Oolong Beginner

38 Replies
Angrboda said

Okay, I’m going to say something mildly controversial now. Forget other people’s parameters and methods. Or rather, don’t discard them completely, but don’t stick to them like glue, doggedly making your tea like another person would. Use them as inspiration in your own experiments. Try it out, but if the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t be afraid to play around with it. Slightly higher or lower temperature, more or less leaf, longer or shorter steeping time. A person making a parameter recommendation might like their tea much stronger or much weaker than you do.

Contrary to belief, it’s not an accurate science because people’s tastes are different and there can be differences from oolong to oolong as well. Pithy mentioned harvest year above as an important quality factor to pay attention to. There will be differences between an old tea and a newer tea. There will even be differences from harvest to harvest. You can’t expect a 100% success rate. The best you can get is a Golden Middle Way where you will mostly get a really good cup and sometimes just a nice one.

Personally, for a dark oolong I use about two or three heaped teaspoons to 500 ml water around 90°C. For a greener type oolong I use the same temperature I would for green tea. Before I had the bodum kettle which gives me a handful of temperature settings, I would merely boil the water and eiter take it when I could hear it was close to boiling or let it boil and wait a minute or two with the kettle lid open, or maybe if I was in a hurry, add a splash of cold tap water to it. Whether I took it before or after did not make any difference to me. Then I steep it for 1 minute and that’s it.

As The Seattle Tea Snob mentioned, using teaspoons is a wildly inaccurate way of doing it from cup to cup, but I can’t be messing about with scales. These days I know how much space my preferred amount of leaves take up inside the pot, so I can get a modicum of consistency quite easily, but now and then there should have been more or there should have been less. I can deal with that. Also again, not an exact science.

Here’s something else that might not be for the weak of heart; what’s the fun if there wasn’t that small risk of it coming out less well? Variation is good for us and it makes us appreciate the awesome cups all the more when the stars align and it all works out as it should. Variation may even bring out notes in a given tea that would not have come out otherwise.

I consider myself fairly experienced in making oolongs that are right for me these days. (The keywords here being ‘right for me’) I took the recommendations of the person who introduced me to the type, and gradually tweaked them and experimented until I arrived at this point.

Generally I just don’t think food and drink should be treated as if it was a chemistry experiment. If something doesn’t suit me, I’ll change it. Or if a recipe calls for Herb A and I haven’t got any, I’ll just use Herb B instead or leave it out. And somehow I still manage to produce a nice meal anyway.

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Missy said

I’m reviving this thread because I need some information on oolongs. While I could read every single oolong tea tasting note, I think this will be more efficient.

So here we go. I would like to know if there is an oolong out there that isn’t floral. I mean I would pick floral as a descriptor only if it was the last word on the planet after the apocalypse. I have tried only one oolong. I would swear it had an up-close and personal relationship with jasmine and some other flower I can’t name. I’ve read several different descriptions that lead me to believe that they too may be floral. I also read some descriptions that indicate hope for a bright future with oolong. If there is please point me in the right direction.

Really I just want to be part of the cool kids club and be able to say oolonging. (nod to Krystaleyn)

Hi Missy: I think you will find that many Oolong teas do have a floral tone to them, but some are less floral than others. Generally speaking, the darker the leaf, the less floral the taste. This is not true with every Oolong, but, I find it to work as a general guideline.

Right off the top of my head, I’d recommend trying a Wuyi Rock Oolong or a Darjeeling Oolong like this one: http://sororiteasisters.com/2012/03/08/castleton-autumn-oolong-from-rare-tea-republic/

You might also try this Hunan Red Oolong: http://sororiteasisters.com/2012/01/13/hunan-red-oolong-from-imperial-tea-garden/

This Kenyan Oolong is nice too: http://sororiteasisters.com/2012/01/09/kenya-oolong-from-simpson-vail/

or an Oriental Beauty Oolong like this might be to your liking: http://sororiteasisters.com/2010/08/14/oriental-beauty-from-cloudwalker-teas/

Hope this helps.

DC said

Hi Missy,
If your flora scent refers to jasmine (though I’m not sure what extent), odds are it may be a scented oolong- i.e. not a ‘pure’ oolong

Here is a summary of oolongs:
To help you find your oolong
4 major categories of Chinese/Taiwanese oolongs by their area of origins:
i) Minbei (Northern Fujian)- These are darker, leaf form (as opposed to beads) such as the Wuyi Cliff/Rock Teas including Big Red Robe, Cockscomb, Iron Arhat, Wuyi Narcissus (Shuixian), Wuyi Cinnamon Bark (Rougui)
Tends to be more full flavored and aromatic- darker in tea liquor as well.

ii) Minnan Oolong (Southern Fujian)- Lighter, beaded leaves- by far the most famous variety is Anxi Iron Goddess (Tieguanyin) followed by Huangjingui, Yongchun Foshou
Has a lighter taste, less oxidized compared to Minbei Oolongs.

iii) Taiwanese Oolongs- because of its proximity to Southern Fujian, you can see a lot of similarities in its production methods.
Like Minnan Oolongs, they are less fermented, lighter taste and in some cases (Jingxuan, Cuiyu) milky as well.
Famous breeds include Dongding, Alishan, Lishan, Cuiyu, Jingxuan and Oriental Beauty as mentioned by LiberTeas above.

Iv) Guangdong Oolongs- Quite similar in appearance to Minbei Oolongs, these are mainly Dancongs grown in Phoenix Mountain and its surroundings.
Guangdong Dancongs have a fruity taste though lower grade ones are artificially flavored and loses its taste after 2-3 infusions.
Famous varieties include Phoenix Dancong and the variations of it, Milanxiang, Buyexiang etc

If you want to see a visual comparison of the 4 types of oolong, you can take a look at my blog http://peonyts.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/visually-comparing-the-4-main-sub-categories-of-oolong/

In recent years, there have been other areas in China that started producing oolong such as Hunan, Sichuan but they have yet to reach the popularity of the 4 above hence most writers do not categorize them.

Hope this helps

chadao said

I also recommend trying a rock oolong, as they tend to have a more roasty flavor. As far as Dan Cong oolongs, I have tasted anywhere from heavy roast to highly fruity and floral.

Missy said

@LiberTEAS Thank you for your response. I knew about your blog but totally neglected to try searching for oolongs there. Your tea blog is the first I’ve ever stumbled across. It’s funny I never realized I could look at reviews based on type of tea. I suspected it might be a case of darker oolongs being less floral. I read several tasting notes and that seemed to be the theme. Now off with me to add these teas to my shopping list. I’ll never remember the names if I don’t.

@Derek Chew Thank you for your response. There is a good amount of information here. The oolong I tried was named high mountain oolong. The gentleman that sold it to me said it would be some thing much like iron goddess. In the pictures on your blog it sure looks like that as well.

Missy said

Thank you for the recommendation chadao. :D

DC said

@ Missy- High Mountain Oolong is a means of classification- Gaoshan and Pingdi- High mountain & flat lands.
If it merely shows high mountain oolong, most likely it is Taiwanese.
Don’t let it turn you off Taiwanese oolongs, many of them are rich and roasted- like Mushan Tieguanyin, Sanlinxi etc
Happy tasting!
On a personal note, not a day goes by that I do not drink something from Minbei (Mt Wuyi)- Rougui, Shuixian, Dahongpao, Cockscomb etc.
Can’t say the same for everyone but that’s my personal favorite.

Missy said

Thanks for clearing that up. I figure right now I’ll try roasted oolongs and see how that goes. I mean to try many different teas. It’s always exciting to get a new tea and find out what it tastes like. That’s my excuse for not settling for a few teas I like to drink. :D

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darby select said

I am not a big fan of Oolongs. My inlaws gave me Teavanas Phoenix Mountain Dan Cong for XMAS. I was disappointed until I tried it – VERY NICE! I don’t get floral from it either.


Missy said

I’ll have to try this one out. Thanks for the heads up. :D

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chadao said

Derek Chew, where do you get your cockscomb/rooster crest? My favorite tea company has stopped selling it, and I have always wanted to try it…

DC said

China directly, on my sourcing trips
One of the many teas I buy for my personal consumption waiting for the day that it is commercially viable for me to sell

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