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Like all good things in life, there are teas that are grown to embody the harmony between the weather and the gardens, tea leaves and water, green tea and black, taste and aroma, body and mind - they are our spellbinding Oolong teas. Similar to fine wines, every Oolong is treated differently, with varying levels of oxidation, and thus varying flavour profiles, some leaning more towards green and some closer to malty black teas. Their uniqueness lies in the ability to offer you the delicacy of green tea with the bold taste of black tea.
Oolongs are the wide, wide category of tea in between green and black, and through skilled, labor-intensive processing, a tea-maker can coax anything from buttery florals to deep chocolate to roasted nuts to tropical fruit out of a single batch of leaves. So if you've been drinking tea for a while and are getting bored of your malty Assams and your springy sencha, it might be time to experiment with an Oolong.
So how are Oolong Teas processed?
As soon as you pluck a tea leaf, it starts to oxidize. Let that oxidation run its course and you get a malty black tea with plenty of tannic astringency. Stop that oxidation as soon as it starts and you'll preserve the leaves' bright green qualities for green tea. Oolongs, or partially oxidized teas, are what happens when you manipulate a batch of leaves to achieve a specific oxidation level in a specific way, then heat the leaves them to fix the flavor and aroma at a desired point. Any tea that's between eight and 85 percent oxidized can be considered an oolong. But it's not just a matter of timing. How you let that oxidation happen, and what you do to the tea while it's happening, are just as important. Oolongs have recipes and variables that have to be tightly managed, from withering time to the way the leaves are tossed, bruised, rolled, compressed and roasted, to exacting temperature and humidity standards. Oolongs are usually made with larger leaves than greens and blacks, and they need extra room to unfurl and release their full flavor.
Benefits of oolong tea:
OOLONG TEA TIPS & PREPARATION
Most oolong teas are best prepared at a water temperature of 185°-206° F, with a steep time of about 3-5 minutes. While this is a good rule-of-thumb, these suggested temperatures may vary depending on the type of oolong as well as the oxidation present in the dry leaf. Oolong teas can be re-steeped multiple times and unlike most other tea types, oolongs will improve and transform with each re-steeping. In most cases, the 4th or 5th steeping is often the best. For optimum results, you may want to increase the steeping temperatures slightly after the first few flushes to unlock more flavor potential. It is also suggested that you use about 1 tsp per 8oz cup for rolled oolongs and 1 Tbsp per 8oz cup for longleaf oolongs.
Generally, an 8oz cup of oolong tea yields about 1/3 less than that of an 8oz cup of coffee. This measurement varies depending on how long the tea is steeped. The longer the steep time, the higher the caffeine content will be. The caffeine content will lessen each time tea is re-steeped. In the case of oolong teas, the caffeine content lessens by about 1/3 with each steeping.