In honor of our new Taiwanese oolong collection from Té Company, we put together an introduction to oolong tea and a guide to brewing it. In our previous blog post, “Differences in Teas: How They’re Processed”, we explained how the main differences between the teas — green, black, oolong, white, etc. lie in how they’re processed after they are picked from the same Camellia Sinensis plant.
As a refresher, Green tea is not oxidized in its tea processing, but black tea is fully oxidized. Oolong tea sits somewhere in-between, as it's semi-oxidized. Because of this, the final result depends on the production style of the tea maker since any degree of difference in oxidation can make all the difference in taste and other variations (any tea that’s between eight and 85% oxidized can be considered oolong… talk about flavor complexity)! To paint a clearer picture, lightly oxidized oolongs tend to be more similar to green tea (leaning vegetal but with hints of white flowers), and heavily oxidized oolongs resonate more with black teas with richer floral notes and maltier aromas.
We believe the oolong tea; more specifically oolong tea from Taiwan, deserves an honorable mention due to its unique oxidation process and because, well, it’s one of our favorites.
If you’ve been following us for a while now, you know how much we appreciate name-origin stories. While there are a few widely accepted theories around the origin of the word, “oolong”, one states that it comes from the Chinese term wūlóng (烏龍). "wū" means black and "lóng" means dragon — when these teas were first made into loose-leaf form, the tea leaves came out as dark, long and curly, which looked like a black dragon to many.
If there's one thing we want you to takeaway from this blog post, it's the understanding that not all oolong teas are made equal. The taste outcome isn’t only determined by the oxidation level, but also by how the tea leaves are roasted and brewed. When selecting your oolong tea, you may not have a choice in how it's been oxidized, but in the roast level and how you approach brewing. On a high-level, leaves that have been lightly roasted look a lot like green tea. Similar to green tea, light oolongs can taste fresh and bright with a kick of ‘buttery’ from the oxidation. Unlike China, Taiwan specializes in oolong that is processed with low oxidation and light roast. With a sip of this, you'll find a flurry of a floral fragrance and sweet taste. While oolong tea originates from China, oolong from the regions of Taiwan is world renown for its high quality flavor and aroma dancing in your mouth. Tea leaves grown in high elevations and cooler temperatures usually result in a lighter and sweeter taste. So we can naturally find oolong tea from Taiwan's 5,000 ft. mountains to have a much smoother body.
For a deeper, more mellow body, you can look to the oolong made in China. Having been processed with a medium-roast level, you can generally infuse these teas more often than the lightly roasted ones! Lastly, heavily roasted tea leaves will provide the most intense taste — one that lingers in your throat.
Now that you’ve chosen your type of oolong, let's move on to brewing. There are two main things you can remember: 1) Keep it simple. All you need is something that can produce boiling water, a cup, your tea leaves, and an infuser (optional). 2) Larger loose leaves make for a more complex brew than teabags. That’s why some people don’t even use an infuser at all! Because brewing techniques can differ by the medium used, you can refer to the Té company’s Brewing Guide.
Nearly 80% of Taiwan's production of oolong teas is consumed domestically, leaving only 20% of it to the rest of the world. Given its rarity and its frequent description as the best oolong tea in the world, we’re beyond excited for you to try our different types of oolong tea from Té Company, a New York based tea company specializing in Taiwanese tea. We’re fans, so it means a lot for us to be partnering with them in providing you with the best.