“While harvesting his tea crop, a farmer sang about a dragon. Suddenly, a black serpent appeared and the man ran off. Days later he returned, worried that his tea had been ruined in the sun. But the tea was delicious and fragrant, the leaves uncurling like little dragons in his cup, so he named it "Black Dragon" (oolong) in honor of the fortuitous serpent."
There are two main types of oolong, one grown in China and the other grown in Taiwan (Formosa). Oolong from China is oxidized only 12-20%, resulting in pale yellow liquor with a distinct, fresh taste. Taiwan oolong on the other hand, is usually 60% oxidized and is known for its golden liquor and exquisite, flowery aroma.
COLOR: Pale yellow to golden
AROMA: Flowery, orchid-like
TASTE: Fresh, floral
How Is Oolong Tea Made?
The fresh tea leaves of the tea plant (Camellia Sinensis) are picked.
The leaves are softened, and the moisture content of the leaves is reduced by half, allowing the leaves to be rolled without breaking.
To start oxidation, leaves are tumbled in a basket, kneaded or rolled over by heavy wheels. This method has replaced hand rolling the edges of each leaf.
The chemical structure of the leaf is altered, allowing key flavour characteristics to emerge. Long oxidation means a softer taste. Oolongs are semi-fermented.
ROLLING & SHAPING
Leaves are put into 4-15 pound bags which are rolled tightly to create a ball shape that curls the leaves. Some leaves are preferred flat so they are not rolled or shaped.
The leaves are pan-fried to halt oxidation and begin drying. Underfired leaves will mould over time while over-fired will lose flavours. Leaves then cool off on bamboo mats.
Leaves are graded and put into categories: whole leaves, broken leaves, fanning, dust.