Everything You Need to Know About Oolong Tea
By Emilie Holmes
All tea types comes from one plant, Camellia Sinensis, and it is what happens once the leaves have been picked that defines the type and flavour of the resulting brew.
Whilst black teas are the most well-known, and more recently, green teas have received a lot of attention, oolongs are often overlooked despite having some of the most varied and exciting flavour profiles.
Whether we’re brewing in our tea van or chatting to customers about the collection at our Tea Bar, we regularly get asked, ‘what is oolong tea?’ So here’s the lowdown on what it is, how it’s made and why we think it’s the most exciting tea type of all.
How is Oolong Tea is Made?
After the leaves are picked (usually whole shoots), they are gently withered to remove some of the moisture from the leaf, before being tumbled in a bamboo drum. This process bruises the leaves and provokes oxidation. Oolongs are semi-oxidised which means that unlike black teas which are allowed to oxidise fully, for oolongs the process is halted after a certain time. The period of oxidation varies depending on the type of oolong being produced and can vary from 10% oxidation for a ‘green’ oolong, to over 60% for a darker Oolong. The leaves are then pan fired at high temperatures before being rolled and dried.
What is the Flavour of Oolong Tea?
From lighter ‘green’ oolongs to the darker, more heavily oxidised oolongs, it is this varying level of oxidation that makes this tea type so exciting, offering a huge spectrum of flavour. Expect everything from a light and floral Four Seasons at one end of the scale to a dark and aromatic Honey Orchid at the other.
What are the Benefits of Oolong Tea?
After-lunch refreshment: Oolongs increase your metabolism for up to two hours after eating, which is why you’ll find so many articles online linking oolong tea with weight loss.
Feeling fresh: particularly high levels of antioxidants in these teas help keep your skin looking vibrant and youthful.
A Couple of Our Most Popular Oolong Teas
Oolongs are the perfect choice for the curious tea drinker thanks to the variety it offers:
Grown high in the mountains, the yellow-gold leaves of this lightly oxidised oolong unfurl to produce a fresh, floral cup, smooth, almost creamy, with lingering notes of tropical fruit, this is a light easygoing oolong for anytime of day.
The most popular of the Phoenix Mountain oolongs, this tea is a world renowned oolong. ‘Mi Lan Xiang’ meaning ‘Honey Orchid fragrance’. The infusion is bursting with orange-blossom and apricot, with a toasted, honey-sweet finish thanks to the multiple roasts it undergoes.
Another popular choice is Milk Oolong or Jin Xuan, a tea much-loved for it’s sweet, ‘milk-like’, creamy flavour. There are sadly many milk oolongs out there using artificial flavourings to replicate this unusual flavour. However, a true example of this light-roasted, Taiwanese oolong can be beautiful. We have yet to find one suitable for the Good & Proper collection but we’re always on the look-out so keep your eyes peeled. In the meantime for a similar taste we highly recommend our Bao Zhong.