Oolong tea, also known as Qingcha, originated during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Developed by tea farmers in Anxi based on the green tea production method, it first spread to northern Fujian and Chaozhou in Guangdong and later made its way to Taiwan.
After tasting Oolong tea, the lingering fragrance and sweet aftertaste have led to its reputation as "beauty tea" and "health tea." Classic and high-quality Oolong tea is considered one of the best loose leaf tea and is definitely worth experiencing.
Legend of the Formation of Aroma in Oolong Tea
According to legend, in ancient times, a tea farmer, after picking fresh tea leaves on the mountain, would place them in a bamboo basket and carry them on his back while descending the mountain. During this descent, the fresh leaves in the bamboo basket would jostle up and down and sway from side to side. It was said that the collision of the tea leaves in the basket would produce a floral-like fragrance.
The tea farmer, upon making this accidental discovery, incorporated it into the tea processing, giving rise to the "Zuoqing" technique. At that time, with limited scientific and technological advancements, the tea farmer could not explain this mysterious phenomenon. Consequently, this type of tea came to be known as Oolong tea, meaning a confusing or haphazard tea. Thus, Oolong tea became the common name for this category of tea.
Core Process of the Formation of Aroma in Oolong Tea
"Zuoqing" is the core process of forming the aroma in Oolong tea, and it is a unique technique to Oolong tea production. Other loose-leaf teas, such as loose leaf green tea and loose leaf black tea, do not involve this process in their production.
"Zuoqing" consists of two steps: "Yaoqing" and "Liangqing," performed alternately. In "Yaoqing," the withered tea leaves are continuously shaken in a bamboo sieve. The leaves dance and tumble within the sieve, colliding and rubbing against the sieve walls and each other. Following "Yaoqing," the tea leaves are then spread thinly on the bamboo sieve and left undisturbed for a period, which is known as "Liangqing."
Why can shaking and cooling make tea leaves produce aroma? The reasons are as follows.
1.During Yaoqing, the collision and friction of tea leaves cause the rupture and damage of cell walls, triggering oxidation. This promotes the transformation of internal substances, and these products continuously accumulate within the leaves. The characteristic "green base with red edges" of Oolong tea is also formed during this stage.
2.During the resting phase of Liangqing, the originally wilted leaves gradually expand again, commonly referred to as "rejuvenation." In this process, moisture and internal substances from the stems and veins are transported to the leaf tissues, known as "water movement," releasing a natural floral and fruity aroma.
3.The leaves then soften again, commonly referred to as "fading." At this point, the tea leaves can undergo the Zuoqing process once more.
Yaoqing significantly increases the aromatic components in Oolong tea. The intensity of Yaoqing directly influences the degree of fermentation, resulting in noticeable differences in aromatic components. For example, TieGuanyin from Anxi and Oolong tea from Taiwan have significantly different aromatic components—TieGuanyin contains higher levels of orange blossom alcohol and indole, while Taiwan Oolong tea has higher levels of agarwood alcohol and leaf alcohol.
How to Appreciate the Aroma of Oolong Tea
1.Prepare Tea Utensils and Water
Use clean, odor-free tea utensils such as Yixing clay teapots or covered bowls. When brewing loose leaf oolong tea, use boiling water at around 100°C to fully evoke the tea's aroma.
2.Add Oolong Tea
Place the selected Oolong tea in the teapot or teacup. It is recommended to use 3-5 grams of Oolong tea per 100 milliliters of water, adjusting according to personal taste. Classic Oolong teas like TieGuanyin and Da Hong Pao are recommended.
3.Brew Oolong Tea
Pour in a small amount of hot water for the initial steeping, gradually adding hot water to let the Oolong tea unfurl. The initial steeping time is generally 10-20 seconds, and subsequent steeping times can be adjusted based on personal preference. Typically, the first steeping is for smelling the aroma, the second is for observing the color of the tea, and the third is for tasting the flavor.
4.Taste Oolong Tea
When tasting Oolong tea, you can start by smelling the tea aroma and then taking a small sip, allowing it to slowly glide into your mouth to experience its taste and texture. For multiple infusions, you can repeatedly taste Oolong tea at different steepings, savoring the changes and flavors of each infusion.
To experience the rich aromas of classic Oolong tea, feel free to purchase iTeaworld loose leaf tea. iTeaworld offers a variety of carefully selected teas in tea sampler, making it easy for you to discover your favorite Oolong tea.
Despite the diverse characteristics of Oolong tea aromas and flavors, the key process of "Zuoqing" is crucial in achieving their delightful aromas. Which Oolong tea do you think is the most delicious?