Traditional Chinese 烏龍茶
Simplified Chinese 乌龙茶
Literal meaning “Black dragon tea”
Oolong (UK: /ˈuːlɒŋ/, US: /-lɔːŋ/; simplified Chinese: 乌龙茶; traditional Chinese: 烏龍茶 (wūlóngchá, “dark dragon” tea)) is a traditional semi-oxidized Chinese tea (Camellia sinensis) produced through a process including withering the plant under strong sun and oxidation before curling and twisting. Most oolong teas, especially those of fine quality, involve unique tea plant cultivars that are exclusively used for particular varieties. The degree of oxidation, which varies according to the chosen duration of time before firing, can range from 8 to 85%, depending on the variety and production style. Oolong is especially popular in south China and among ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia as is the Fujian preparation process known as the Gongfu tea ceremony.
The Chinese term wulong (oolong) was first used to describe a tea in the 1857 text Miscellaneous Notes on Fujian by Shi Hongbao. In Chinese, oolong teas are also known as qingcha (Chinese: 青茶; pinyin: qīngchá) or “dark green teas”. The term “blue tea” (French: thé bleu) in French is synonymous with the term oolong. Oolong teas share some characteristics with both green and black teas – they have light flavour notes but are often more complex in taste than green teas, but not as strong as black teas.
The manufacture of oolong tea involves repeating stages to achieve the desired amount of bruising and browning of leaves. Withering, rolling, shaping, and firing are similar to black tea, but much more attention to timing and temperature is necessary. Oolong tea is popular for its high medicinal value and long-lasting aroma. Highly efficient kneading and forming equipment can improve the production efficiency of oolong tea, especially adding the heavy pressing and holding process to the traditional kneading process, which can keep the tea leaves in a tight curved shape after the completion of kneading and ensure the quality of tea.
Different styles of oolong tea can vary widely in flavor. They can be sweet and fruity with honey aromas, or woody and thick with roasted aromas, or green and fresh with complex aromas, all depending on the horticulture and style of production. Several types of oolong tea, including those produced in the Wuyi Mountains of northern Fujian, such as Da Hong Pao, are among the most famous Chinese teas. Different varieties of oolong are processed differently, but the leaves are usually formed into one of two distinct styles. Some are rolled into long curly leaves, while others are ‘wrap-curled’ into small beads, each with a tail. The former style is the more traditional.