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Oolong - What is it?

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Oolong – Meaning ‘Black Dragon’.

Referred to as ‘semi-oxidized’.

A time-honoured tradition requiring craftsmanship. Oolongs are your in-between green and black teas, oxidized anywhere from 10% to 90%. Usually classified as light oolong (lightly oxidized) or dark oolong (more oxidized). So oolong is oxidized more than a green tea, but not fully, as in black tea.

Flavours of oolongs can vary tremendously depending on the length of oxidation, making this type of tea fun to explore. Flavours range from soft, floral, peachy notes, to fuller toasty nutty flavours. Oolongs are produced in China as well as Taiwan, which is famous for its light, fragrant oolong that is distinctly different with a sweet fresh perfumed liquor.

Oolong tea is the most intricate and complex tea to manufacture. Leaves are hand plucked, usually 1 to 4 leaves per stem, and are allowed to wither in direct sunlight to reduce moisture content and soften the leaf. Afterwards, the leaves are tossed and ‘bruised’ with a resting period between each toss. This process is repeated upwards to 40 hours until the desired bruising has occurred. The outer edges of the leaf oxidize with each subsequent bruising, while the inner portion of the leaf remains green. Thus the term ‘semi-oxidized’. Once the degree of oxidation is reached, the process is stopped by pan-firing the leaves.

Oolongs are always whole leaf teas, never broken by rolling and shaping. Shapes of oolong leaves; open leaf (unique to Taiwan), semi-balled with few or no stem attached, or strip style (long large slightly twisted leaves with or without stem and unique to China). It is recommended not to constrict the leaves in a teaball infuser, as these are large leaves that need room to unfurl and 'stretch their legs' for optimal flavour.

The best thing about oolong tea, is the leaves can be infused many times over. I have used the same leaves up to 9 times, with each infusion drawing different characteristics from the leaves. I always say oolongs are the best bang for your buck!

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