Oolong is a tea that originated and is primarily grown in China and Taiwan. This tea varies in both flavor and its fermentation process than loose black tea and loose green tea. The fermentation process involves hand-picking the tea leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant, withering the leaves under natural sunlight, undergoing an oxidation process, which is done at varying levels ranging from 8% to 80% and a roasting process. The higher the degree of oxidation, the darker the roast of oolong tea is. The level of oxidation will create a varying taste in this tea as well.
The flavor and aroma of oolong tea has quite the broad range--from fruity and sweet with a honey smell, to fresh and green with a flowery scent, to a woody taste with a roasted aroma. The broad range of flavor and aroma are due to many different reasons, including the time it is oxidized, the production process, how long it is steeped, where the tea leaves are grown, and the way the leaves are formed during production. Some of the tea leaves are rolled to form a curly leaf and some are formed into small beads with a tail by wrapping and curling them.
There are many sub-varieties of oolong tea to choose from, the following are just a few from the areas of China, Taiwan, and India:
· Ti Kuan Yin - This variation of oolong tea originated in China, to be precise, it comes from Anxi County in the Fujian Province. Today, it is also produced in Taiwan. This variety of oolong tea also has its own variations according to the time of year its tea leaves are harvested and the amount of time that it is oxidized. The most popular form of the tea today is a lighter roast that has a very low range of oxidation.
· Pouchong - This form of oolong tea looks very similar to green tea, but it is less bitter than green tea and gives off a pleasant floral aroma. This variety is barely oxidized and the production sometimes involves wrapping the tea leaves in paper. Pouchong originated in Fujian China; however, today is mainly produced in Taiwan.
· Tung Ting - This oolong tea originates and is produced in the Tung-Ting region of Taiwan. The people of that area have rated this tea as one of the best in Taiwan. This variation goes through a light oxidation process and is light in color. It has a smooth floral flavor and a sweet, yet strong, aroma.
· Formosa Oolong - This variation of oolong tea hails from Taiwan. It has a very particular production process, with its leaves only being hand-picked in the spring. It is a darker oolong tea and has a ripened fruit taste. It is considered to be a smooth tea with a lasting taste and a pleasant fall aroma.
· Darjeeling Oolong - Hence the name, this form of oolong tea is produced in the Darjeeling District of India. This tea can be very dark in color, similar to a black tea, and almost totally oxidized to barely oxidized and very light green in color. This variation of oolong tea is just recently growing in popularity; therefore, is not known or available in all areas.
As well as its unique flavor and soothing aroma, oolong tea has been talked about by many people because of its believed benefits. Although not 100% proven, some people attribute the following benefits to oolong tea: healthy looking skin; healthy, strong bones; aiding in weight management; eases stress; having anti-cancer properties; and helping to reduce the risk of diabetes.