Oolong teas are partially or semi-oxidised and therefore fall somewhere between Green and Black teas resembling either, depending on the way they are processed. (See below)
The method in which oolong tea is processed originated in the Wu Yi Mountains in the northern border of Fujian Province and Jiangxi province in China.
Later, when Taiwan began producing tea, it was called Formosa Oolong, after the name given to the island by Dutch explorers (‘Formosa’ meaning ‘beautiful’)
Lesser-known than green teas but interest in its health benefits has prompted numerous scientific studies and with them a growing awareness here in the UK.
There are two main types of oolong:
The two main growing regions for Oolong tea are China and Taiwan.
Two of the more famous examples of Oolong tea include Formosa Oolong and IronGoddess of Mercy (Ti Kuan Yin).
Darker oolongs – soft, toasted character with honeyed notes.
Greener ‘balled’ oolongs - typically more fragrant and floral in character.
All Oolong teas vary greatly not only in taste, but in preparation time.
Dark Oolong teas are best prepared with boiling water, and steeped for 4-5 minutes.
Lighter Oolongs are best prepared with water that is cooler-than-boiling (80-85°) and steeped for 3-5 minutes.
Oolong teas are revered for being an effective aid to indigestion and with helping to lower cholesterol.
Studies have also shown Oolong teas can help lower the plasma glucose levels of subjects who have type two diabetes.
Pouchongs cause some confusion; not strictly speaking an oolong (the leaf is oxidised for such a significantly shorter time) but not wholly green either (partially oxidised to 12-18%
According to the legend, Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy presented tea as a gift to a devout farmer. Inside the temple of Kuan Yin, was an elegant iron statue of the Goddess to whom followers prayed for enlightenment. One day a devoted to farmer, who diligently maintained the temple, went inside the temple to pray for his family.
The weather had been particularly harsh and his crops had not yielded enough to sustain his family’s livelihood.
Starving and desperate, the farmer prayed to Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, to grant his family good fortune so that they could sustain themselves - whereupon the iron statue appeared to come alive.
Shocked, the farmer fell to his knees and the goddess whispered:
“ The key for your future is just outside this temple. Nourish it with tenderness; it will support you and your family for generations to come”. Unable to contain his curiosity, he went outside and found a withered, straggly bush.
After much care, the bush grew rich and full, with thick green leaves.
Experimenting, the farmer dried the leaves in a stone wok. They soon turned a smooth rich black, just like the statue of Kuan Yin, and produced a delicious drink.
Thus, the magical Ti Kuan Yin ‘Iron Goddess of Mercy’ tea- came into being.