THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO OOLONG TEA
Blending the freshness of green tea and the intensity of black tea, Oolong teas are the most complex of the tea categories. Each one is crafted with a unique balance between the extremes of dark and light. Enhanced by beautiful legends, oolong teas charm as they satisfy the craving for rare and exotic.
What is Oolong tea?
Oolong tea is a partially oxidized tea with characteristics of both green and black tea.
Combining Black and green tea may provide an interesting brew but it is not the same as an oolong and will taste nothing like it. The flavor in oolong tea is created in the processing of fresh leaves. It is not an added artificial flavoring.
The amount of oxidation varies with each different oolong tea. Some are very green (as low as 8 percent oxidation), while others are nearly black (75-85 percent oxidation).
The History of Oolong Tea
It is widely believed that oolongs originated in Fujian Province—possibly in the late 1500s. But it was certainly known by the early 1600s, then referred to as Yan Cha (rock or cliff tea). Some stories tell of monks keeping tea gardens, using oolong as a healing herb and to help their meditation practices.
The origin legends of oolong tea, like many other ancient Chinese legends, are told with variations.
An entertaining story is that a farmer named Wu Long was distracted by a deer leaping through his garden while he was harvesting his tea. Forgetting his work, he chased the deer and did not return until his tea had already withered too long, and the edges of the leaves had turned brown. Instead of abandoning his day’s work, he finished the tea and was pleased with the flavor.
It is said by some that the tea method was then named in his honor.
How oolong is processed?
What makes the manufacture of oolong so intricate is that some of the basic steps are repeated many times before the desired amount of bruising and browning of the leaves is achieved.
Withering, rolling, shaping, and firing are similar to black tea, but much more attention to timing and temperature is necessary.
One last step, baking or roasting, is exclusive to oolong and is referred to as the real art in making this tea.
Health benefits of oolong tea
• Maintains healthy skin
Oolong tea is able to suppress some allergic reactions because it combats free radicals, which is a healing property of an antioxidant. Also, the antioxidants found in oolong are essential for vibrant, youthful skin.
• Strengthens the immune system
Known for its anti-cancer properties, oolong tea assists in maintaining a healthy immune system. The antioxidants found in the it prevent cellular damage.
• Lowering cholesterol
Oolong is known to reduce cholesterol levels and promote heart health.
• Maintains a healthy weight
It is usually associated with weight control. The mechanism that appears to contribute to this is an improved lipid metabolism. Conclusions are generally that long-term and habitual consumption of oolong tea may help prevent obesity.
• Prevent diabetes
Several studies have focused on oolong tea and its relationship with controlling blood sugar. Conclusions are that drinking six cups of oolong daily can lower blood sugar by approximately 15 percent.