Bite size tea nuggets: Intro to Oolongs

(or if you prefer Wulongs)

It has been long time since I have written, talked and actually taken pictures of tea. So to fix this mistake, I would like to introduce you to one of my favourite tea types - Oolongs from Taiwan. (And yes, it matters where they come form as well as altitudes, vintages and roasting degrees, etc. more about it below). 

Rocks and Monkeys in my tea? 

Well No, tea shops are not try to sell you tea made of rocks and monkeys are not picking your tea (or if they are then please stay clear of these shops). And Yes, I know I might have crushed your mental romantic image about drinking these exotic types of oolong teas, but the teas name usually comes from where it is grown, cultivar or other tea characteristics. 

Story behind … Rock Oolong, Big Red Robe, Monkey Picked Oolongs or Milk Oolongs just to name it few, will follow in Advanced Oolong post. 

Aromas of Oolong

So lets geek out about Oolong

I personally prefer Taiwanese (also known as Formosa) Oolongs. Maybe becauseTaiwanese has long tradition off making oolongs and they are really good at it, simple as it is (So far I can say I have tried oolongs from Japan, China and India, but I still prefer Taiwanese). After all 90 % of tea produced in Taiwan is oolong. 

So If you would like to get into oolong, I suggest you start with Taiwanese and after that (if you are more curious move on to more exotic specimens). 

What makes Oolong so special

Oolongs are semi-oxidised, so they are something between green and black teas. (And while green and black teas can divide people, I have still not met a person, who don’t like oolong). 

So how it is possible that Oolong is something between green and black?

Well, the story of Oolong starts with plucking, where more older leaves are selected (3 and up to 5 leaves are plucked). Followed by withering where sun or shaded areas are used to make picked leaves limp. Then the leaves are bruised (yes, they are getting harsh treatment) to start the oxidation and fixed using heat (like tumble dryer) to stop oxidation. After all this, leaves are shaped usually into half-ball shape or strips, and then dried and roasted. (Sometimes the second drying (roasting) can take in place to add complexity and mellow the taste. And as with coffee, mistakes can be hidden by stronger roast (in coffees case espresso).

Quality

Quality can be tricky in tea and very subjective (I know, I have written master thesis on it after all), but in a simplified version (very simplified) you should try to find out as much as you can about the tea provenance- Where it is from? Which vintage? Altitude? 

So, If you don’t want to take your detective hat on, then find out which altitude the teas is from (it sets a price, and teas grown in higher altitudes (over 1000 m above sea level) are considered higher quality) and use your sensory senses (how it smells and how many stems you can see - If you find lot of stems in your tea know the quality is low)

If you want to know more about oolongs, keep posted for advanced post (yeah, I know it is very meta).