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Title: Oolong Tea
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From: USA
Registered: 11/21/2008

(Date Posted:02/19/2009 20:54 PM)
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Oolong Tea

Oolong tea is an ancient Chinese tea, with a history dating back over 400 years. Originally developed in the Fujian province of China during the Ming dynasty, Oolong translates as black dragon or black snake. Oolong tea is primarily produced in three regions: China, Taiwan and Sri Lanka.

Oolong tea lies somewhere between green and black tea. As a result, the taste spectrum can be quite broad - anywhere from the delicate, nearly-green pouchong, the subtler, richer tiguanyin to the nearly-black varieties. Generally speaking, Oolong tea has a refreshing and aromatic taste.

Oolong tea leaves are distinguished by their black, thread-like appearance when dried.

History of Oolong tea

There are various legends that describe the origin of Oolong tea.

One legend attributes the origin of Oolong tea to a man named Wu Liang. According to this legend, Wu was picking tea one day. As he was leaving, he spotted a river deer, killed it and took it home. Distracted by the preparation of the deer, he forgot to dry his tea.

A day or so later, when he finally remembered, the tea had changed color. Wu was worried that the tea was spoiled, but not wanting to waste good tea, continued with his drying.

After the tea was dried, he made a cup and was pleasantly surprised by the taste. The tea was mellow and aromatic. He made some for his neighbors as well, and very soon his name spread throughout the province. The tea eventually became known as Wu-Loong, or black dragon.

Production of Oolong tea

Oolong tea undergoes several stages of production to produce its taste.

The leaves are usually harvested in late spring to summer, although sometimes the leaves are harvested in winter. After harvesting, the leaves are sorted and dried.

When the drying is completed, the leaves are withered by shaking them vigorously in baskets. The action bruises the edges of the leaves, thus starting the oxidation process. Oxidation is when the leaves are fully exposed to the air - including its internal parts.

The oxidation process determines the character, taste and caffeine content of the tea, as well as its color - tea that has been oxidized for longer periods are known as dark oolongs, while tea with less oxidation are known as green oolongs.

After a period of oxidation - usually 15% to 75% - the leaves are fired to halt the process. The tea is then rolled, producing their distinctive appearance, and then is finally dried using charcoal.

Health benefits of Oolong tea

Oolong tea has several health benefits, the main benefit being cancer prevention. Oolong tea is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols - or tannin - which help prevent cancer. Tannin is known for its ability to help DNA cells reproduce accurately, thus preventing abnormalities from forming.

Other health benefits of drinking Oolong tea include reduced heart disease, better digestion and lowered cholesterol accumulation. In short, drinking oolong tea can improve a drinker's life on several levels.

Varieties of Oolong tea

  • Formosa Tea
    "Formosa" was the original name for the island of Taiwan, and of all the teas produced there, Oolong tea is the most famous. Read all about the taste and varieties of Formosa Tea.

Formosa Tea

Formosa tea refers to tea produced in Taiwan. Formosa was the original name of the island, but while the island is called Taiwan, tea from the island is still called Formosa tea.

Taiwan currently produces black, green and oolong teas, but it is the oolong tea that Taiwan is most famous for. Formosa Oolong tea is one of the world's finest teas and makes up a good proportion of Taiwan's economy.

Tea cultivation in Taiwan began in the 1950s, as immigrants from the Chinese province of Fujian searched for a way to recapture the region's Oolong tea that they had lost.

Formosa Oolong tea is described as rich and refreshing with a peach-like flavor. Most Formosa tea of the Oolong variety are light and lean towards the green tea spectrum, but there are some stronger Oolongs also available.

Varieties of Formosa tea

The most important varieties of Formosa tea are Formosa Oolong tea. There are several varieties of Formosa Oolong, which include:

Ali San, a variety of Formosa tea grown in the mountainous regions of Taiwan. It is a green Oolong, which means it has been mildly fermented. This Formosa tea has a pale golden color, with a taste reminiscent of honeysuckle and fruits.

Bai Hao, a famous Formosa tea variety noted for the white tips on the tea leaves. It has a deep amber color and a smooth, honey-sweet taste. Bai Hao is made using bud and the first two leaves. Bai Hao is a strongly oxidized Oolong that leans towards the black tea spectrum. The tea is 70% oxidized.

Formosa Pouchong, which is a Formosa tea noted for its fruity, light taste and strong aroma. It is a very light Oolong tea that borders on the green tea spectrum, and therefore appeals to both Oolong and green tea drinkers. The tea is 18% oxidized.

Varieties of Formosa green tea include Jein Mei, a light green tea with a thread-like appearance, and Pi Lo Chun, known for its strong fragrance.

Formosa black tea is not as common, as most tea growers focus on Oolongs and, to a lesser extent, green tea.

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