More famous as a Chinese tea, the name ‘oolong’ also has its origin there, in ‘wu long’ or ‘black dragon’. Its origins come in unconfirmed stories, one of a tea grower named Wu Long who forgot to process his pick one day. The leaves began to naturally wilt and oxidize. When Wu Long found them the next day, he decided to process them mildly and found himself with a brew that was similar to the black tea but smoother, sweeter and more fragrant.
Oolongs too are made from leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. What sets it apart from the blacks or whites or greens is the single step of oxidation. Oolongs fit between black and green teas by being partially oxidized.
Its leaves are usually formed in one of two unique styles: rolling them long and curly or ‘wrap‐ curling’ the leaves into small bead‐like shapes, sometimes with a tail.
To create the robust flavor, the leaves, are withered, rolled and fired multiple times. In crafting an oolong, the tea master must both, recognize the potential in a leaf to lend itself to this type, and be skilled in the making of it.
The oolong teas have caught the interest of tea drinkers for health reasons. It’s thought to be beneficial to health for its antioxidant properties, as much or more than the average black.
Where to buy oolong teas?
While Taiwanese and Chinese oolongs are famous world over, in India too, oolongs are now beginning to gain recognition. Darjeeling’s tea gardens have begun to produce this variety in small quantities. Unlike the Taiwanese or Chinese oolongs which are more toasty and woody, the Indian oolongs are floral and fragrant. Less astringent than the black, they are more about flavors than tannic strength. Many of the finest estates in India have started producing oolongs, included Darjeeling’s Mim, Castleton, Jungpana, Singbulli and Glenburn,