In the third of our articles explaining the different varieties of tea that are available and explaining how each gets itself distinct aroma and taste, we will be taking a look at oolong tea.
Oolong teas get their name from the Chinese; the literal meaning is “black dragon tea”. There are many myths and legends about the origin of this tea. One of which is the tale of Wu Liang (later corrupted to Oolong), a man who accidentally discovered the tea. After a hard day tea-picking, he was disturbed by a deer. By the time he had chased the deer away, he realised that he had left his tea leaves in the sun and the oxidisation process had already started.
As with all tea varieties, the leaves of the Camellia sinensis are picked and then withered under the strong sun. The plant is left to oxidise partly and they are fired in a basket or a pan to halt the oxidisation process. Then the leaves are rolled, usually by hand. The range of the oxidisation is between 12 and 85%, which is dependent on how long the leaves are allowed to wither.
Oolong tea is famously produced in regions in Taiwan and China. In Taiwan, the teas are named after the mountain where the leaves were grown. As the weather in Taiwan is highly variable, the tea quality can vary greatly from season to season. Ti Quan Yin (“Iron Goddess of Mercy”) is one of the most famous oolong teas in China from the province of Anxi and has a characteristic smoky aroma from the charcoal firing of the leaves. You can buy this tea directly from Tèaura.
Our Anxi Iron Goddess of Mercy being prepared.
The health benefits of Oolong tea are widely reported. The tea is rich in vital vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, manganese, copper, potassium and vitamins A, B, C, E and K. An active compound found within the tea has been found to be very effective in controlling the metabolism of fat in the body and it is thought that this may help to reduce obesity.
There is also evidence that the antioxidants present in the tea aid bone health and density. Long term studies have shown that participants who drank oolong tea for a period of more than 10 years were less likely to lose bone mineral density.
The best way to prepare oolong tea is to boil pure water to 90⁰C (195⁰F) and allow the water to cool for 2 minutes. The leaves can be infused multiple times. Between 3 and 7 times is the optimal. Oolong is caffeine rich but the caffeine content dramatically reduces after the third brew. Typically there is 30-50 milligrams per cup in the first brew and 5-10 milligrams in the third.