Today’s blog has been inspired by a recent exchange of ideas and questions through an online forum about the tea family of Oolong also known as Wulong or Blue teas. The topic was “how are Oolong teas processed?” There was a desire for a quick simplified explanation.
The Oolong tea family offers the widest spectrum of flavours and aromas than any other family. How can you offer a simplified answer? The spectrum is achieved through different cultivars, terroirs (environment), picking standard, oxidisation ranging from 8% – 90%, different rolling – strip or canvas, sometimes baking which includes light fire/mid fire/high fire over charcoal or electric baking units. Finally, the famous Taiwanese Oolong – Oriental Beauty with beautiful honey notes, relies on nature’s intervention and the much anticipated arrival of the green hopper to nibble on the leaves before picking.
It would be remiss of me to not mention the most important aspect of the process – the Tea Master. Like a wine maker each Tea Master has his or her own way of making their prized tea. It is the process that takes them from growing and nurturing their tea plants to processing and selling their tea. How can you describe the time waiting for the tea leaves to wither and then oxidise with judgment of each stage based on smelling the leaves!
I consider myself lucky to be in the tea business and determined to experience all aspects of this amazing industry. I am off again in two weeks to visit the tea masters in Taiwan and join them for a short time in this extraordinary experience of making Oolongs. I am looking forward to the long nights making the teas, cupping different teas, baking and testing to find the right levels for a Jade Oolong or Amber Oolong. The tea masters and tea scientists are generous of mind and spirit to those people that show a high level of interest in travelling to their country.