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Oolong Teas: a complex world between green & black


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154 replies to this topic

#1 maxmillan

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Posted 14 June 2004 - 12:46 AM

I received this tea and was told to pour hot water over it for a few seconds and then pour the water out. It was suggested that I clean the leaves before steeping it. This tea is highly expensive and I would like some expert opinion on this. When I first saw this tea, it looked like poo from a large rodent.

I also had some Dragon Eye tea made by a friend and it was beautiful. I like to get some of this and wonder what the steeping method is for this type of tea? The leaves are wrapped very tightly into little balls and only requires one or two balls per cup. When it unravels it looks like spiders!

Thanks!

#2 jpr54_

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Posted 14 June 2004 - 04:57 AM

Yes, this is the proper way to prepare most oolong teas-
water is not boiling-160-180 degrees
the tea is rinsed and first water is thrown away-it is rinsed with only a small amount of water-
this allows for tea leaves to open-and also" to clean it"

#3 cdh

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Posted 14 June 2004 - 06:00 AM

And if it is really a high quality oolong, then expect to be able to get at least 4 or 5 infusions out of each dosage of leaves... don't throw them away after just one steeping (which should only be around 2 minutes).

All this is predicated on your making it in a little pot and pouring all the tea off the leaves after each steep is done. Don't know how it would turn out if made in a big pot and the leaves were left to slosh around in the tea as you drank your way through the pot.
Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

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#4 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 09:21 AM

Oolongs have become my favorite category of teas. The range of flavor profiles in these teas from mainland China and Taiwan is substantial and the best have complex layers. From the lighter floral to the darker roasted.

US-based sellers are generally more expensive than ordering from China directly, but shipping is faster and cheaper if you're in the US.

I have had several fine Oolongs from The Cultured Cup over the last few years. One of the largest Mariage Frères retailers in the US, they also have a small selection of fine teas sourced elsewhere.

Recently I have been trying several wonderful Dan Cong Oolongs from Hou De Fine Teas. US-based. Pricey, but high quality.

I am putting together an order for jingteashop and will report on the Oolongs after they arrive. A recent sample from them that came in another order was very good. China-based. SAL shipping typically takes about 3 - 5 weeks.

What Oolong teas have you explored and enjoyed? Any tea vendors that have great Oolongs or good-deal everyday Oolongs you can rcommend to us?

#5 jpr54_

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 10:35 AM

beside www.houdeasianarts.com
www.shanshuiteas.com and www.thefragrant leaf .com have some of the best of the best oolongs.

i have ordered from jingteashop but i have been disappointed-
which teas have u ordered from them

joanne

#6 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 12:54 PM

beside www.houdeasianarts.com
www.shanshuiteas.com and www.thefragrant leaf .com have some of the best of the best oolongs.

i have ordered from  jingteashop but i have been disappointed-
which teas have u ordered from them

joanne

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I have not ordered Oolongs from Jingteashop yet. I have only had the sample I mentioned in the What's in your tea cup today? topic, which I enjoyed. The sample came with an order of teaware.

Which Oolongs have you had from Jing that disappointed you?

#7 jpr54_

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 09:09 AM

there r 2 shops
www.jingtea.com in uk
and www.jingteashop.com

i have ordered from both-

it has been awhile since i ordered tea from either-i can't remember the names of teas

but i have ordered glass teaware from jingtea.com(the items have arrived safely and r used frequently)
and also from jingteashop-


joanne

Edited by jpr54_, 21 October 2008 - 09:10 AM.


#8 Poots

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 10:51 AM

I've ordered from South Silk Road and had good experiences.

http://www.southsilk...teas.php#oolong

I'm no expert in tea but i've ordered and enjoyed:

Cold Summit Tung Ting
http://www.southsilk...products_id=335

and

Early Spring Mei Jia Wu Long Jing
http://www.southsilk...products_id=346

and
Silver needle King
http://www.southsilk...products_id=271

They also included a few small samples of four teas for free which i appreciated.

regards,
Brian
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#9 jpr54_

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 12:48 PM

I go to their tea shop occassionally-
the staff r friendly and helpful-they r also knowledgeable -i always have a good experience there-

joanne r.

#10 nakji

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 07:13 PM

I love oolong tea, and it's popular as a cold bottled drink in Japan. My question is - how does it differ from other kinds of tea? Is it a black tea?

#11 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 06:57 AM

I love oolong tea, and it's popular as a cold bottled drink in Japan. My question is - how does it differ from other kinds of tea? Is it a black tea?

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That's a great question. While not a black (or red) tea and not a green tea, the Oolongs have a wide range in between the two -- from the lighter (green) end to the darker, roasted end of the spectrum.

#12 prasantrin

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 03:39 PM

I love oolong tea, and it's popular as a cold bottled drink in Japan. My question is - how does it differ from other kinds of tea? Is it a black tea?

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I think brewed oolong tea is a vastly different product than the stuff in the bottle. (That goes for brewed green teas, too.)

One of my co-workers once brought in some peach-flavoured oolong tea that was quite nice. I'd never had a flavoured oolong tea, and didn't even know they existed!

#13 Naftal

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 11:07 AM

Hello- The family that owns the Chinese Tea House I frequent import their teas directly from China.They ship their teas all over. Contact them here.Lately, I have been drinking "4 Seasons of Spring Oolong" and "Honey Phoenix Oolong".

Edited by Naftal, 27 October 2008 - 11:08 AM.

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#14 Chris Amirault

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Posted 16 November 2008 - 07:39 PM

So what's up with the twig oolongs? I really enjoyed the nuttiness of this Teance roasted twig oolong that I got at Central Market in Dallas. Just got a sample, though, so I ran through it quickly. Ideas for other twiggy oolongs?
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#15 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 11:42 AM

If you like that Taiwanese twig tea, you also may enjoy Hojicha, a roasted Japanese green tea.

#16 Chris Amirault

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 12:06 PM

That's a good call, Richard: I have had the Republic of Tea Big Green Hojicha a few times and really like it.
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#17 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 01:58 PM

2007 Winter Feng Huang Wu Dong
Old Bush Dan Cong Huang Jing

Medium-light wood hand roasting
35% Fermentation

Source: Hou de Fine Teas at http://www.houdeasianart.com/

This is the last of this Dan Cong in an order of three Dan Congs from Hou de last year. I brewed it gongfu style in a 130 ml Yixing with the last of these large, beautiful leaves (sorry no photos, but you can see them on the Hou de site). I heated the water to 195 f for the first three infusions and then 208 f for the last one, since I decided to end the session early.

This is is an intensley floral tea liquor with minimal astringency to start, and more infusion by infusion. It seemed to be a bit thinner than the last time I brewed it, which may be due to the leaf:water ratio. I would bump it up to 7.5 - 8.0 grams next time, that is, if I had a supply of leaf to do it with.

This is a little different than what people think of as the classic Dan Cong flavor profile, but very good on its own terms, and the leaf - both dry and wet - is worth the price of admission. I have never seen Dan Cong leaf like it, or more beautful.

#18 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 06:12 PM

Just a brief note on this tie guan yin from norbutea.com that we used for the tea tasting discussion earlier this year. I went back to it today and brewed it in a Yixing tea pot instead of a gaiwan. With the gaiwan I felt that the tea was a little weaker than when I originally got it. But today in the 110 ml Yixing it was much better. The first infusion was barely okay, but the 2nd and 3rd were wonderfully floral, the 4th through 7th were slightly less intense but still very good, and the 8th I just drank showed a little more sweetness. This has a few more infusions left in it.

Hard to know what all accounts for the difference. The Yixing pot for sure. Curiously my leaf to water ratio was a litttle lower than I usually start at - a little less than 6 grams rather than 7.

I have come to like these greener tgy Oolongs a great deal, coming from a preference for the more traditional roasted versions.

Anyone else brewing tgy, green or roasted these days?

Anyone tried any of the Spring 2009 crop?

#19 buckytom

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 12:12 PM

My wife gave me the Tung Ting Jade Oolong from Teavana a while ago, and I was finally able to try it. It was delicious. Definitely on the floral, lightly sweet side of the spectrum. It took me a few cups to really appreciate it, as I'd gotten hooked on the much stronger Earl Grey Supreme from Harney and Sons. Also, I think I was brewing it wrong. In any case, when I want something light, with nice aromas and not too astringent, then it's the one I'll pick.

#20 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 06:19 PM

What brewing method worked out well for you after experimenting?

#21 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 06:44 PM

Shu Gu Ping Oolong

from jingteashop.com

Harvesting : Early spring 2008 (pre Qing-Ming) - First Pick

Grade : AA

Origine : Feng Huang Mountain, Shi Gu Ping Town, Chao Zhou city, Guang Dong Province.

Plantation attitude : 650 meters above sea level.

Plantation varietals : Shui Xian variety.

Certification : Small production directly from local farmer.


This is an interesting tea, similar to a Dan Cong and probably difficult or impossible to find in the US. The description on the jingteashop.com site is very much what I found brewing it gongfu style in a tiny 55 ml gaiwan. The first infusion had a strong gardenia aroma and what they called oily and I called buttery mouthfeel. Indeed it did develope a balanced taste profile by the third infusion.

3.1 g leaf. Rinse 10, 1:20, 2: 15, 3: 20", 4: 15, 5: 20", 6: 30"...and more to go, maybe 12.

This package of tea came with an order last year and I opened it a few months ago. Still in great shape.

This is a very nice light Oolong, and worth exploring if you enjoy Dan Cong's.

Has any one else tried this tea?

#22 Naftal

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Posted 28 May 2009 - 06:20 PM

Hello- I had a Milk Oolong that was amazing. It really did taste like there was milk in it, even when there was no milk in it at all.

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)


#23 buckytom

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Posted 30 May 2009 - 09:04 AM

What brewing method worked out well for you after experimenting?

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I started with s.o.p.: water at a full rolling boil, then scalding a very large mug.

Waiting for the temp of the water to drop a bit (to around 200 degress) I added about 3 teaspoons to a chrome plated brass tea ball placed in the mug. The hot water was poured over the ball, and it was left undisturbed for a good 5 minutes. Finally, I bobbed the tea ball a few times and removed it.

#24 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 10 July 2009 - 11:13 AM

What brewing method worked out well for you after experimenting?

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I started with s.o.p.: water at a full rolling boil, then scalding a very large mug.

Waiting for the temp of the water to drop a bit (to around 200 degress) I added about 3 teaspoons to a chrome plated brass tea ball placed in the mug. The hot water was poured over the ball, and it was left undisturbed for a good 5 minutes. Finally, I bobbed the tea ball a few times and removed it.

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Have you tried using an infuser in your cup instead of a tea ball? I think you would find a big difference, since a tea ball restricts the tea leaves from opening up fully. You'll use less tea leaves, too, since they will be infusing the water more efficiently. And you should be able to get at least two or three infusions out of the leaves.

#25 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 10 July 2009 - 11:48 AM

One of those serendipitous discoveries today. More intuitive than thought out carefully. I tried brewing a 2005 Shui Xian that I got from Guang at Hou de. I have not been wild about this tea and thought that maybe it was just too old, after brewing it in a Yixing pot or two and a gaiwan.

Today it struck me that a little Yixing I had been using for raw Pu-erh may work better with this Oolong. The pot is about 90 ml in a traditional shi piao shape. Yellow in color, I am not sure what Yixing clay it is made from, but it is rather dense.

This pot worked wonders on the Shui Xian - less drying and sweeter. I'll have to experiment with the combination for a few sessions to be sure this isn't a fluke result and to see what works best, but this is a lesson re-learned: matching any Oolong to any Yixing is a trial and error process.

#26 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 12 August 2009 - 02:07 PM

I just made a pot of Pouchong yesterday for my afternoon tea, and was struck by how strongly it resembles the Taiwan Alishan High Mountain Oolong we're tasting over in another topic. The things I like best about both of them are the same--a warm, grassy, vegetal flavor without bitterness and a floral undertone to the aroma. I'd like to do a head to head comparison, but have to wait a couple of days for my Alishan to arrive in the mail from Norbu Tea, so I compared it to my Ti Kuan Yin.

Posted Image

It looked quite different, twisted leaves instead of curled balls, with a color is nearly as dark as my Ti Kuan Yin

Posted Image

But the tea is about the same shade as the Alishan Oolong, paler and less red than the Ti Kuan Yin

Posted Image

and that brings up the question: what is the difference between pouchong and oolong, and is the similar taste a result of similar processing, or of different techniques being used to achieve a similar flavor profile?

And now I'm intensely curious about the green ti kuan yin that I also ordered from Norbu Tea.

#27 Gregory Glancy

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 09:28 PM

To respond to this question about Baozhong (I prefer to spell it Baozhong instead of Pouchong because Pinyin transliteration is what I am used to) vs. Oolong, very simply stated, Baozhong is generally considered to be a type of very lightly oxidized Oolong.

You noticed some flavor similarities between that and the High Mountain Oolong from Alishan. The main reason for this similarity is that they both are very lightly oxidized and they both came from Taiwan...just from different parts of the island. Time for a tea geography lesson. :rolleyes:

If you look at the map below, Baozhong primarily comes from the Wenshan area in the North of Taiwan, while the Ali Shan oolong you tried in the discussion came from Ali Shan further south-central on the island. In fact, if you look at the map for "Chiai" and go a bit east on the map, that's exactly where the tea from the discussion came from.

Posted Image
(In the interest of full disclosure, I got this map off of a tea blog several years ago. I do not have any recollection of which one it was...sorry)

OK, now look at this map (I did this one, so I know where it came from).

Posted Image

Tea processing came to Taiwan mainly from Fujian province in the mid 1800s. For some reason, people from the Wuyishan area in the far North-West of Fujian tended to settle in northern Taiwan with their Wuyi tea cultivars and processing methods. Naturally, then, the teas from Northern Taiwan physically resemble the long rolled leaves typical of Wuyi oolongs. The same thing happened with Anxi style oolongs. People from the area around Anxi moved right across the strait of Taiwan to central and Southern Taiwan. They were used to their unique tea cultivars and tightly rolled ball-shaped oolongs, so they ended up bringing their tea style with them to that part of Taiwan. Make sense?

That explains the shapes, but doesn't explain the other differences.

Baozhong is typically very lightly oxidized. 8-10% oxidation level is what I have been told, but these percentages seem pretty arbitrary and unquantifiable to me. Baozhong teas are usually not roasted like green teas, making their flavor profiles vegetal like green teas but with floral undertones found in other forms of oolong from the slight oxidation.

There was also a question about the color of the finished teas. Looking at the posted pictures, I am 99% positive your Tie Guan Yin has undergone a roasting process. Traditionally in Fujian, oolong teas from Wuyi and Anxi were almost always roasted at a fairly low temperature to better preserve them for storage and transport. The happy coincidence was that the roasty toasty flavors created during roasting really complement the sweet & fruity flavors that remained in the teas after the roasting process was done. The degree of the roast has a lot to do with the darker color of the finished teas, too.

Once more modern food preservation and storage techniques became available, tea processors started offering lesser or non-roasted versions of their oolongs more widely. Roasting no longer has to serve its original primary purpose of preserving the teas. It is now used more by tea masters to control the flavors of the finished tea...enhancing certain aspects and de-emphasizing others. The very strong and aromatic floral notes of freshly oxidized and processed tea leaves dissipate fairly quickly when exposed to air, so the development of air tight packaging along with more efficient forms of transportation is what made this style of tea popular outside of the tea growing regions...these fresher tasting teas can now physically make it halfway across the world and still taste like they are fresh from the mountain.

This was a long reply, but I hope I answered at least some of your questions.

Greg
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#28 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 14 August 2009 - 12:56 AM

That's a great start on answering my questions.

So....the next step would be to consider my anxi ti guan yin vs the very green appearing ti guan yin on your site--both are ti guan yin, but given how different they look, I have to assume they will taste very different.

How far away can the tea get from the original style and still be called ti guan yin? As long as it is from the same plant? Same county? and still more oolong than green tea?

And are the newer lighter roasted styles taking over now? Is there much grumbling about the loss of traditional darker roasted teas if so?

(obviously, these are questions best discussed over a few pots of the teas in questions, in a tea house in a pleasant garden....)

#29 Gregory Glancy

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Posted 14 August 2009 - 09:30 PM

That's a great start on answering my questions.

So....the next step would be to consider my anxi ti guan yin vs the very green appearing ti guan yin on your site--both are ti guan yin, but given how different they look, I have to assume they will taste very different. 

How far away can the tea get from the original style and still be called ti guan yin?  As long as it is from the same plant?  Same county?  and still more oolong than green tea?

And are the newer lighter roasted styles taking over now?  Is there much grumbling about the loss of traditional darker roasted teas if so?

(obviously, these are questions best discussed over a few pots of the teas in questions, in a tea house in a pleasant garden....)

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Tie Guan Yin is the varietal or cultivar of tea plant. It's a Camellia Sinensis varietal native to Anxi county. As far as I know, the western botanical names aren't commonly known or used for Chinese/Taiwanese tea cultivars.

Acording to the research that I have been able to find, Western tea literature describes only two types of tea plant: Camellia Sinensis Sinensis, the varietal that the British only successfully got to grow well in Darjeeling, and Camellia Sinensis Assamica, the varietal that the British "found" in Assam and commercially cultivated all over the subcontinent. CS Assamica is basically Yunnan varietal tea, which is why a lot of Assam teas taste like Dian Hong. What I am saying in a round about way is that I haven't been able to find any studies or botanical classifications of the different tea cultivars like Tie Guan Yin in any language but Chinese. Suffice it to say that Tie Guan Yin is a unique tea varietal, and any processed tea made from it could be called Tie Guan Yin.

The new style or green Tie Guan Yin you are referring to is definitely an oolong tea. You could pick two leaves from the same plant and make green tea out of one and oolong tea out of another, but that simply wouldn't happen these days because the different varietals have been found over time to be better suited to different styles. Again, kind of like apples, some are better for baking than for eating out of hand, and some Camellia plants are better suited for green tea than they are for oolong or whatever. The main difference between oolong tea and green tea is in the processing. Green teas are picked, withered, pan fired or steamed to keep them from oxidizing, then dried. Oolongs are picked, withered, bruised to allow for oxidation, pan fired or heat treated to stop the oxidation, shaped, and dried. I have much better processing descriptions already written here if you want more detail: About Tea Page

There are still some traditional fully roasted Tie Guan Yin teas made, but they aren't as popular as the green ones. Because of this popularity, the producers in Anxi can get a little higher price for their products if they are the new style, so a lot of them are producing the green style teas mostly these days. I personally love both the roasted style and the newer green style, but I am worried that the older generation will not teach the younger generation how to roast Anxi oolongs traditionally. This is really an art that is best learned by apprenticeship, so I hope some younger people will stay in that business. Fortunately, a lot of the tea masters in Taiwan are fanatical about traditional roasting, so the art should survive there even if the people in Anxi let it slip away.
Greg
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#30 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 16 August 2009 - 08:26 AM

I am worried that the older generation will not teach the younger generation how to roast Anxi oolongs traditionally.  This is really an art that is best learned by apprenticeship... 

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That is exactly my fear--that my first love in tea would vanish completely. Already it is not so easy to find, and the random tins and samples I've bought from various sources when I could not get my hands on it were not the same. And when I did find it again this time, the same tin of the same brand was cheaper than I expected, which makes me worry that it might indeed be getting less popular and less profitable, which would put its future at risk. This is one of the reasons I am trying to educate myself more about tea--so I'm less dependent on the one brand from one place.