Tea 201 – Blue Teas – Why Oolongs are Special

blue tea Tea 201   Blue Teas   Why Oolongs are Special

Blue Tea

Don’t panic! The tea is not really blue!  But it is a type of oolong.  It is actually partly oxidized mix of green and black tea collectively grouped as qīngchá (Chinese: 青茶; literally “blue-green tea”).

But that’s only a part of the category that is oolong.  What is oolong? Why is it so special?  According to some the oolong is considered to be the most complicated tea produced.  One tea master, Lin Zhi, likened tea to painting.    He compared oolongs to oils paintings, green tea to Chinese ink paintings and black teas to water colors.

The word Oolong (or Wulong) comes from the Chinese word 烏龍 meaning ‘black dragon tea.’

There is a legend that during the Ming Dynasty, there was a ban on tea production for about 150 years.  The tea makers essentially had to find different techniques. There were some (likely Buddhist monks) who had invented charcoal roasting techniques in drying their teas.  This slow charcoal roasting along with the oxidization became the defining flavor of Oolong is today.

If you have to look at oolongs more literally, green tea is one extreme while black tea is the other.  Oolongs are the ‘middle ground’ of teas, so to speak.  Greens are not oxidized; black is completely oxidized while the oolongs are everything in between.  The complexity of the tea is due to the fact that oolong is not completely oxidized like black teas.  There’s not even an exact science as to how much the tea can be oxidized to be considered oolong.  The range is anywhere between 15%-75% oxidation.  Because of this fact, the flavor of oolongs is never officially consistent.  The flavors have been known to wood and thick with roasted aromas, green and fresh with a bouquet or sweet and fruity with honey aromas.

The combinations are mind boggling.  But I love the idea of a tea flavor being a form of roulette, you never know what kind of flavor you’ll get.

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Tea 201 – Chinese vs Japanese Green Teas

chinese vs japanese greens Tea 201   Chinese vs Japanese Green Teas

Chinese vs Japanese Green Teas

In the beginning there was a plant.  A green plant. Well…Green tea.   Grown in either Japan or China, this plant is harvested the same way but when it comes to the processing, there are differences:

Chinese – these green teas are mainly roasted or oven dried or sometimes steamed.  Other times the methods are combined.  Some examples are Biluochen (roasted then oven), Zhuyeqing (all three methods) or Houkui (simply ovened).

Japanese – is mainly steamed because it allows the tea to maintain its bright green color and more attractive.  There are sometimes that the tea is pan-roasted.

There are also a lot of varieties in the Chinese green teas.  There are about nine different shapes like loose balls (Dragon Pearls), tight balls (Gunpowder), or gently curled (White Monkey Paw).  There are those with flowers and fruits and others have jasmine.  It is also said that Chinese teas are more likely to be hand-processed instead of made in a factory; however that is only speculation.

Japanese green teas only come in two varieties: needles shaped pieces (Sencha and Gyokuro) and powder (Matcha).   There is also a type of green tea (Sencha) that is mixed with roasted rice that is quite popular in Japan.  It is called Genmaicha.  It is said that it goes quite well with stir-fried foods.

There is also the geographic variety between the teas.  In China, green teas are grown in 15 different provinces while Japan is not big enough to have 15 different provinces.

Who would have thought that there would be such a difference in green teas?  Here’s a challenge: the next time you go to buy green tea, try to found out its origin.  Is it Chinese?  Is it Japanese? Then consider and compare the flavors, do you notice a difference?

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Morning Cup #54 – Organic Green Jasmine

MorningCup Morning Cup #54   Organic Green Jasmine

My mug decided on a nice lightly floral Organic Green Jasmine from Hampstead Tea this morning.

This black tea blend has a wonderfully matched black tea with what taste like orange with a hint of pineapple. The aroma contains mostly orange and lemon scents. I think the black tea is a Ceylon, but I have no confirmation of that. Either way, give this one a try.

mc 00054 Morning Cup #54   Organic Green Jasmine

Morning Cup #54

What’s in your cup?

Posted in Bagged Tea, Chinese Tea, Fair Trade, Flavored Tea, Floral Tea, Green Tea, Morning Cup, Organic, Tea, Tea Bags | No Comments »

Morning Cup #42 – Organic Brown Rice with Green Tea

MorningCup Morning Cup #42   Organic Brown Rice with Green Tea

A Korean made Organic Brown Rice with Green Tea from Daehan Tea.

This tea is known better as either Genmaicha or Popcorn Tea. Either name effuses the correct picture though. This brews up aromatic and comforting. The roasted notes making it into the aroma nicely while keeping the senses from getting excited.

In the mouth this brews with only the tiniest of astringency and vegetal undertones. The rice takes care of calming both down.

mc 00042 Morning Cup #42   Organic Brown Rice with Green Tea

Morning Cup #42

What’s in your cup?

Posted in Bagged Tea, Flavored Tea, Green Tea, Morning Cup, Organic, Tea, USDA Organic | No Comments »

Chinese Tea Mythology: Yellow Mountain Fur Peak

huangshan Chinese Tea Mythology: Yellow Mountain Fur Peak

Huangshan

This green tea (also known as Huangshan Maofeng) is grown in the mountains of Huangshan (which translates to Yellow Mountain) in the Anhui province of China.  The rest of the tea’s name is derived from the furry down that is found on the bud when picked.  Once brewed, the tea becomes a yellow liquid that is well known for its flowery flavor.  It is said to have a gentle flavor of apricots and orchids.

The legend of this tea’s origin is actually a love story.

There was once a beautiful young tea picker.  She had fallen in love with a young and handsome scholar and he, too, was in love with her.  Their love was not meant to be.  A wealthy landowner saw the tea picker one day and became mesmerized with her beauty.  He knew that he must have her.  He went to the tea picker’s parents and convinced them to allow him to marry their daughter.  On the night before her wedding, the beautiful tea picker snuck out of her house and ran to her lover’s home.  She had wanted to see her handsome scholar at least one more time before she was wed to another man.  When she arrived at the scholar’s home, she was horrified to find that her lover had been murdered by the wealthy landowner.  The tea picker managed to find her lover’s grave.  She sat at the grave and wept.  She wept for days and nights until eventually she turned into the rain itself.  She continued to rain onto the grave until the first Maofeng tree grew.  The scholar’s body had become the tree.

What do you think of this story, dear readers?  Like any other myth on tea is full of magic and mystery.  I think it is a beautiful story.

Posted in Article, Chinese Tea, Green Tea, Legends, Loose Tea, Mythology, Myths, Stories | No Comments »