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Oolong Tea – Answers to your Questions

Oolong tea answers about these diverse and rewarding teas

Oolong teas to will give you much interest and enjoyment. Here we supply oolong tea answers to questions you may have. Oolongs are still not widely known but deserve to be better appreciated. We hope you discover some great new teas.

Q. What is oolong tea?
A. Oolong tea, Black Dragon tea in Chinese, is a semi-oxidised tea, between that of a black tea and a green tea. It is made from the same tea Camellia sinensis as green and black teas.

Q. Where is oolong produced?
A. Oolong tea is produced in China’s Fujian Province and in Taiwan (Formosa). Some are now produced in Assam and Darjeeling.

Q. When is the leaf plucked?
A. The leaves are somewhat larger than those picked for green or black teas, being picked later.

Q. What does oolong taste like?
A. Oolong teas are known for the aromatic qualities and have greater complexity than either green or black teas due to varying levels of oxidation. They tend to be smoother than black teas but less fresh and grassy than green tea. They may have short to lingering finishes. The colour in the cup can vary equally from amber through to burnt umber, russet and straw.

Q. What are the main styles of oolong tea?
A. There are open styles from northern Fujian Province known as Min-Bei and closed styles known as Min-Nan from the south of which Ti Kuan Yin is one example. Oolong teas are always whole leaf and are never broken or rolled.

Q. How would you describe the aroma of oolong teas?
A. Formosa oolongs tend to be more fragrant, particularly reminiscent of orchids.

Q. What is the most famous oolong producing area?
A. The small Wuyi Shan area of North-West Fujian province, produces Ming Yan teas, these are rarities treasured since the Ming dynasty. China oolongs are ‘greener’, being oxidised only 12-20%. Formosa is also famous for its traditional ‘blacker’ oolongs which are more highly oxidised at 60-70%.

Q. Can oolong teas be infused more than once?
A. Yes, especially the rolled styles from southern Fujian Province.

Q. How long should oolong tea be brewed?
A. The tea should be infused for between five and seven minutes on first infusion. This should be increased for subsequent infusions.

Q. How hot should the water be for brewing oolong tea?
A. The freshly drawn water should have boiled and cooled to around 85 degrees centigrade.

Q. What is the gongfu method of brewing oolong tea?
A. A small earthenware Yixing teapot is three-quarters filled with leaves. The first infusion is discarded. Subsequent infusions would then be around one minute. This time is increased for subsequent infusions. The third or fourth infusion is considered the best.

Q. Which oolongs should I choose for a richer, more mellow taste?
A. Choose the blacker Formosa oolongs.

Q. Which oolongs should I choose for a fresher, more fruity taste?
A. Choose the greener China oolongs.

Q. Should oolongs be drunk with milk?
A. Oolongs should not be drunk with milk.

Q. When is the best time to drink oolong teas?
A. Oolongs are best drunk in the evening. This perhaps also gives more opportunity to savour their more complex characteristics.

Q. Why is the town of Anxi in Fujian Province, China, famous for tea?
A. Anxi is the home of Ti Kuan Kin or Goddess of Mercy oolong. This is a classic aromatic and fragrant oolong made in the closed style.

Q. What is the legend of Ti Kuan Yin oolong tea?
A. Qing emperor Kangxi prayed to the goddess Kuan Yin (the female incarnation of the compassionate Buddha) for good health as he was suffering from smallpox. Answering his prayer she came to him in a dream, taking him to a place where very poor farmers collected leaves from wild bushes growing on the mountain sides. In gratitude he asked her to make it possible for the farmers to cultivate these bushes. Picking a leaf it was found to bear an impression of both of their thumbs and it is these two little marks that distinguish this tea variety. Emperor Kangxi proclaimed that the tea was to be famous in China for eternity and emperor Qianlong chose Ti Kuan Yin as one of his tribute teas. Ti (iron) makes reference to the iron jars in which this special tea was once stored.

Q. Where were oolong teas first produced?
A. Oolongs have been produced in the Wuyi mountains of Fujian province for centuries. Taiwan has produced Formosa oolongs for the past three centuries.

Q. Where are oolongs produced now?

A. In addition to China and Taiwan in response to the growing demand for these distinctive teas the techniques of oolong tea production have spread to Assam, Darjeeling, Sri Lanka and Vietnam amongst others.

Q. What is the best known area of Taiwan for Formosa oolongs?
A. The mountainous area to the north of the island known as the Ali Shan is famous for its distinctly fragrant oolongs.

Q. Do you recommend that a water filter be used for making oolong teas?
A. Yes, we would recommend that a filter is used for brewing any tea in hard water areas.

Q. What is pouchong?
A. Pouchong is a lightly oxidised form of oolong originating from Fujian Province, China.

Q. What is Wuyi Shan rock tea?
A. These are teas growing out of the precipitous rock faces of the Fujian Province’s Wuyi Shan mountains. They are noted for their sweet aroma. The most famous of these rock teas is Da Hong Pao (Royal Red Robe) whose tea bushes are about 360 years old and grow in the spartan yet mineral rich soils present in the high rocky crevices.

Q. Are monkeys used to pick teas growing in inaccessibly wild places?
A. Yes, so legend says, hence the name of a rare tea from the Yuyi Shan mountains famously known as Monkey Picked Oolong. However, it may have been a good story to tell naïve Europeans!

We hope these oolong tea answers have been informative. See the oolong teas section of our Tea Store.