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Oolong (pinyin romanization: wulong) is one of the most diverse categories of tea, as it encompasses any tea between Green Tea and Black Tea in terms of oxidation level. Most oolongs tend to fall in the 40-50% oxidation range, but many do not; Baozhong is often in the 5-20% range, and Bai Hao (Oriental Beauty) is generally around 70%.
For Oolongs the oxidation takes place during a 'withering' stage, when the leaves sit on trays in a moist warm environment. The oxidation process is then slowed by a brief application of heat called 'firing' or 'kill-green'. They then undergo further processing and firing depending on the type of oolong being produced.
Roasting is a common procedure in the processing of oolongs, but it is not necessary. In addition to changing the flavor profile, roasting also gives oolongs more aging potential. Wuyi yancha tends to have a higher level of roasting than most other oolongs.
Occasionally the consumer will wish to roast or re-roast some of his/her oolong. Reasons for this include "refreshing" a somewhat stale tea, re-drying a musty-smelling tea, or re-roasting as part of the oolong-aging process.
Other provinces not traditionally known to grow oolong have also begun to plant and harvest oolong cultivars, such as Hunan Province.
Among tea people, the island of Taiwan is often still referred to by its old name, "Formosa," given it by the Portuguese and meaning "beautiful". Taiwan has 21,554 hectres of tea gardens (1995), spread out throughout the island. The total production volume in 1995 was 20,892 tonnes.
Notable Teas from Taiwan
- Bai Hao (also Dong Fang Mei Ren or "Oriental/Eastern Beauty")
- Baozhong (also Pouchong)
- Dong Ding ("Frozen Summit" oolong, also Tung Ting, name of a mountain)
- Gao Shan ("High Mountain" rolled oolong)
India & Sri Lanka
Production of oolong teas is relatively new to the Indian Subcontinent. Thus far, most oolong teas from this region tend to be either of stripe shape or broken pekoe, heavily oxidized, and high roasted. There are some exceptions. Oolongs from the subcontinent thus far follow the classification patterns used for Indian black teas, called first by region and then by grade. There are some exceptions.
- Darjeeling Oolong
- Nilgiri Oolong
- Kali Cha - stripe oolong similar to Taiwan's Bai Hao, from the Kurseong district.
- Sapphire Oolong - specialty oolong grown in Sri Lanka for the Tea Mueseum in Seoul, Korea.