Although Oolong tea is made from the same plant that Black, Green and White Tea is made from, it is different in taste from these teas due to the way the leaves are initially prepared after plucking.
It is because of this process that the taste of Oolong tea also differs from any of the teas prepared from the tea plant. The brewing of Oolong tea also differs slightly from that of Black tea or even Green tea, in that to make the traditional pot of Oolong tea, you must change brewing times as well as use the proper type of tea pot for this (called a Gaiwan).
The taste of Oolong tea however is not something that can be easily described as it tends to fall somewhere between the flavor of Black tea and Green tea. One crucial difference that you will notice between a good Oolong tea and a good Green tea, is that the Oolong tea doesn't have that slightly leafy green taste that is the hallmark of Green tea.
A brief look at how the Oolong tea leaf is initially prepared, and why its taste differs from that of other teas from the same plant:
- » To prepare the Oolong tea leaf, the bud and two leaves are first harvested and taken to the factory in the same manner as for other teas.
- » They are then laid out on withering racks and left in the sun for a short period of time. It is this withering process of the Oolong tea leaf that evaporates most of the water found in the leaves.
- » Once the leaves have dried they are then tossed into a basket and shaken about. Although this sounds like a normal process, the truth of the matter is that by tossing and shaking the Oolong tea leaves, the edges of the tea leaves are bruised. It is this bruising which begins the process of making Oolong tea taste different from normal teas, (which aren't tossed into baskets and shaken about).
- » The purpose of allowing the edges of the Oolong tea leaf to become thus bruised is to allow a partial oxidization to occur. At this point, certain enzymes will cause the flavor and caffeine of the Oolong tea leaf to rise to the surface.
- » It should be noted that the varying taste range of Oolong tea (from between that of Black tea to that of Green tea) comes about because of this initial bruising process and the varying amounts of oxidization that occurs.
- » The now bruised and oxidized Oolong tea leaves are next taken to the firing room so as to stop any further oxidization. The firing time of the tea leaf is dependant on the region the Oolong tea is coming from.
- » Once this oxidization process has been fully halted they are then further dried to preserve and seal in the particular characteristics found in Oolong tea.
If you are buying Oolong tea, just as with other teas you will find that you come across a number of choices that range from tea bags, to tea dust, to loose-leafed tea. If you are able to, it is fully advisable that you buy the loosed-leafed Oolong tea and prepare it in the traditional method. By doing this, you can be assured that you will get the proper taste of Oolong tea - the way it's meant to taste.
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