Oolong: Tea’d Between The Lines
Smooth and velvety, oolong tea is a treat for the palette. Complex flavors and a rich, buttery body are attributes of high amino acid content. This unique tea is a result of a partial oxidation process, somewhere in between the freshness of green tea and the full oxidation of black. Though it makes up only a modest 2% of global tea production, oolong has gained quite a bit of popularity recently. Health experts are recommending this connoisseur brew for a multitude of benefits, from weight loss to bone density. Oolong’s beauty is not just skin deep. This brew also boasts impressive benefits for the mind. Tea drinkers who enjoy tea for taste or benefit will be pleased when they try this new kid on the block!
What Makes An Oolong an Oolong?
Oolong is crafted from the Camellia sinensis plant, like any true tea. What characteristics makes oolong unique? Once the tea leaves are picked, they are partially oxidized -- somewhere
between a fresh green tea leaf and a fully oxidized black tea leaf. oolong has aspects of both
varieties. Oxidation of tea is a process in which the leaves are rolled, breaking the cell walls. Once the cell walls are broken, the juices coat the outside of the leaves and react when exposed to air. Oxygen transforms the chemical compounds present in the leaves, transforming the flavor and benefits. Artisan tea developers have employed intricate changes to the process, crafting incredible variations in flavor and an oolong for every palate!
All Sweetness And Light
A “green” or “light” oolong is closer to green tea on the flavor spectrum. Oxidized between 6% and 35%, a lot of the color and characteristics of green tea remain, but are manipulated to create a richness and full body. One example is Milk Oolong, which acquires its flavor from drastic temperature changes that occur during the plants growth. The tightly rolled leaves have a rich, savory aroma and reveal an incredibly complex flavor profile when steeped. It was initially named “milk” due to its deep buttery and creamy flavor. It has a velvety mouthfeel and rich umami tones. Another delicious option is Bao Zhong Supreme, which has a light and delicate flavor. It is reminiscent of a green tea, with a lot of vegetal notes. But, there is a rich creaminess to the brew that really brings it to life. The leaves of Bao Zhong are flat, not rolled, and vary in color from lighter greens to darker browns and purples.
A Happy Medium
Oolongs that have been roasted between 35% and 70% are considered medium roast. These flavors vary substantially, ranging from sweet to bold. Most oolongs come from Taiwan, where they have really perfected the craft of delicately manipulating the leaves in order to tease out flavors. A beautiful example is Dong Ding, a luxurious oolong tea with a toasted nuttiness, light honey sweetness, and deep earthy tone. There’s even a little hint of cinnamon lingering in the brew. The leaves are tightly rolled, and are almost purple in color. The smell of the unbrewed leaves is just as enticing for the senses. Its sweet, bright scent is full and pleasant. Oriental Beauty is another intricate oolong tea from Taiwan. In contrast to the depth of Dong Ding, it has just a light toasty undertone, but is very naturally sweet. The leaves are loose, and only slightly curled, but not rolled. The leaves are comprised of soothing tones of purple, brown, and green. This beauty is grown without pesticides, so nature can employ little helpers to come munch on the leaves. These helpers are Greenleaf Hoppers. The little bugs spark the plant’s natural defenses, and the tea begins to produce monoterpene diol and hotrienol. These compounds are responsible for the honey sweetness of the brew, and have antibacterial properties as well!
A Shot In The Dark
Oolong teas that have been oxidized between 70% and 99% are considered dark oolongs, and are closer on the spectrum to a black tea leaf. Full-bodied and smoky, the liquor is brown in color. Blue Mountain Oolong has a rich, smooth texture and toasted oak flavor. Dark oolongs have complex tones, like a fine barrel-aged whiskey. Tones of intense balsam, earthiness, and pepper linger on the palette.
Live Oolong And Prosper!
No matter which oolong variety suits your palette, your cup will be full of beneficial compounds that heal the body and soothe the mind. Oolong tea increases resting metabolic rate, increasing calorie burn and fat oxidation. Drinking oolong on a regular basis may facilitate weight loss! It has no side effects other than those of mild caffeine, and may be beneficial to individuals suffering from obesity, diabetes, or high cholesterol. Other studies suggest a melange of positive benefits for the skin, bones, and mind.
Oolong tea has been enjoyed in China and Taiwan since the 14th century. Now, with an evolving tea culture, it is becoming increasingly popular elsewhere! What a treat! We get to enjoy all the subtle tones and incredible layers of flavor present in these handcrafted tea varieties. Along with flavor, oolong tea promotes good health for mind and body. Hints of honey, orchid, and other delicious flavors have been teased out of the leaves by skilled tea artisans. While our bodies enjoy the compounds, our senses enjoy the delicacy of the artisan’s handiwork.