Friday, January 26, 2007

Oolong - Wu Long Tea

Dragon Tea Pot

Tea by any other name…

Oolong (aka: Wulong, or Wu Long) tea has a literal translation to 'black dragon' tea, some claim the name has nothing to do with dragons, but was rather named after Wu Liang the man who first prepared this type of tea.

Legend has it that a man named Wu Liang was out picking tea one day. After collecting his leaves for the day his eye was caught by a river deer. He stopped to slay for food and was distracted by the preparation of his kill that he allowed the recently picked tea leaves to go without drying.

A day or two went by before Wu Liang realized he neglected his precious tea leaves. When he checked on them they had already started to change color. Not wanting to waste the leaves he decided to finish processing them without regard to the color change.

After he finished the process of firing the tealeaves he made himself a cup only to discover to his amazement that he had accidentally stumbled onto a sensational tasting tea. It was aromatic, yet mellow and was not like anything else he ever tasted. Sharing his new discovery with neighbors, word spread about this amazing tasting tea throughout the province and he was happy to share his new processing technique. Throughout history it finally became known as Wu-Long cha or Black Dragon tea.

Techniques of brewing oolong tea…

Oolong tea should be made with water which is just shy of boiling, around 90°C. The traditional Chinese method of making it is known as gongfu cha, where gongfu (the same as 'kung fu', just spelt differently) roughly interpreted as 'a lot of work' and 'cha' is of course 'tea'.

To get started one must fill a small teapot (traditionally made of unglazed yixing clay) about 1/3 full with the dry leaves. Filling the pot with the hot water for a few seconds then immediately pouring off the water to “wake” the tea and remove any impurities. It is refilled with fresh hot water and left to steep for a short time before being poured into tiny cups which are served. The pot may then be filled with subsequent portions of hot water which produces a subtle change in flavor from the first to the last brew. Some people prefer the second brew to the first.

Gongfu cha is sometimes described as 'the Chinese tea ceremony', and although it is nothing like as formalized as its famous Japanese tea ceremony, there is a bit more to it than this writing describes.

Of course you can brew Oolong tea in a much simpler and time efficient manner. Since oolong tea is a bit more stable than green tea it can tolerate boiling water. Oolong tea (much like black tea) can stand up to higher temperatures than green tea which is often ruined by very hot steeping water. A teaspoon of the loose tea in each cup with boiling water steeping for a couple of minutes is all it takes.



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