Semi-Fermented Oolong Tea

Oolong tea

'Oolong' literally means "Black Dragon". In Chinese, oolong teas are also known as qingcha (青茶) or "dark green teas". Traditionally manufactured in China and Taiwan, oolong is a semi-fermented tea combining the best qualities from black and green teas. In order to give a rich flavour, fresh shoots with one new bud and three leaves are gathered and are immediately processed. First the leaves are wilted in warm air and then they are shaken in bamboo baskets so that the edges of the leaves become slightly bruised. This means that there will be a certain amount of oxidation during the subsequent processing. The most important stage of production is to discern the exact moment necessary to cease further fermentation, which is done by rapidly heating tea leaves sufficiently fermented. This temperature is higher than for other types of tea. Furthermore, rolling takes place in order to release the aroma and flavour. Finally, the tea is dried over charcoal stoves. There are three basic kinds of oolong teas – darker open-leafed oolongs that are 60 - 70% oxidised, greener balled oolongs also known as jade oolongs, which are 20 – 30% oxidised, and baked or amber oolongs. Like other teas, oolong is full of antioxidants and the vitamins B2, C and E.

Unlike Taiwanese oolongs, the Chinese varieties are more distinctive in taste, which is a result of a longer fermentation process. Chinese oolongs present a wide range of flavours, lending the tea a delicate note and elegant scent. The main region responsible for growing oolong in China is Fujian.

It is widely known that, due to its highly developed tea culture and ideal growing conditions – high mountains and subtropical climate, Taiwan produces the best oolongs in the world. Taiwan and China are traditional producers of oolong teas and roughly 3,000 types are discerned there.

Thailand is not a noted tea producer. Indeed, its tea growing history is fairly short, comprising mere decades. Production of the tea arose as a consequence of historical events (permanent settlement of former Kuomintang soldiers along with other refugees from south Chinese Yunan through Myanmar to Thailand), and the efforts of the Thai government to substitute growing opium poppies for, primarily tea, as well as vegetables, fruit and coffee. Although Thai tea has been around for a relatively short time and its level of production is not high, it is gradually gaining popularity for its inspiring aroma, clarity of taste and standard of production, which is carried out in accordance with a traditional Chinese method. Its quality can be compared to the quality of teas from China or Taiwan.

Ho to prepare Oolong tea: Select good pure water. Boil it, then let it cool for a few minutes - it needs to be between 80-95°C, depending on the fermentation (green - black). Put 2 grams of the tea leaves for every 250 ml. Infuse it for 3 to 5 minutes (green - black tea).