The second tea on the list for us was Oolong, which in Chinese means “black dragon,” a name that came from its originally darker color. Oolong is mainly produced in China and Taiwan. This type of tea grows at a high elevation and is almost always handpicked. The higher the elevation it’s grown, the higher the quality of tea; it is also the only tea where better flavor correlates with a higher price. Most other teas are graded on their appearance and not necessarily flavor. Oolong is partially oxidized, which means it’s browner than green teas but greener than black teas.
For Oolong, it is important that the leaves are processed immediately after plucking. They are wilted and then tossed or shaken until the edges of the leaves turn a reddish-brown as they are bruised and the chemicals react to oxygen. As soon as the desired amount of oxidation is reached (between 25% and 75%) the leaves are fired or dried to halt any further oxidation. Oolong can also be roasted again after drying to achieve a toastier flavor.
Oolong can be steeped seven or eight times. The first steeping is often used as a rinse of the leaves since a slight foam is produced, during which the leaves also partially open. Typically the best-tasting steeping is the 3rd or 4th.
Oolong is traditionally served in a gong-fu teapot – a very small, unglazed clay pot which is used to serve Oolong and sometimes Puerh. Gong-fu teapots darken over time and develop a sheen as they absorb oils from tea. It is important
to not wash a gong-fu teapot with soap; simply rinse with water and let air-dry. To distinguish a quality gong-fu pot, tip the teapot upside down on a table. If it lies flat that means the top opening and spout are level (they should be). There should also be a drain hole in the teapot’s lid and the lid should be tight-fitting.
Brief tasting notes
Almost all of the teas we sampled were Taiwanese, except one from Vietnam and the two Tea Kuan Yins from China.
consists of twisted leaves that are moderately roasted and lightly oxidized. Baozhong has a buttery smell and gives a light, soft feeling in your mouth. Its mild and smoky yet floral flavor increases with each steeping.
this Oolong is tightly-rolled and nugget-shaped. It is lightly roasted, has a floral, rich taste and provides a smooth feeling over the tongue.
has a medium-tight rolling and is medium-toasted. It smells a bit grass-like but sweet at the same time. This tea has a floral flavor and you can tell it has been roasted longer than the previous two Oolongs from its taste.
a tightly-rolled tea that is full of different fruit, berry and floral flavors.
lightly-roasted but with a bold flavor and a bit of astringency.
we tasted two of these Chinese Oolongs. They are moderately roasted and have a fresh aroma. One had a sweet, honey flavor while the other tasted more of roasted fruit.
we sampled two of these teas. They get their acronym name from containing a high percentage of gamma-aminobutyric acid, which is a natural food preservative that also provides a calming effect. They have a fruity but almost hay-like smell and a soothing flavor.
Words of the day
"Tea" in Chinese.
Chinese word used when drinking tea. It describes a lingering taste in the mouth, or “mouth aroma.”
Up Next is Puerh tea...