Oolong tea or wulong tea history, types and why we love it so much
With their approximately 300-year history, wulong tea or oolong teas belong to the partially oxidized teas.
It is the widest range of tea types, some types are closer to green tea and others to red (black) tea.
It depends on how much the leaves are allowed to oxidize.
Oolong tea can be called those that obtain their final form through repeated, more intensive and controlled crushing, rolling, and baking, and are made from more mature leaves.
One of our tea masters, Mrs. Chen, illustrated the quality of oolong tea with a triangle whose vertices included the following:
natural environment - climate - tea farmer's expertise.
If any point or base of this triangle is not stable, the finished tea cannot be perfect.
If the quality of the soil is bad, the plants will be weak.
If the weather is bad, for example it rains a lot, the tea will not have a substantial taste, it will literally be "watery".
If the tea farmers do not manage properly, they make mistakes at several points during the processing, and defective tea can also be produced.
What exactly is oolong tea?
The term oolong or Wulong means "black dragon" in Chinese (wu long: 烏龍). The shape and color of the elongated leaves remind the Chinese of a dark "ghost" dragon.
The Chinese pinyin transcription is wu long or wulong, as is the Anglo-Saxon transcription oolong.
Oolong is not a type of tea plant. Not even a picking style.
A perfectly tuned processing process that requires the harmony of nature and human efforts.
"The type of tea that requires the most expertise."
Its processing is an extremely meticulous process right from the picking of the leaves.
They can process small quantities of leaves at once under manufacturing conditions.
Tea making families often the leaves are picked separately for each tea garden and they are processed and sold "per vineyard". Here's another one a parallel is manufacturing winemakingcell.
As we have already mentioned, when processing this type of tea, the perfect timing of the continuous crushing, rolling and resting of the leaves is necessary.
After the short wilting of the oolong tea leaves after picking them, the crushing - twisting damages the cell walls and allows the fragrance and aroma substances in the leaves to come to the surface and transform before they are fixed on the surface of the leaves by heat treatment.
Of course, reacting with air, they oxidize and transform, refine and thicken.
A brief history of oolong or wulong tea
Oolong tea originally comes from southern China and Taiwan and, like other types of tea, a Camellia Sinensis – is made from tea plant leaves. Of course, it doesn't matter what kind of tea plant it is, because not all of them are suitable for making oolong tea.
Think of the tea plant variety as there are gala, jonathan, idared, etc. among the apples. Or in the case of white wine grapes, there are Furmint, Italian Riesling, Lime Leaf, etc.
Each has a different character. Some are sweeter, more aromatic, richer in acids, etc.
The same is true for tea.
Like other teas, the unique taste of oolong teas depends on the way they are processed.
The oxidation level mentioned above is 8% and approx. It ranges between 90%.
This wide range also gives this type of tea a wide range of characteristics.
Their taste can vary from floral, green, sweet and fruity to woody and baked, nutty and many other flavors and aromas.
Steps in processing oolong tea
It is important to note that these steps may differ on one or two points in the 4 main oolong tea producing regions. They use different tools, timing and form.
Tea plants are grown in rows, the units of which are called tea gardens. For the teas of our producers, do not think of large contiguous areas, but rather of smaller gardens with various features. It is like many, many tiny vineyards in wine growing.
Older bushes and trees grow in more disorderly rows.
Proper timing of harvest
The best oolongs, spring harvestthey are harvested on this occasion. They can be harvested both by hand and with manual machines. In certain regions, tea is picked more than once, as the environmental conditions allow, for example in Taiwan, they even pick tea in all 4 seasons. Here, too, the spring teas can give outstanding teas, as well as the winter teas. On Wuyi Mountain, the picking starts from the beginning of May, but the roasting of the tea leaves can last until December. In the Phoenix Mountains, harvest work begins around April.
May 2019 - We hiked to Ma Tou Yan - Horsehead Rock, one of the most famous Rou Gui Rock oolong growing sites. During the harvest season, we met a lot of tea pickers who walk kilometers with huge and heavy bags to the processing plants.
The first three or four leaves of the tea plant, which have developed from the fresh shoot, are suitable for making this type of tea. Leaves or buds that are too small and undeveloped would not even be able to withstand the stronger twisting-crushing phases, nor are they so rich in aromas. Picking the tea leaves by hand is the best way to create the perfect tea, and it is also the most pleasant for the tea plant. Nowadays, the two-person manual cutting machine used in Japan is also used, as labor has become very expensive in China and it is difficult to find skilled tea pickers during the harvest season.
Wilting – “withering
After the tea leaves are picked, the enzymes inside the leaves immediately enter into a chemical reaction with the oxygen in the air, begin to change, turn brown, and wither. At this stage, they become increasingly soft, like when a flower is plucked, it quickly begins to wither and sag.
They also lose their moisture content, helping the work of subsequent drifts. The tea farmer constantly checks the leaves when they are ready for further processing.
There are several styles of withering. If the weather permits, the leaves are left to rest in the sun, and then the tea maker constantly turns the leaves placed on round bamboo trays so that they oxidize evenly. The leaves are also damaged during the turning, and before they are completely dry in the sun, the process is continued indoors in the shade. The tossing and turning is continuous. In the old days and our smaller producers used bamboo trays.
bamboo baskets on which the leaves can dry in an even layer.
The already mentioned oxidation, when the leaves start to turn brown, change and deepen. Their transformation begins, their flavor profile develops.
In Taiwan, the leaves are usually rotated continuously in long woven bamboo cylinders while they are slightly injured, while warm air is blown on them so that oxygen can pass through them well.
If the weather makes it necessary, this air is heated with warm air blown through charcoal embers.
In addition to changing the flavor of the tea, oxidation changes the color of the leaves to a darker shade. The more oxidation, the darker the color and the deeper, more characteristic the tea becomes.
Therefore, red teas (black teas) have a deep dark red color. The ability and experience of the tea maker play a very important role here as well in controlling the oxidation level of the desired type of tea.
Stopping oxidation - baking
Heat treatment is used to stop the oxidation process. The tea maker and tea producer determines the oxidation level of the leaves and stops the process with heat treatment. The responsible enzymes stop and the change in the tea stops.
Taiwanese oolong - slightly different processing
Taiwan and Anxi oolong teas are rolled into a small ball shape. After the withering-freezing phase, they are placed in large cloths and then rolled into small balls using various machines.
In the picture above, the equipment similar to the "concrete mixer" serves the purpose of shaking up the rolled leaves before the new rolling. This process is carried out throughout the night until the tea takes its final ball shape.
For certain types, more baking (over charcoal or in electric ovens)
Depending on the type of tea, the tea leaves are roasted. This is also a very important post-production, which is an art in itself and requires enormous professional knowledge. We have already encountered cases where 3-4 tea producers take their teas to 1 master tea roaster because they do not yet have enough experience to prepare their tea roasting properly.
The tea makers are masters, they take everything into account. What is the type of tea leaf, the time of harvesting, and the level of oxidation to determine the appropriate level of roasting. By tasting, they decide which style of roasting suits the tea best.
There are also oolongs that are not baked at all.
Our tea is, for example, Taiwanese Jin Xuan.
Baking is often done over charcoal in the case of rock oolongs and more traditional oolongs.
Taiwanese oolong tea roasted over charcoal
Electric ovens are typically used in Taiwan and Anxi, which are more stable and controllable.
The 4 main oolong tea growing regions
Anxi Oolongs (Tie Guan Yin)
In general, it can be said that, in addition to Taiwanese oolongs, the first tea for novice tea drinkers is the "tiku" referred to in tea slang. It has a pleasant, floral, slightly creamy taste. It is easy to understand and tolerates the possible mistakes of the tea maker. Place of production: Fujian - Anxi. These are teas rolled into a sphere.
Wu Yi mountain rock oolong teas
The Wuyi Mountains, a jewel box that is part of the world heritage, are also located in Fujian province, a little further north. The teas known as rock wulong have an exceptional aroma, roasted character, minerality and great taste. Their preparation means extraordinary expertise in this tiny tea-growing region.
You can find our rock wulong teas here
Phoenix Mountain Dan Cong Oolongs
Dan Cong (single bush) type oolongs from Guangdong province are also called the "champagne of teas". Their characteristic is that they naturally smell of various exotic flowers and spices. Perfumed teas in which you can feel the minerality of the soil.
You can find our Phoenix mountain teas here
Taiwanese oolong teas
It is another favorite everyday tea of beginner tea drinkers, which brings a lot of smiles and joy to its drinkers. Grown in the high mountains of Taiwan, they have a sweet, creamy, floral taste.
Taiwanese tea growers are innovative people who are constantly experimenting with new processing methods and crossing tea plant varieties. Very popular among many, for their calming effect and sweet, pumpkin-like taste, the Gaba oolongs.
You can find our Taiwanese teas here
We should treat it separately
Here we need to mention a category called "roasted or matured oolongs". They can be from Wuyi or Taiwan, they have a common characteristic of being roasted over traditional charcoal embers and their age. These can even be 10-20-year-old oolongs, which are re-baked and matured every year.
Full range of oolong teayou can find us here.
Health effects of oolong tea
It contains slightly fewer antioxidants than green tea, yet it has countless beneficial and beneficial effects on the body.
Here is an interesting research in English about the effects of oolong tea.