Oolong tea, a semi-fermented tea with a variety of cultivars, is one of the main types of tea in China. It is a high-quality tea produced through the processes of picking, Weidiao (withering), Zuoqing (shaking), Shaqing (frying), Rounian (kneading), and roasting. Oolong tea is known for its unique fragrance and is widely loved by the masses.
Oolong tea is mainly produced in Fujian, Guangdong, Taiwan, and other regions. Oolong teas from different regions exhibit unique tastes and characteristics. For example, Fujian Oolong tea is rich in aroma with a mellow taste, Guangdong Oolong tea has a clear and refreshing aroma, while Taiwan Oolong tea carries a fruity fragrance with a mellow taste. With a wide variety of Oolong tea types, the classic ones stand out in terms of taste and aroma, making them suitable as Christmas tea gifts or New Year tea gifts, offering both health and deliciousness to family and friends.
When selecting Oolong tea, you can choose different types based on personal taste and preferences. In addition to personal preferences, there are some simple steps that can help you select high-quality Oolong tea.
1. Smell the Dry Tea Leaves
Smelling the dry tea leaves allows you to detect any undesirable odors in the Oolong tea. Undesirable odors may include insufficient withering causing a grassy odor, excessive withering or roasting resulting in a burnt smell, or foreign odors absorbed due to improper storage.
Hold the dry tea leaves in your hands, bury your nose, and take three consecutive deep sniffs. If the aroma persists and even intensifies, it indicates good tea. However, pay attention to whether the fragrance seems too artificial or forced. The aroma of Oolong tea comes from its unique tea tree varieties and processing techniques, without the addition of artificial additives. Therefore, Oolong tea is considered one of the best loose leaf tea.
If the aroma is lacking or if off-putting odors are detected during the second inhalation, the tea is not suitable for purchase.
2. Inspect the Appearance of the Dry Tea Leaves
Examine the dry tea leaves in terms of strips, fragments, and purity. These criteria apply not only to loose-leaf Oolong tea but also to other loose leaf tea such as black and green teas.
Strips: Refers to the external specifications of various tea types, such as the strip-shaped Da Hong Pao or the semi-spherical TieGuanyin, which should conform to the corresponding specifications.
Fragments: Refers to the overall appearance and degree of breakage of the tea leaves. Evenness is preferred over fragmentation.
Purity: Check whether the tea leaves contain tea pieces, stems, dust, seeds, or impurities such as bamboo chips, wood pieces, lime, or sand from the manufacturing process.
3. Examine the Tea Soup
Tea soup with a lighter color generally indicates a lighter roasting, offering a fragrance-rich taste. For instance, the well-known TieGuanyin has a clear and bright tea soup, most of which belongs to the light fragrance type. Strong fragrance Oolong teas typically have a reddish tint in the tea soup, indicating a deeper color. Da Hong Pao, having undergone multiple roasting sessions with a long duration, exhibits a bright red tea sou, falling under the strong fragrance category.
The tea soup of Oolong tea should be clear, not turbid or dark, without any sediment. Ideally, the tea color should remain unchanged after brewing three or four times.
4. Evaluate the Flavor
When tasting, pay attention to whether the flavor is strong or mild, whether it has a lingering aftertaste or specific varietal characteristics. It's crucial to observe if the Oolong tea presents a rich taste, with good ones being smooth, soft, and having a long-lasting aftertaste. A good Oolong tea should still be enjoyable after six or seven infusions, reflecting its quality.
The tea flavor should not include bitterness, astringency, fermentation notes, sourness, mustiness, smokiness, or any other abnormal tastes.
5. Smell the Aroma of the Tea Soup
When smelling the tea soup, focus on identifying whether the floral aroma is pure and what type of fragrance it is. Also, observe if the floral aroma is strong or subtle, whether there is a hint of fermentation. Lastly, determine if the floral aroma aligns with your personal preferences.
The fragrance of loose leaf oolong tea may vary due to differences in varieties, processing techniques, and seasons. A good Oolong tea should have a lingering fragrance after seven infusions. If the tea loses its aroma after only three or four infusions, it may not be considered high-quality.
6. Inspect the Brewed Tea Leaves
Distinguishing the quality of brewed tea leaves relies on visual and tactile judgments. High-quality Oolong tea brewed leaves should be uniform, glossy, and free from scorching marks. When pinching the leaves, they should feel soft, thick, and not prickly, indicating good raw materials and proper processing.
The unfolding speed of the brewed tea leaves can indicate their freshness. Newly processed tea leaves should have a clear and bright color on the leaf bottom, while aged tea leaves may exhibit a reddish-brown or dark black color.
In conclusion, Oolong tea is a distinctive beverage, and when selecting, it's essential to consider aspects such as the appearance and aroma of both the dry tea leaves and the tea soup. Ensure that the chosen tea meets quality standards. Additionally, factor in the price and make a comprehensive decision to find an Oolong tea that aligns with your taste preferences and budget.