Tag Archive for Oolong Tea

Tea 201 - English Tea

While the English are known for drinking copious amounts of tea, we all know by now that they did not invent the leaf.  So…how did the leaf migrate from Asia to the British Isles?

Tea first reached Europe by the way of Dutch and Portuguese traders in 1610.  There is a legend that King Charles II grew up in exile in Portugal and become accustomed to drinking tea.  In fact, he married Catharine of Braganza who was both Portuguese and an avid tea drinker.  It is said that when she came to England to marry the monarch, she brought with her a casket of tea.  She was known as England’s first tea-drinking queen.

It is also said that it was the coffee houses of London that brought the teas for the masses.  One of the first was a house owned by Thomas Garway who started selling the drink and leaves in 1657.  In as 35tt3e as three years, he began advertising the selling of tea at £6 and £10!

Tea gained popularity in the 1700.  However, it was to the distress of the tea owners as it cut their sales of gin and ale.  This was also bad news for the government who depended on the revenue of liquor taxes.  In 1676, the government tried to slow the growing popularity by putting a tax on tea.  By the mid 18th century, the tax had reached as high as 199%!  So the Brits created a whole new industry: tea smuggling.

Once tea became more accepted and the taxes lifted, this allowed for the creation of a new tea custom: Afternoon tea.  It is said that Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford created the idea of afternoon tea as a bridge to gap lunch and dinner.  This eventually led to the popularity of cream tea for not only the high classes but the working classes as well.  This then enabled tea to embed itself into all aspects of British culture.

What a fascinating history, no?  I love a good cup of Cream Tea, don’t you?

Tea 201 - Blue Teas - Why Oolongs are Special

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.

Chinese Tea Mythology: The Big Red Robe

Da Hong Pao's Big Red Robe

Da Hong Pao's Big Red Robe

Da Hong Pao is a well known oolong tea from Wuyi Mountains of the Fujian province of China. There are four types of teas grown in this area and Da Hon Pao (Big Red Robe Tea) is by far the most popular.

According to legends , there was an emperor in the Ming Dynasty whose mother had grown gravely ill. The mother was given a cup of tea and within merely moments she began to recover. The emperor was so grateful that he had copious amounts of a rare red cloth to cover the trees during that winter to ensure their survival. The locals then began to call the tree Big Red Robe in honor of the cloth that was wrapped around these trees.

There are other legends that state that it was not the mother but the wife of the emperor who fell deathly ill. These legends tell the story that the empress grew up in the Wuyi Mountains and her illness was due to homesickness.

The emperor loved his wife dearly and employed any and every doctor of the land to try and save his wife. However, nothing could be done to save the dying empress.

Then there came a pious farmer who greatly loved the emperor and lived but a stone’s throw from where the empress originated. He prayed, hoping to glean and idea on how to save his beloved emperor’s wife. One night, he dreamed that a goddess came to him and told him the cure: a gnarled bush that grew on a high and steep cliff. The farmer bravely scaled the cliff and retrieved a couple of leaves.

The leaves were immediately sent to the emperor, who decided to take the risk and make the tea. As soon as the tea touched the lips of the empress, she was reminded of her home and quickly began to regain her health.

The emperor was so pleased and grateful that he gave the farmer imperial red robes to honor the farmer for his services of the emperor and his wife. In response, the farmer then called the tea ‘red robe tea’ and the tea was picked yearly for the empress to remind her of her home.

I think it’s such a beautiful story. I also believe that it speaks volumes on the healing power of tea. It may not bring people from the brink of death, but curing homesickness….sure thing. What do you think, dear readers?

Morning Tea #25 - Oolong Tea

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Today's cup is a generic Oolong Tea from YamaMotoYama.

This oolong is pretty basic. It tastes pretty much like any average oolong you would get at any neighborhood Chinese restaurant.

The flavor is medium, not drab but nothing special either. The aroma reminds me of a pretty decent Ti Kuan Yin though, so there's something redeemable.

What's in your cup?

Morning Tea #24 - Da Hong Pao

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Today's cup is a Da Hong Pao Oolong Tea from PeLi Teas.

This tea brewed up a bit strong. A nice hearty aroma with strong roasted notes and deep vegetal overtones.

The flavor is strong with similar roasted notes, but little of the vegetal qualities came through. This tea has a nice body with some astringency in the finish.

What's in your cup?