you did!

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.

Vitamins and Minerals In Tea

Due to the variety of minerals, vitamins and other elements contained in tea, this drink improves health, relieves fatigue, strengthens the immune system and has an overall tonic effect on the body.

Mineral substances contain in green tea leaf and in finished products, it constitutes about 5-6% of dry matter. Among them are the following: potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, manganese, fluoride and others. With the aging of the plant total number of minerals increases, while the most valuable part of the soluble reduces. Only the components of relatively small molecular weights which are infused with hot water give a specific accent to the tea infusion. Between the quality of tea and the content therein of soluble mineral substances there is a direct link.

The potassium content in the tea leaf is 50-60% of all mineral substances and depends on the mineral nutrition of plants. This compound plays a very important role in the livelihood of tea tree; it is given a great importance in the synthesis of carbohydrates and proteins, and in the general metabolism. Potassium is very important to the human body; it prevents muscle cramps and regulates fluid and electrolyte balance.

Another important mineral is located in the tea - phosphorus. Its content ranges from 15-20% of weight of all mineral substances in tea. The properties of the finished product depend on its quantity. The two top leaves and a bud have higher content of phosphorus compare to the lower coarse tea leaves and stems. It is known fact that phosphorus is needed for the human body for normal functioning, as part of the nervous, brain tissue and bones.

Despite the slight content, copper and iron play an important role in plant’s life. They are part of some physiologically important organic compounds, such as enzymes. Another, small in content, but necessary for redox processes, is manganese. Its share is approximately 1-4%. Due to the iron content, tea has a beneficial effect on the human blood, as well as a good means for the prevention of various vascular diseases. In addition, the body needs iron to transport oxygen.

The complex experiments revealed effects of the duration of brewing tea and the quantity of the tea leaves on the degree of content in the drinks of various trace elements. Adding citric acid increased the yield of all elements, except copper. In the end, it was found that  a tea drink satisfies the daily requirement of zinc, copper and manganese at 1, 2 and 50% respectively.

Now let us turn to vitamins contained in tea. This is mainly vitamins B complex and C. The tea shoot has the following B complex vitamins: B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3, and B5 (PP), B6, B12 and P. Since these compounds are very stable, in the processing they are almost completely transformed into finished products. Content of vitamin B1 is small - an average of 0.3 - 10 mg per 1 kg of dry tea leaves. In the body this vitamin (B1) regulates metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, fatty acids, has versatile affect on the function of the cardiovascular, endocrine and central nervous system. Vitamin B2 has positive effect on the skin and mucous membranes, the health of the liver. The most important is the presence in tea of vitamin P. One of its most important properties is the strengthening of the capillaries of the plant. During the technological processing of raw material quality and quantity of the vitamin are undergoing significant changes. Its content is reduced from 20-25% in green tea to 8-15% in the final. Along with others, the tea contains vitamin PP that is important for normalizing the higher nervous activity, the functions of the digestive system. It also affects the cardiovascular system, in particular, expanding the small vessels.

Tea leaves are rich in Vitamin C. Gentle leaves contain approximately 2-3 times more of this vitamin than the coarse. In the process of refining its amount is sharply reduced, especially during the fermentation and drying. This vitamin is essential for strengthening the immunity of a person, it reduces the risk of infections, but also useful for the prevention of osteoporosis and periodontitis (inflammation of the periodontal tissue, i.e. tissue surrounding the tooth root). Tea fluoride also provides the beneficial effect on teeth. This element exists in tea leaf as anion. Fluoride anion produces various fluoride compounds and covers the surface of teeth to prevent bacterial attack. Just wanted to point out that tea is very useful for vision, because it contained β-carotene and other elements, strengthens blood vessels.