Lately when ordering tea at restaurants and tea houses, I ask for an oolong. Normally I have had my black tea with a bit of milk in the morning at home, and am ready for a tea adventure if eating out.
I used to think it sounded kind of cool to say, “I’ll have an oolong.” 🙂 …just a bit mysterious, as if you’re “in the know” about tea. When writing my tea book, I used to struggle with whether or not to capitalize the first “o” in oolong (no, you don’t.) When preparing an oolong at home, I use one special Yixing clay teapot. It’s the only type of tea I put in that pot. I had been told that over time, I can just pour hot water in the empty pot and it will retain some flavor of the oolong teas that have been brewed in it. Whenever I use this gorgeous pot and and drink from the petite cups, a feeling of serenity comes over me…and one of doing something healthy for myself.
In my research about teas, oolongs are the ones which fall in between green and black teas, and which carry some mystique about the ancient art of how to process this tea leaf. They are a favorite of tea connoiseurs due to their amazing flavors and aromas. Their colors and tastes vary from lighter teas to darker, bolder tea flavor depending on the type and the level of oxidation. Flavors range from light green floral to roasted peach and to that of darker teas.
Oolongs actually originated in the Fujian provence of China. It is semi-fermented, combining the best of characteristics of unoxidized green teas and oxidized black teas. It is said to have many health benefits (which is reflective of nearly all whole leaf teas whether, white, green, oolong or black).
As with most quality, whole leaf teas, the preparation of your oolong tea has great influence on its taste. Quality of the water, tea, measurement, steeping time, vehicle used to prepare tea and time on the water make such a difference in the resultant tea. The preferred temperature for steeping oolongs is in between that of green and black teas (makes sense, right 🙂 at about 195 degrees F.)
When partaking of lunch at my fave tea house, Tranquil Tea Lounge, this is the Monkey Picked Oolong I enjoyed. It was delicious, smooth, clean on your palate.
I have come to think of oolong teas as the pinot noir of wines. They are both a bit complex, earthy, fruity, can be delicate to process and pair wonderfully with almost any food. Try one next time you get a chance. While available in many locales, they can be ordered online too. Teavana and Adagio Teas have an extensive, quality assortment to choose from.