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Thursday, December 17, 2009

A brief introduction to Oolong tea

One day, when I put my oolong clay teapot back on the shelf, my hand and a part of me felt empty. The cozy feeling of touching and belonging coming from the silent teapot beckoned me to hold my teapot again until my heart calmed down. This feeling of connectedness has been becoming stronger and stronger and this is because of the magic of the tea. The beauty of the tea art brings more meaning and color into my life and the taste of nature satisfies my desire.

Oolong is one of the teas that I most appreciate. I would like to say that she is like a young, attractive, elegant lady. She graduated from university and has some life experience and charming maturity. The character of oolong tea is between green tea and black tea: it not only contains the fresh, brisk and sweet aftertaste of green tea, but also has the dense, thick and mellow taste of black tea, and additionally the delicate floral fragrance of flower tea.

Oolong tea was created at the end of the Ming Dynasty about 400 years ago and is produced mainly in Fujian, Guangdong and Taiwan. Oolong tea leaves typically are processed in two different forms. Oolong tea from southern Fujian is rolled into a shape like a ball or dragonfly head; in northern Fujian and Guangdong oolong teas are long and twisted. Taiwan produces both forms of tea. In recent years, Sichuan, Hunan and a few other provinces have also begun a small amount of production.

Oolong consists of several dozens of kinds of leaves that have different flavors and aromas due to differences in the leaves, location, and harvest time. The process of oolong tea is a combination of green tea (non-fermentation) and black tea (full fermentation). which means it is a semi-fermented tea. It ranges from 10% to 70% oxidation. The favor of a lightly oxidized oolong (e.g. Tie Guanyin) is closer to green tea, whereas a heavy oxidized oolong (e.g. the Wuyi Cliff Tea Dahongpao) is closer to black tea.

Famous oolong teas are Fujian's Tie Guanyin, Taiwanese teas (Dongding, Alishan, Li Shan, Dayuling, Wenshan Baozhong, Oriental (Eastern) Beauty, etc.), Fujian's Wuyi Cliff teas (Dahongpao, Tieluohan, Baijiguan, Rougui, etc.) and Guangdong's Phoenix Dancong.

Yes, I've tried all these teas, and each has its own beauty. There's a lot that can be said about oolong teas, about their production, preparation, history, etc. but I can't write everything in one post. I'm too busy drinking tea :P


  1. Happy Christmas Becky,

    I am enjoying the supreme green tea very much, though I think oolongs remain my favorite. I have no idea what level of fermentation the leaves used in milk oolong, jade oolong, or Blue People have, but they all taste perfectly wonderful to me, each in its own way.

    You'll probably think I'm barbarous, but I liked to brew my green and oolong teas longer than you do -- even a couple of minutes for the 1st brewing -- and I'm returning to my American way of drinking a large mug at a time. As poet Richard Hugo said, "What thou lovest best remains American." Really, what else can I be? ;-)

    I'm sure that it is quite likely I will remain an appreciative dilettante and a groupie of your tea wisdom!

  2. Happy Christmas Lauren,

    It is great that you are enjoying all the teas. You are absolutely right that every tea has its own beauty, just in a different way.

    Regarding the oxidation of the teas you mentioned, according to the liquor color and the taste of the tea I would guess that milk oolong and jade oolong are about 15 percent oxidized and the ginseng oolong (blue people) is about 25 percent.

    It is perfectly fine that you use a large cup to brew the tea and it is an excellent adjustment that you steep your tea longer.

    Oolong also is one of my favorite teas, for me the ritual of measuring out the leaves into my teapot and sipping tea from my little Kungfu teacup and enjoying the fragrant aroma from each small brewing are an important part of savoring the tea - of course the precondition is to have enough time to do so. ;)

    Again, thank you for your nice comments.

    I look forward to sharing some of my favorite teas with you.


  3. Hey Becky!!!

    Tim gave me your address for this blog... I knew that you have a blog because some customer told me, but they never game me exactly your address... and I wanted to ask you before, but I kept forgetting it... Anyways, I finally found it and I'm glad to read all your entries about tea... I really enjoy reading it and it is very interesting... Oh... BTW, I also LOVE oolong tea...

    I was wondering, are you going to post some stories about the oolong tea, and why they call it oolong??? Is there any meaning behind it?? also, I want to know about the story of Monkey pick! =) I just wondering if you know anything about it...

    Once again, thank you for sharing all these wonderful knowledge that you have about tea!! And i'm happy that i'm learning more about it... Probably, we should ask Tim or Ben to let us work together, so we can have an interesting day talking about tea... LOL... =)

    See you soon,


    P.S. Merry Christmas!!!


About Me

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Seattle, WA, United States
I grew up with tea, and it continues to fill my life with so much beauty and discovery, pleasure, peace and friends. It is always leading me toward a greater understanding of culture, nature, myself and others. It is my hope to use this space to share the joy of tea and tea culture with you.