A FAVORITE AMONG CONNOISSEURS
A favorite among connoisseurs, oolong teas (often pronounced “wu-long”) are semi-oxidized and express characteristics in-between green and black teas. The leaves are usually brownish in color, large in appearance and produce a very aromatic, smooth and complex brew.
WIDEST ARRAY OF FLAVORS
The cultivation and manufacture of classic oolong tea is restricted to Southeastern China and the island of Taiwan. Often, different tea estates have their preferred ways of making oolong. It is because of the intricacy of this process that oolong teas can have the widest array of flavors and aromas. High quality oolongs are among the world’s most expensive teas.
IN-BETWEEN GREEN AND BLACK
During production, leaves are tossed in bamboo baskets to lightly bruise their edges, releasing enzymes that react with oxygen. With oolong tea, the outer part of the leaf is allowed to oxidize, but the center is kept green. Some oolongs are more oxidized and closer in character to black teas, with amber-colored infusions and notes of dark chocolate, fruit and roasted sugar. Other oolongs are less oxidized and are closer to green tea, with a lighter body, floral aromatics and golden green infusions.
In terms of health benefits, oolong tea is said to reduce plaque in the arteries, lower cholesterol, boost metabolism and aid weight-loss. Research conducted in Japan, China and Taiwan reports that regular consumption of oolong tea is linked to the reduction of cholesterol and the lowering of blood sugar. Its reputation as a safe, daily slimming and dieter's tea in Southeastern Asia has been widespread for hundreds of years.
Two Cups of Oolong Tea
Treasured by connoisseurs, oolong teas are semi-oxidized and express characteristics in-between green and black teas. Oolongs have the widest array of flavors and are among some of the world's most expensive, sought after teas.
Oolong is said to reduce plaque in the arteries, lower cholesterol, boost metabolism and aid weight-loss.
Its reputation as a safe, daily slimming and dieter's tea in Southeast Asia has been widespread for hundreds of years.
The most widely known variety in the West, Black Tea comes from leaves that are fully oxidized. Classic teas like English Breakfast and Earl Grey fall within this category.
PRODUCTION AND OXIDATION
To make black tea, freshly-picked leaves are withered until they are pliable enough to be rolled, releasing juices and enzymes that react with oxygen. The bruised and sticky leaves, whose juices are now exposed to the air, are spread out and allowed to reacte with oxygen. They begin to turn brown, as would a freshly sliced apple. After the leaves are oxidized, they are fired to “seal” and dry the leaf--preventing any further changes.
Oxidation changes the leaf's properties and accounts for the dark, rich colors and strong, brisk flavors characteristic of this tea type. Essentially, it is this oxidation process that makes black tea different from green tea.
BRISK, RICH, MALTY FLAVORS
The flavor, color, body, strength and aroma of black tea depend on the tea bush varietal, season of harvest, elevation, country of origin, microclimate and degree of oxidation. High quality black teas yield a deep red or vibrant brown infusion with brisk, malty flavors and notes such as Muscat grapes, raisins, sugar dates, dark chocolate or bold fruit.
Black tea is often further divided into broken-leaf and full-leaf categories. A broken-leaf tea consists of leaves that have been purposely broken into small pieces during processing. The smaller size allows the water to extract more of the tealeaves’ components in a short period of time. For this reason, broken leaf teas tend to be more brisk and higher in caffeine, making them an excellent morning tea to be paired with milk and sugar. Full-leaf teas, on the other hand, tend to be more refined and gentler on the palate. Broken-leaf teas are not to be confused with "fannings" or "dust" used in common paper tea bags, which consist of the poorest quality tea that becomes stale very quickly due to its powdered consistency and high surface-to-air ratio.
Black teas are especially rich in theaflavins and thearubigens (potent antioxidants) which have shown impressive cholesterol-lowering abilities and cardiovascular benefits.