Chinese Oolong Tea: easy guide, top 10 best teas

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Last updated: August 29, 2019 at 15:30 pm

Meet the Oolong family

Chinese Oolong (wulong) is a favorite among discerning tea drinkers. It has its own distinct flavor, despite being made of the leaves and young buds of the Camellia Sinensis plant, just like any other tea. What makes it stand out from other teas is the direction that the tea master chooses during the processing stage. Oolong is a partially oxidized type of tea. The oxidization level differentiates it from green or black teas.

How is the tea made? There are several steps in the production of tea. After the tea has been harvested, it has to be processed. First, the tea leaves are dried. Once withered, they are rolled into strips, either mechanically, or manually for certain high-quality teas. The next step (for some types of tea) is fermenting, or oxidization. The level of oxidation decides the “color” of the loose leaf tea. The longer the tea is oxidized, the darker it gets. Black teas represent the final stage in the oxidation process. In green teas, on the other hand, the oxidation must be stopped while the leaves still retain their fresh, vegetal scents. There are different ways to do this: by steaming, pan firing, or oven roasting. Oolong sits in between black and green teas on the oxidation scale.

Born in China

China is the cradle of oolong tea. The name itself has Chinese origins, translating to “Dragon Tea” (wulong cha) in Chinese. Nowadays, other tea producing regions including Taiwan and India have mastered the art of making oolongs, leading to quite a few oolong varieties on the market. However, oolongs from China, especially from the Chinese provinces Fujian and Guangdong, maintain their star status.

One hundred shades of Chinese Oolong

The flavors of Chinese Oolong can range from light to full-bodied, from floral to grassy, and from sweet to toasty. The color of the infusion also varies from chartreuse green to pale golden and light brown.

Why are Chinese Oolongs so different?

The appearance and flavor of any kind of tea depend on the region where it is grown, and on its processing method. The perfect Oolong, however, is more an outcome of the artisan’s technique than of the tea’s geographical or genetic origin.

Production of Chinese Oolong

There are some characteristic features of the Chinese Oolong production process that make these teas so distinctive and diverse.

  • Oxidation level. Varying levels of oxidation play a major role in determining tea flavor. Chinese Oolongs can have oxidation degrees anywhere between eight and eighty percent. Lightly oxidized oolongs would have a fresher and more floral aroma.
  • The method of “cooking”. Chinese tea masters use low-temperature pan-firing or oven roasting to halt the oxidation process. This results in the familiar lightly toasted flavor and smooth, earthy quality of Chinese Oolongs.
  • The shape of the finished tea leaves. The Chinese are particular about the “look” of the dry tea leaves. The leaves of any kind of Chinese Oolong will have a distinctive shape, often twisted or curled into small balls, preserving their aromas inside.

Types of Chinese Oolong tea

Online tea stores have several varieties of Chinese Oolongs to offer. Tea styles vary in flavors, origins, and value. From lightly oxidized, floral, greener types to darker, full-bodied teas, there is a wide spectrum of oolongs in China. Here are some most popular types.

  • Tie Guan Yin Oolong (Iron Goddess of Mercy). A famous Oolong from the Fujian province, Tie Guan Yin is one of the China’s most popular teas. Light to moderately oxidized, it has floral orchid notes in its taste. Tie Guan Yin is usually reasonably priced, making it a great starter oolong.
  • Da Hong Pao Oolong (Big Red Robe). One of the rock teas from the Wuyi Mountain region, this oolong is well-fermented and charcoal fire finished. It is full-bodied and richly flavored, making a deeper, fuller, aromatic cup with light smoky undertones.
  • Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong (Single Bush). A rare tea from the Phoenix Mountain region of the Guangdong Province, this is a well-balanced oolong with a complex flavor. It starts toasty and woodsy, finishing with sweet and fruity notes on your palate, accented by subtle hints of lychee and wildflower honey.

Tea tips

How do you choose a tea that suits your palate? And in particular, if you’re eager to try Chinese Oolong, how do you pick one?

If you’re new to Chinese Oolong, then Tie Guan Yin Oolong (also known as Iron Buddha, Buddha of Mercy, and Iron Goddess) would be your safest bet. This beginner-friendly oolong has a sweet, mellow aroma and an affordable price-point, making for a great everyday tea.

1 lb. bag of Organic Ti Kuan Yin Oolong Tea. An organic Chinese Oolong with a floral body and clean finish. This organic Oolong is harvested from the Fujian region of China and is known for its bright and floral flavor and clean finish. These particular Oolong leaves can be steeped several times.
Tie Guan Yin tea is the representative of Chinese Oolong tea. When Anxi County is mentioned, people spontaneously think of Anxi Tie Guan Yin, “Iron Goddess” tea. It is well-known both at home and abroad as one of the Top 10 Teas of China. As Tie Guan Yin can endure a great number of infusions, this tea offers you a truly unique sensation.
One of the most popular Chinese oolong teas is the Iron Goddess of Mercy. Tea connoisseurs may have heard of this same tea by the names of Ti Kwan Yin, Tit Kwun Yum, Tie Guan Yin, Iron Buddha, or Iron Goddess of Mercy. Regardless of what you call it, they all have the same distinctive flavor and light floral fragrance that make this oolong tea special. One of the reas..
This is a traditional Dan Cong Oolong from 40 year old trees. Dan Cong Oolongs are charcoal roasted and classified by aroma. Our is a œMi Lan Xiang which translates to œHoney Orchid Aroma. That's a perfect description of it. I recommend discarding the first brewing of this tea (the traditional procedure with all oolongs).
This wuyi Da Hong Pao is made in spring from tea leaves with standard of one bud with three leaves from C.sinensis cv. Dahongpao. Roasted with traditional wood charcoal for three times, this tea is well-balanced of baked aroma and floral fragrance. The tea liquor is of high aroma, and the tastes of the first 6 infusions changes as: sweet refreshing and brisk mello..
This hand-picked tea is prized for its large silver-tipped leaves and pure peach flavor. Highly aromatic, completely lacking in astringency, this oolong has the flowery upper register of a top-grade Darjeeling, but with a rounder, deeper, fuller cup. Its flavor has been compared to chestnut, honey and peaches. Use 1 teaspoon of Wuyi Oolong Full-Leaf tea per 6 ounces o..
Organic Oolong Tea. Long, beautiful leaves unwind and unfurl when steeped to release a smooth, rich flavor. A wonderful choice for educating the palate to the time-tested taste profiles that make our Wuyi Mountain Oolong tea so unique and refreshing. Our Wuyi Oolong is 60-80% oxidized, and steeps a deep golden hue with crisp and earthy tones and a slightly peppery..
Ti Kuan Yin (also spelled Tieguanyin) is a legendary tea from the Fujian province and is one of China's most beloved oolongs. This loosely-rolled, lightly-oxidized (almost green) tea yields a pale-gold cup with soft, buttery texture and orchid notes that linger to reveal the leaves' complexity. As the liquor cools, it reveals a sweet finish of honeydew melons. We..
Ti Kuan Yin (also spelled Tieguanyin) is a legendary oolong tea from the Fujian province in China. It is one of China's most beloved oolongs and is extremely time-consuming to produce (well over a dozen distinct steps in the processing are observed). Our fine version of Ti Kuan Yin produces a cup that is warm, soft and soothingly mineral in texture. Notes of toast..
Shui Xian, which translates to "Water Sprite," is an oolong produced in a similar style to Wuyi Oolongs. Therefore they share some similar traits, such as peachy-honey notes and a mineral "rock taste." This high-fired, medium grade version results in a rich tasting amber colored cup with the nuances of minerals, apricots and spice. Great for an everyday oolong op..
Premium Organic Oolong Tea Origins: China. If you're looking for a roasty oolong tea, you need look no further. Large, wiry tea leaves produce a deep amber cup, with a rich flavor. Dark Roast Oolong's warm and earthy aroma is reminiscent of a late harvest wine. The complex flavor profile has hints of honeysuckle and roasted barley and nuts. Expertly dark roasted,..
Premium Oolong Tea Origins: China. This legendary oolong is a cup of pure romance. It produces a beautiful jade colored infusion. The flavor has a natural sweetness, with lingering notes of Spring greens. The Iron Goddess is a Tie Guan Yin oolong from Fujian Province, China. Hand harvested and produced through a traditional process whereby the large tea leaves are ver..

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