Oolong tea is a semi-oxidized traditional Chinese tea produced from the Camellia sinensis tea plant.
How it is made
Oolong tea starts by the tea leaves being picked and then immediately set out in the sun to be dried for a short period of time. The tea leaves are then put in baskets and shaken. This bruises the leaves and opens up the leaves and juices to the air which starts the oxidation process.
The leaves are then spread out to dry for a few hours.
Next the leaves are collected and then fired, traditionally by cooking them very quickly in a hot wok. The leaves can be fired several times, after which, the tea leaves are now dried oolong tea.
There are several different regions where Oolong tea is grown today. Some of these are the WuYi mountains (WuYi rock or cliff tea), other FuJian areas, Guangdong province, Taiwan and even New Zealand. Within each region, there are several different varieties of Oolong tea, each variety has it’s own distinct qualities and flavour. Some have very little oxidation similar to green tea and taste more light and refreshing with bouquet aromas. Others have much higher oxidation like red teas and taste woody and smooth with roasted aromas. Others yet can be sweet and fruity with honey aromas.
- Oolong tea originated in the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD) in the province of FuJian, China.
- In the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 AD), the region was selected by the Emperor as a tribute where tea was to be produced for the royal court.
- At the time, green unfermented tea was popular across China. People visiting Fujian loved the taste of this new partially oxidized tea from the WuYi Mountain region. The teas became known as WuYi tea (pronounced wooyee).
- WuYi tea started to spread across China and became very famous. Throughout the Ming and Qing Dynasties it continued to enjoy the status of being a royal tribute tea.
- By the early 1700s, the tea was now called Oolong and by late 1700s, it was introduced to other areas such as northern FuJian and to Taiwan.
- Today, Oolong tea is popular with tea connoisseurs in South China and around the world.