Most people think of herbal, black, or green teas when they think of “tea.” That’s no surprise as a majority of iced and hot teas enjoyed are black teas. We know that herbal teas don’t include Camellia sinensis and that green teas are steamed, baked, or fried after harvesting. But what are oolong teas and how do they differ from black tea?
What is Oxidation?
To understand oolongs and black teas, you’ll need to understand oxidation. Imagine taking a bite out of an apple and then setting it out on your kitchen table for a few hours. Based on where you live and what the climate is, you’ll imagine different things happening to that apple. If you live in a humid area, like Florida, the apple will become browned, soggy, and mealy. If you live in a dryer area, like Texas or Southern California, your apple will shrink a little and dry out, with a slight film developing on the exposed pieces of apple. Those processes are both forms of oxidation. Part of the apple is exposed and the air affects it.
This process occurs when you gently expose parts of a tea leaf, too. Oolongs are only partly oxidized, meaning they’re only exposed to the air for a short period of time. Black teas are fully oxidized. Even if a tea is oxidized 99%, it’s still an oolong. This is actually the case for our 99% Oxidized Purple Oolong. Oxidation is what gives tea its dark color. You can guess how much an oolong is oxidized by its color in this way. A green oolong, like Orchid Oolong, is less oxidized than a darker oolong, like Crimson Oolong.
But What Is An Oolong?
The word oolong loosely translates to “dragon.” Take one look at an oolong like Wuyi Oolong and you’ll understand why. Oolong teas come in a wiry shape and a pearl shape, but make no mistake – these teas go through the same process of oxidation, just to different degrees. This massive scale of variation makes oolong tea exciting to try out. Teas can have drastically different flavors as they range from a dark green color to an almost black color. They can be floral and light or somewhat malty – almost resembling a black tea. With so much variety, it isn’t difficult to find an oolong you love.
Ready to begin your oolong adventure? Here’s a little more information from our CEO, Steve Schwartz.