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Oolong Tea Types

Oolong Tea Types

Oolong tea, or Wu Long as it is sometimes written, is a broad category of semi-fermented teas. Oolong teas are now produced around the world, though the great majority of famous Oolong teas are from China and in particular Fujian province.

Due to the additional processing, Oolong tea can endure repeated infusions; unlike some green teas. Rolled Oolong teas, such as Tie Guan Yin, the third or fourth infusions are considered the best. Top-grade Oolong tea combine complex flavours and aromas, such as floral notes; creme; nuts; legumes; with other characteristics are not found in other styles of tea.

Why are some Oolong teas green and others almost black?

Oolong refers to teas which are partly oxidised i.e. somewhere between a green tea and a black tea. Oolong tea can range from very lightly oxidised, green Oolongs such as Qing Xiang Tie Guan Yin, through to heavily oxidised teas which many would call black tea. Wu Yi rock teas are good examples of these dark oolongs. Among the many Rock Oolong teas available Da Hong Pao, Shui Xian, Tie Luo Han are some of the more well know.


Oxidisation, sometimes referred to as fermentation, is the process of exposing the picked leaf to air. For many Oolong teas this process is accompanied with rolling in order to break and damage the leaf's cells walls thereby exposing more surface area to air and increasing the level of oxidisation.


What makes Oolong tea different from other teas?

One of the main differences with Oolong tea is the level of production. Oolong tea involved many addition steps compared to other tea types. The main production steps are:

1. Withering  萎凋

2. Leaf manipulation 做青

3. Baking 炒青 / Kill Green 杀青 

4. Rolling 揉捻

5. Drying 干燥

Typically there are variations in specific steps and the duration of these in the above process which have been developed at a local level which bring about unique characteristics in teas.


Why are some Oolong teas formed in balls / pellets and others are twisted?

As different production techniques have evolved, so has the final form of the tea. The tight balls / pellets popular with AnXi Tie Guan Yin, and Taiwan Oolong teas. These originate from the MinNan region are distinct from the majority of other Oolong teas which are typical strip style.

The additional wrapped rolling process 包揉, tightly compresses the leaves to form the distinct pellets.



Why Wulong, Wu Long and Oolong?

The word Oolong is likely to have been originally brought in to wide spread usage by the earlier Western travellers to China who did not have a standardised system of writing Chinese. Phonetically the pronunciation Oo is probably the most accurate. The variation, WuLong 乌龙, arises from the translation from the Chinese system of characters in to our Western Romanised alphabet.


The current system of Romanisation used on the mainland of China is called Pin Yin which has been used since 1958 and was internationally accepted in the early 1980's. Using Pin yin, then the correct translation is wu 乌 long 龙 or black dragon tea. To be precise, Wu means black as a raven.

Preparing Oolong Tea

Besides some supplementary tea wares, the main tea tools used to prepare Oolong tea are a kettle, teapot or gaiwan and teacups. To make Oolong tea in a traditional way, which is still practised in Taiwan and parts of China, two more tools are needed: a cup for smelling the fragrance and a 'gongdao mug' (a fair for everybody mug).


The fair for everybody mug earns its name as it ensures that every guest drinks Oolong tea with the same concentration, same aroma and same colour. We have also prepared a more detailed explanation of the 'Traditional GongFu tea' method on our 'Making Tea' pages.

Famous Oolong Tea Producing Regions

The famous areas for Oolong production are in TaiWan, FuJian and GuangDong. Among these the Fujian province regions of An Xi and Wu Yi Shan (mountain) are the most well known and widely consumed.

We have prepared dedicated pages on the famous Oolong teas of the WuYi mountains and AnXi county's Tie Guan Yin.

GuangDong - Feng Huang Dan Cong

Feng Huang Oolong 凤凰乌龙, often referred to as Feng Huang Dan Cong Oolong 凤凰但从 is one of the most famous teas from southern China's GuangDong province. Bred specially over centuries, the Feng Huang mountain tea plant variety has been hybridised in to a tree with a single trunk, unlike traditional China tea plants which are a bush with multiple shoots. Allowed to grow in to trees which can be over 3m tall, Feng Huang Dan Cong has an unique depth of flavour, which is accentuated by a fuller oxidisation to produce a dark dried leaf. DanCong Oolong now has many sub-varieties such as MiLan Xiang, which have distinctive flavours and aromas, capturing essences of different flora and fauna. 

Feng Huang Oolong originates from Phoenix Mountain, near to ChaoZhou 潮州, GuangDong 广东.

Sections In Oolong Tea Types

AnXi Tie Guan Yin

Tie-Guan-Yin (TGY) is the most famous of AnXi county's Oolong teas. Tie Guan Yin's complex process of rolling during oxidisation forms tight pellets of tea with a complex range of flavours which slowly emerge when brewed. Traditionally Tie Guan Y...

WuYi Oolong Tea

WuYi Oolong Tea, is a category in it's own right. Not only are they many names to describe teas from the WuYi mountain region including WuYi cliff oolong tea, WuYi rock tea or Yan Cha. The category is made up of hundreds of tea plant cultivars and ...

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