The technology of making Oolong tea
The technology of making oolong tea combines some steps of making black tea and green tea, sometimes it can be very complex and the method itself is even different for making different oolong tea. The unique flavour of Oolong tea affected by the technology heavily. The basic technology can be divided into picking, withering, stirring and setting, fixation, rolling and baking.
The new type technology of making Oolong in southern Fujian:
- Withering: Spread fresh tea leaves on the shelf, flip for around 2-3 times, in order to evaporate the moisture evenly. It also softens the tea leaves, processes natural enzymatic oxidization and reduces grassy taste of tea leaves. Withering can be processed by either sun withering, indoor withering or artificial temperature withering.
- Stirring/shaking and setting: This step is the most essential part. The main purpose of stirring/shaking and setting is to monitor moisture evaporation. Continuous monitoring requires a maker to stay up all night. Through this step, the water contained in the fresh tea stems spreads into the leaves. This special water contains twice as much theanine and catechins as well as additional aromatic substances. Consequently, it is stirring/shaking that determines the special aroma of Oolong tea. In very old days, this step is totally processed in a wicker basket which requires huge human resources; while nowadays, it can be done though the aids of machines. After stirring/shaking has been done, the tea leaves are then put to setting. Setting: This step enables for tea leaves to ferment to the desired level. At this level, the tea leaves start to turn into darker green because of the breaking down of the tea cells. Tea begins to develop rich flowery aroma. Those steps are crossed proceeded.
- Fixation: Fixation is to use very high temperature to destroy / inactivates the enzymatic oxidization, inhibits the enzymatic oxidation of tea polyphenols inside tea leaves. This step also helps to evaporate the water content, soften the tea leaves, remove unpleasant odour and promote fresh rich aroma. It enhances the toughness of the tea, which creates the good conditions for next step – Rolling.
- Rolling: In this step, the tea leaves are covered with a cloth, twisted by hand or machine. Rolling makes the liquid inside tea overflow, attached to the surface of the tea leaves, which enhance the natural aroma of the oolong tea and also establishes the shape of the leaves.
- Baking: The aim of baking is not only removing unpleasant odour but also killing the bacterial and enhancing the aroma & quality of the oolong tea. It also stops oxidization and prevents mould growth.
Steeping, Brewing and Serving
There are several types of oolong tea depends on different fermentation degree.
- Light or moderate fermented Oolong tea (Ferment 10% – 50%) – Anxi Ti Kwan Yin Fragrant (Tieguanyin), Anxi Ti Kwan Yin Original (Tieguanyin), Anxi Ti Kwan Yin Sour (Tieguanyin), Anxi Ti Kwan Yin, Strong (Tieguanyin) and Taiwan oolong tea.
- Deep fermented Oolong tea (Ferment 50% – 70%) – Wuyi Big Red Robe (Da Hong Pao)
For simple glass vessel/teapot style:
- You can brew fewer tea leaves with more hot water for longer brewing time. Use 2 teaspoons of the tea for 125ml teacup or gaiwan, 4 teaspoons for 250ml glass or 8 teaspoons for 500ml teapot.
- For Ti Kwan Yin (Tieguanyin) or Taiwan Oolong tea, using 100°C hot water to infuse tea leaves for around 2-5 minutes. Re-steep for around one further infusion. (Adjust by personal taste)
- For Wuyi Big Red Robe (Da Hong Pao), using 100°C hot water to infuse tea leaves for around 1-2 minutes. Re-steep for around 2-3 further infusion. (Adjust by personal taste)
For gongfu style:
Please see brewing guide here.
Storage of Oolong Tea
- Avoid direct sunshine. Sunshine will break the chlorophyll of the Oolong tea down into pheophytin. If Oolong tea is stored in a glass container, exposure to sunshine will have a very bad effect on its quality. Therefore, please keep it inside a dark cabinet.
- Avoid moisture. Like any other fried food, oxygen and moisture are the biggest threats to oolong tea. The moist affects the flavour and quality of the tea leaves a lot. Tea will even go mouldy if it is not stored properly. Please store it in a dry ventilated place. Do not store in the place such as bathroom or cabinet besides dishwasher.
- Avoid odour. Tea leaves can absorb the different odour easily; therefore, when you store the oolong tea please make sure it is isolated with other smelly things. Kitchen cabinets are not an ideal place for storing oolong tea.
- Avoid very high temperature.
Some light fermented oolong tea we recommend you store it in the fridge wrapped with aluminium zip lock bag. That is because the fermentation degree of this type of Ti Kwan Yin (Tieguanyin) is relatively light, the substance contained inside tea leaves is not relatively stable, which creates conditions for the growth series of microorganisms. Low temperature can improve the stability and inhibit enzyme activity & microbial growth effectively.
Some deep fermented oolong tea we recommend you store it in a dry ventilated place wrapped with aluminium zip lock bag.