There is a type of tea called Oolong or blue tea. But is it blue? What makes it different from the well-known green, red or black teas.
As you know, all teas come from the same Camellia Sinensis tree and depending on the way its leaves are processed, different categories of tea are obtained: white tea, green tea, black tea, red tea and Oolong.
Oh by the way! It’s not blue
What is Oolong tea?
The best known teas are:
Green and white teas that we can define as non-oxidized teas, so the leaves retain part of their original green leaf color and fresh flavor.
Black teas that are fully oxidized during processing, giving the tea leaves their dark color and rich malt aroma.
Oolong is not a black tea or a green tea; falls into its own category of tea. It is an intermediate state between green tea and black tea. It is a semi-oxidized tea. It is an intermediate state and not a mixture of green teas and black tea.
An Oolong can end up with more black tea characteristics or more green tea characteristics depending on the producer’s decision as to the oxidation time.
This is what makes it a wonderful class of tea! since depending on the tea garden, the quality of the leaf and how oxidized it is (between 8% and 85%), one flavor or another is obtained.
By the way! Calling it blue tea is an invention of the gentlemen of Marketing. The “gentlemen of the Marketig went for the simplest thing. What color is left free?: blue.
Why is it called Oolong?
Like everything related to tea and China, the origins are confusing and varied and with some “legend” that reminds us of Chinese tales.
One story claims that the Chinese bestowed the name “wulong” or “black dragon” on the large, dark tea leaves, which were heavily oxidized and twisted into shapes resembling the mystical Chinese dragon.
Oolong (also spelled Wulong , or Wu Long ) is literally “black dragon” tea, but they say the name originally had nothing to do with dragons; rather, it was named after its discoverer Wu Liang.
Wu Liang went out one day to pick tea. After collecting a good amount he discovered a deer in the river and decided to kill it.
Once he got home with the tea and the dead deer, he began to butcher and prepare the meat, completely forgetting about the tea.
So he forgot to dry the tea and after two or three days (probably when he finished eating the deer) he remembered the tea and it had begun to oxidize and change color (going from green to black but not completely black),
Although he was worried, he did not want to waste it so he continued with his brewing and made himself a cup and found that it had an exceptional and unique flavor, a smooth and aromatic tea, different from the green tea he was used to.
He made it known to his neighbors and they were delighted and they all wanted to know the technique and make Wu-Liang tea. The technique spread and became known as Wu-Long cha, or Black Dragon tea.
Afterwards, the language problems between Chinese and English appeared from ” wulong” to “ulong” which is written as “oolong” .
This story brings together the “chance of the deer in the river” (very Chinese), human error and the discovery of a unique product through error.
Surely, and like everything in life, Oolong was born from an unwanted oxidation that someone tried it and liked it.
How is Oolong tea made?
To understand oolong, you really need to understand tea processing. All black, green, and oolong teas come from the same tea plant: Camellia sinensis.
The manufacturing process of oolong tea is:
The brittle tea leaves are intentionally picked and broken by shaking to help start the oxidation process that will give the oolong tea leaves their final flavor.
The leaves are then left to dry in the sun for several hours to “wither” and lose some of their moisture content.
Wilting softens the tea leaves, making them pliable so they won’t break during the important step of shaping oolong tea.
Before further processing, the tea leaves need time to rest and cool off from the hot sun. As they cool, they begin to shrivel and flatten. As they begin to change shape, they are ready to be laminated.
It is the rolling process that helps tea leaves develop their unique look and flavor profile.
Laminating or “Bruising” breaks the cell walls of the leaves, releasing enzymes and essential oils that alter the flavor of the leaves. These products
Rolling the leaves further exposes the chemical components to oxygen and stimulates the oxidation process.
Oxidation is a chemical reaction that alters the flavor of the tea leaves and helps the tea develop its final appearance and color. The length of time the leaves are exposed to oxygen will determine the type of tea it will become. Oolong teas vary in oxidation levels, anywhere from 8% to 80%, and therefore vary in color and flavor depending on the objectives of the tea producer.
Once the tea leaves are oxidized to the desired level, heat is applied to stop the oxidation process and begin drying the leaves. Roasting applies heat and also lends important flavor characteristics to the final oolong tea.
A key characteristic of any oolong is its shape. This final rolling of the partially dried, roasted tea leaves defines the final appearance and flavor of the tea.
Oolong tea leaves are allowed to dry. It is important to completely reduce the moisture content in the tea leaves so that they can be stored without spoiling.
Once the tea leaves have dried completely, they are visually sorted into various groups of similar size and color to create different batches of teas.
Did you imagine all this work to be able to enjoy a tasty cup of Oolong?
What does Oolong tea taste like?
Because Oolong tea is oxidized at different levels depending on the tea master’s processing technique, its flavor can range from light to thick, floral to grassy, and sweet to roasty.
The color of the leaves and the hue of the tea brew can also vary from green to gold to brown.
In general, although they combine characteristics of black and green teas, their flavor has little in common with them. Unless steeped too long, most Oolongs show almost no trace of bitterness, and generally have a stronger aroma than any green or black tea .
Oolong tea preparation
The traditional Chinese method of making is known as gongfu cha, where gongfu (same as ‘kung fu’, just spelled differently) roughly means ‘hard work’ and ‘cha’ is ‘tea’.
Gongfu cha is sometimes described as “the Chinese tea ceremony“, and although it is not as formal as the famous Japanese ceremony, it has its roots.
They do this in a very small teapot (traditionally made of unglazed Yixing clay) that is about a third filled with Oolong.
The kettle is filled with hot water and emptied immediately, to “wake up the tea” and rinse away all impurities.
Later, they fill it again with water at 90º over the already wet Oolong leaves and let it rest for a very short time (20 seconds to 1 minute) before being poured into small cups to serve.
Then it can be filled with hot water repeatedly; the taste of each cup is subtly different from the last, and many people even prefer the second cup to the first.
But don’t worry, if you don’t want to perform the ceremonial rite of Gongfu cha that I have described above, you can prepare it in the following way and you will obtain a fabulous tea:
Use fresh, pure, cold-filtered water. Spring water is best. Because styles of oolongs vary so much, soaking temperature and time can vary as well. Generally, oolongs are soaked at 80 to 100 degrees for 60 seconds to 3 minutes.
Most oolong teas are designed to be multi-brewed. Each soaking unfolds the rolled or twisted leaves a little more, obtaining different shades. It is not uncommon to get 2-3 steeps from a high quality oolong as many oolongs are designed to taste better with multiple short steeps. Taste it after a minute of soaking and then decide if you want to leave it a little longer
Use 2 grams of loose leaf tea per 250 ml cup.
Cover your oolong as you make it to lock in all the heat.
Types of Oolong
As blue or Oolong teas depend on where they are grown and the oxidation time of the leaves, there are many different types, each with its own characteristics.
Depending on the origin, we can classify them into:
China in Fujian (in the Wuyi Mountains and Anxi County ).
The most famous and expensive oolong teas are made here, and the production is still generally credited as being organic. Some of the best known teas are:
Da Hong Pao (“Big Red Robe”) and Si Da Ming Cong. They are the two varieties of oolong classified as famous Chinese teas.
Tieguanyin – A very popular and famous tea in China and Huangjin Gui.
Dancong teas are produced in China in Guangdong and are characterized by their ability to naturally mimic the flavors and fragrances of various flowers and fruits, such as orange blossom, orchid, grapefruit, almond, ginger blossom, etc.
The term dancong originally meant Phoenix teas selected all from one tree. In recent times, though it has become a generic term for all Phoenix Mountain oolongs. True dancongs are still produced, but they are not common outside of China.
Due to high domestic demand and a strong tea culture, most Taiwanese tea is consumed by Taiwanese with very little being exported. The most famous are:
Dongfang MeDongding,iren , Alishan oolongyLishan oolong.
Pouchong , lately called yellow tea, is the lightest and most floral oolong, with light green to brown unrolled leaves. originally from Fujian.
Jin Xuan or milky oolong: a variety of Oolong tea developed in 1980. The tea is also known as “Milk Oolong” due to its creamy and smooth taste. Traditional milk Oolong tea contains no milk and is original from Taiwan.
Darjeeling oolong : Darjeeling made according to Chinese methods
Assam smoked oolong – Assam tea made according to Chinese methods, and smoked.
Although as you can see there are many varieties of Oolong, the normal thing is that you find only:
Pouchong which is an almost green tea, that is to say very little oxidized
Ti Kuan Yin Oolongs with medium oxidation
Milky Oolong : with its incredible milky aftertaste achieved by using milk steam during the drying of the tea.
Properties of Oolong Tea
Antioxidant : it has a large amount of polyphenols, even higher than green tea, giving it a great capacity to protect the body against free radicals. It is a good ally in the fight against cancer and degenerative diseases.
Lose weight (fat burning) : various studies show that 3 cups a day allows you to lose up to 3 kg a month
Improves digestion: due to the double mechanism it stimulates gastric secretions and favors liver function
Helps lower cholesterol : lowers bad cholesterol, lowers triglycerides and raises good cholesterol.
Blue tea or Oolong is not blue but one of the five types of tea that exist: black, red, green, white and Oolong.
Oolong tea is characterized by being a semi-oxidized tea , that is, halfway between green and black tea since it is left to oxidize between 8-85%.
There are many varieties of Oolong tea depending on its origin and degree of oxidation, the ones you will find in Europe are normally Pouchang (very little fermented), Ti Kuan Yin and Milky Oolong with a delicious milky aftertaste caused by steam being used during drying. milk., usually from China since Taiwan does not usually export much.
Its flavor depending on the degree of oxidation can vary from light to thick, floral to grassy and sweet to roasted.
The color of the leaves and the hue of the tea brew can also vary from green to gold to brown.
The way to prepare them is through “the Chinese ceremony” or Gongfu cha, although you can prepare it in a simpler way with 2 grams per bowl at 80-90 ºC and 1 minute of infusion. You can reuse it a second time, leaving it for another minute and you will see that it has an intense and different flavor.
Oolong tea has antioxidant properties and helps to lose weight and lower cholesterol, but without a doubt you should try it for its exquisite and unique flavor.