What is Tea
All wines come from grapes, all teas comes from the plant, Camellia Sinensis.
- All teas (white, green, yellow, oolong, black, pu-erh) come from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis.
- The Camellia Sinensis plant can thrive in a wide range of elevation, anywhere between sea level to 3,000 meters above sea level.
- The ideal temperature for growth is between 20~30 degrees Celsius and in 80%~90% humidity. Tea growing regions are largely in sub-tropical climate trekking along the Tropic of Cancer.
There are countless cultivars within the Camellia Sinensis plant, most belong to the two major sub-species, Camellia sinensis var. assamica and Camellia sinensis var. sinensis.
- The var. assamica varieties are larger in size and well suited for making more processed tea, such as black teas and post fermented teas like pu-erhs.
- The var. sinensis varieties are smaller in size and are suitable for making less processed tea, such as green and oolong teas.
Similar to wine, the different style of teas are distinguished by plant variety, growing conditions and processing methods.
In Taiwan, Oolong tea as a genre represents 90% in both production and consumption. Within the tea industry, Taiwan is often described as the darling tea region that produce the best oolong teas in the world.
Identifying Oolong TeaOolong tea is commonly referred to as semi-oxidized tea or wu-long tea. Majority of oolong tea comes from Taiwan and southeast China.
What are the difference between green, oolong and black tea?Oxidation level in tea processing is determined by how long harvested tea leaves is exposed to the oxygen in the air. It is also what defines green, oolong and black teas. Green tea is 0% oxidized and black tea is 100% oxidized. Oolong tea is partially oxidized and its varieties span across a wide range of oxidation levels between green and black. Therefore, oolong teas covers a large canvas of flavor variations and complexities. Lightly oxidized oolongs tend to be more similar to green tea, more vegetal but with hints of white flowers. Heavier oxidized oolongs tend to carry richer floral notes with maltier aroma similar to black teas.
At the end of every harvest season, tea makers will make a decision on whether if they will be roasting (firing or baking) that year's harvest. Roasting happens after oxidation, where processed tea leaves are roasted via charcoal or electric oven for additional depth and aroma. All types of tea (green, oolong, black) can be roasted.
Higher roasting temperature or longer roasting time add notes of honeyed stone fruit and accents of smoky caramel. Methods of roasting can vary greatly depending on the style of roasted teas being produced.
Oolong Tea Processing Steps
Step 1 - Plucking
Only tea buds are harvested for quality teas. High elevation tea gardens typically are harvested by hand due to the steep terrain. Machine harvesting is utilized, though only for low elevation gardens.
Step 2 - Withering/Wilting
Young, freshly picked tea buds are spread out under the sun in bamboo mats to kick off the oxidation process while the moisture on the buds starts to evaporate.
Step 3 - Maceration
The buds are brought indoors to a temperature controlled environment where they are hand tossed to bruise the edges of the tea leaves, allowing air to enter and soften the leaves.
Step 4 - Oxidation
Tea buds are then spread out on bamboo mats again, though this time indoors, where the heat controlled room accelerates its oxidation process until the desired levels are reached.
Step 5 - Fixation
Once desired oxidation is achieved, heat is applied to the tea buds in order to halt the enzymatic oxidation activities.
Step 6 - Rolling
The heated teas are then rolled in small batches, by machine or by hand, to break the leaves fibrous structure so the tea juices can be released and stick to the leaf surface.
Step 7 - Drying
The drying process is applied to stabilize any remaining oxidation and to remove excess moisture.
Step 8 - Sifting/Picking
Dried teas are then hand sifted, in order to weave out any undesirable elements such as large stems or unsuccessfully processed tea leaves.
Step 9 - Baking
Last step of the process is baking or roasting, aimed to enhance and layer on additional aromas while extracting any remaining moisture before packaging for delivery.