OK, so I’ve read several books on tea, but there is something that I just don’t know and can’t seem to figure out. Who knows the answer to the following questions?
Are all highly oxidized oolongs also roasted??? Is there a style of oolong that is oxidized 50% or more but not roasted?
If anyone can point me in the right direction, I’d be grateful! I’ve noticed that most tea vendors don’t specifically say whether the oolongs are roasted and not all tell you the level of oxidation.
And, the reason I want to know is that I am finding that the lightly oxidized oolongs I’ve tried are a little too “green” for me, and the highly oxidized, roasted ones are a little too smoky and intense for me. Hoping to find some teas in between these types!
herre is a link you may want to read:
It’s great fun to explore the world of oolongs!
Personally, I love my teas green and grassy, so love the greener oolongs. Huang Jin Gui is my fave at the moment (some call it a fake TGY, but I just love it, it tastes like peach)
the darker oolongs have their own charm. My kids love my oriental beauty and call it ‘tutti-frutti’ tea, as it’s like drinking apricot, raisons and plums for desert.
da hong pao is not my daily cup of tea, but I do enjoy a cup now and then.
I started with taster packs, or at times simply ordered one on hit and miss basis. There is a lot of variation!
Thanks for linking to my blog on oolong roasting! I hope it helps you find some oolongs that you might like.
Your original question is kinda tricky because, to a certain extent, all oolongs (and all to a further extent, all tea) is roasted, or baked, as a result of the drying process. Whether it is done in a traditional charcoal fired bamboo basket or a conveyor belt oven, the drying process is more or less a roasting process. Many producers choose to roast their tea further to develop the flavor and/or aroma, and these are often, as you mention, the darker varieties (i.e. Da Hong Pao, Shui Xian, Taiwanese Tie Guan Yin, etc.). Further more, even green oolongs are often slightly roasted after drying to lock in that floral and/or milky aroma.
My suggestion to you would be to try some light to medium roasted oolongs. The fruity Chinese oolong Feng Huang Dan Cong might suit your taste. For Taiwanese oolongs, I would suggest a medium roasted Tung Ting, Bai Hao, or Gui Fei Cha.
You could also try some of our house roasted teas (mentioned in the article above). We now have a house roast 4 Seasons and an Ali Shan Zin Hsuan. Both are medium roasted oolongs.
You might want to try Mountain tea’s options. They have a seperate categorization for Dark oolongs vs roasted.
I think the above is correct that there’s a drying step, but in terms of additional roasting to modify the tea’s taste, there’s a big continuum, in terms of amount, type, and intensity. It’s this baking or roasting after the drying that folks usually refer to as “roasting”.
If you’re interested in oolongs that are heavily oxidized but don’t have a “roasted” flavor, you could look at oriental beauty (“dongfang meiren”, “baihao oolong”, “Formosa oolong, etc.), also so-called Guifei (”concubine") tea (named after Yang Guifei), and certain dancongs. Tea Habitat in particular has a number of dancong with fairly high oxidation, and gentle roasting.
While both oxidation and roasting can give the dry leaf a dark appearance, when the leaves are brewed, it is easier to tell the difference from both the appearance and the texture. Oxidation over 15% will be very visible from the red color on the edges and / or surface of the tea. The color of the brewed tea can also be a clue.
Know also that certain greener style oolongs actually have the “red edge” torn off (intentionally). But of course, without at least some oxidation, a tea isn’t an oolong.
I would also have a look at this, which just gives a basic idea of how the process works.
If im not mistaken, Taiwanese Oriental Beauty is an example of such a tea. (ie. ~70 oxidation, not roasted)
Thanks to all so far! Great, helpful responses!
Hey Rachel, just saw this question.
The Wuyi Yan Cha teas are mostly roasted when they are sold in the general market, and the roasting happens a few weeks after production. However, lots of people also drink them ‘raw’, without having been roasted – it’s a different taste altogether, and the tea is tougher on the digestive system (so I’m told!).