Oolongs in China


During our recent buying trip to China we were fortunate enough to be able to explore Hua’an County in Fujian Province. We discovered the most wonderful oolongs and wanted to share a little about them with you.

Our oolongs (Yellow Gold Oolong and Oriental Oolong) are both from Fujian. It takes a tremendous amount of skill to make good oolongs and the knowledge is passed down through the generations. 

We had a hairy ride from Xiamen deep into the mountains in Hua’an where we met with a very inspiring family who had opened a farm and tea garden in 2003 and worked very hard to cultivate the land, bring the tea bushes to prime condition, build roads, constructed terrace fields and laid out irrigation systems. They are very committed to protecting the environment and have adopted a unique way of planting special trees to avoid insect attack at the tea garden. The irrigation system also used spring water without any pollution, which is drawn into each corner of the garden assisted by special solar panels.

We spent many hours exploring the tea “garden”, which actually involved a fair bit of hiking up a mountain (again!) Then we had lunch with Master Lei and his family before exploring the factory and tasting the teas.

To make Yellow Gold Oolong you start by having well cared for tea bushes and a Tea Master like Master Lei who is committed to high standards and ethical practices. Next, many hours are spent in the field plucking the three leaves and the bud required. The leaves are then withered in the sun and rolled three times on a bamboo roller with a two hour rest in between. It’s important to control the temperature and humidity at this stage or you risk losing the special fragrance of the leaves. Next, the leaves are baked for a few minutes and then rolled in a muslin like bag to achieve the desired shape. The tea is then put back in the oven at 60 degrees to dry and stop any further oxidation. It’s then alternately hand-rolled and fired for a number of times to bring the moisture from the inside of the leaf to the outside and to give the leaf its unique flavour and character.

Finally any remaining twigs are removed (they use static rollers for this just as we’ve seen in India and Sri Lanka previously). I learnt that they leave the twigs in during processing otherwise the tea wouldn’t ferment properly and the liquor would be bitter.

At last the oolong is finished and ready for tasting. Oolongs like Yellow Gold are sometimes referred to as “desert island tea”, as they cannot be lived without. I have a particular soft spot for oolongs as they can have the best bits of black and green teas but with a whole special depth of their own. They are a contradiction of flavours that blend together perfectly; light yet full of flavour, fresh yet mature taste, orchid-like fragrance but with an unmistakable earthy taste. Yellow Gold is a well twisted leaf that looks like emerald green knots and the liquor is golden yellow with a bouquet of floral flavours. To discover more about eteaket’s oolongs please click here or pop into our Tea Boutique in Edinburgh.

More on our Chinese adventures, including the mystery of Pu-Erh soon.

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