The Production of Oolong Tea
Almost exclusively produced in China and Formosa (Taiwan), Oolong teas fall between the non-oxidized green teas and the fully oxidized black teas. They are processed to be full-bodied teas, and are therefore made from larger, more mature leaves.
Step 1: Withering
Immediately upon plucking, the leaves are spread out in direct sunlight to wither for about 30-40 minutes. Withering reduces the moisture content and softens the leaves.
Step 2: Bruising
The leaves are then put into bamboo baskets and shaken briskly to bruise the leaf edges and “jump start” the oxidative process.
Step 3: Oxidation
In the next step, the leaves are spread out in the shade (outside, or indoors) to dry for about 6-8 hours. The process of shaking and spreading of the leaves is repeated numerous times. The bruised leaf edges begin to turn red through the oxidation process while the centers of the leaves remain green.
The amount of fermentation depends on the type of Oolong and can vary from approximately 20% for a “green” Oolong, to 60% for a classic Formosa Oolong.
Step 4: Pan-Firing
Once the desired level of oxidation (sometimes still inaccurately referred to as “fermentation”) is reached, the process must be halted immediately. This is done by pan-firing the leaves at high temperatures to kill the enzyme in the leaf, which does result in even further oxidation.
Our favorite iced tea is our “Almond Oolong” a classic Formosa Oolong base with many peach notes, with the addition of California Almond slivers and Red Clover blossoms grown here on our farm.
The “straight” Oolongs that we grow and offer in a limited edition series are our “White Oolong” (an “Oriental-Beauty” style) and a rich “Black Oolong” (full leaf more deeply oxidized) version, also in limited amounts.