What is Wulong tea?
Wulong tea is a semi-oxidized tea type. The name Wulong resembles the black dragon. The Chinese named it Wulong for its long, curly, big and twisted dark leaves.
It is a traditional Chinese tea, semi-oxidized in nature. The oxidation range varies from 10%-70%. Though Wulong produced from the leaves, and of the same plant like green tea, it is different in nature.
The difference between all types of tea is due to the way of processing. Wulong tea has a wide variety, and the taste of the leaves, appearance, and flavor varies region wise.
Components of Wulong tea
The caffeine content is medium in comparison with black and green tea. It has a typical aroma which is not as robust as of black tea or as subdued like green tea.
Wulong tea is enriched with its own flavor and distinguishes tone. This type of tea has always been compared with fresh flowers. Due to partial oxidation Wulong tea has a significant texture which is the evidence of skilled processing techniques.
Wulong tea also is known by other names like Oolong tea, Brown tea, etc. There are different grades owing to the formation process—higher, medium and lower.
The higher grade of Oolong tea contains a high level of nitrogen, tannins, amino acid and soluble matter than low and medium grade tea. Oolong tea acquires only 2% of the total tea growing in the whole world, yet it is worth to mention due to its various health benefits.
Oolong tea contains Fluoride, Manganese, Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium, Niacin and Caffeine. Oolong tea health benefits are countless as a healthy beverage.
Wulong tea manufacturing process
The method of processing Oolong tea from the fresh tea leaves has been developed in China and Taiwan, but recently it is produced in Nepal, Vietnam, and India.
In the procedure of fermentation of the freshly plucked tea leaves, the leaves undergo some precise step by step method to get the typical texture and flavor of Oolong tea. Have a look at the methods:
- At first, the fresh tea leaves are harvested. The harvesting is performed normally 3-4 times in a year.
- Withering or drying up the moisture is the next step to make the tea leaves moisture free. So they are kept open under the sunlight. Sometimes the tea leaves are also kept in indoor or outdoor in an alternative way to avoid overheating. This process is important as it will decide how rapidly the polyphenols in tea would be oxidized.
- The next step after withering is bruising and it is the most critical stage of Oolong tea processing. In fact, bruising is the counterpart of the previous process withering, and the leaves get maximum oxidation during these two processes.
To bruise the tea leaves, the farmers use a bamboo basket and press them with the hand to crush them. By this method, the tea leaves get exposed to the air, and the oxidation occurs in high rate. During this, the tea leaves lost their moisture and grassy texture.
In the last phase of bruising, the tea leaves are spread out and by shaking and resting methods, they are made to regain their suppleness and moisture flow from stem to leaves. The process of bruising ends, when the leaves started to form the aroma become reddish in color.
- Once the tea leaves forms aroma, the next step which is known as fixation, begins. During this, the leaves are pan-fried for a short time to stop the oxidation and kill the enzymes. The timing is very short so that the leaves do not lose their moisture. The full processing and rate of oxidation are fully decided by the tea makers.
- Rolling and shaping- In this step, the leaves are processed and rolled to get the desired shape. There are mainly three shapes depending on variety. One is curly and long, semi-round shape and full –round shape. This is a continuous process.
- Next step is called baking which is a combination of two steps. One is Maohong. This is a fast process of baking in which the tea leaves get highly heated for a very short time. As a result, they become moisture free and get an exact shape.
- The other step – Zuhong, in which, the leaves undergo low heat treatment for a long time. The tea artisans have to decide how long the tea leaves would be baked. Due to this process, the Oolong tea leaves pick up the color and aroma. Due to slow baking process, the Oolong tea has a longer shelf life. It depends on the tea master for how long the leaves will get heated.
- At the final stage, tea leaves are sorted out to separate good or defective leaves. If needed the standard leaves may be reheated, then cooled and packed.
Most popular Wulong varieties
- Iron Buddha (Tie Guan Yin)- it is also called Chinese Oolong
- Da Hong Pao – The other names of this variety are Wuyi Cliff Tea and Big Red Robe
- Taiwan Oolong – also called High Mountain Oolong.