Oolong tea, or Wu-long can best be described as a type of tea ‘between green and black tea’. The withered leaves from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) go through an oxidation process similar to black tea, but with a shorter oxidation process. The degree of oxidation determines if the oolong will be closer to green tea or to black tea. A longer oxidation process (known as the fermentation process) will result in a darker tea (more like a black tea), and a shorter oxidation process will result in a lighte tea (more like a green tea). The degree of oxidation can range between 10 to 90 % depending on the variety and production style.
Different varieties of oolong are processed differently, and the leaves are typically formed into one of two distinct styles; rolled into long curly leaves, or 'wrap-curled' into small beads with a little ‘tail’.
The taste of oolong ranges amongst various subvarieties. The flavours can be sweet and fruity with honey aromas, or woody and earthy with roasted aromas, or green and fresh with flowery aromas, all depending on cultivation and style of production.
Oolong teas are mainly produced in Taiwan and China. The Taiwan oolongs are generally more floral and sweeter in taste and the Chinese oolongs are often stronger tasting with a more earthy, roasted taste.
The name oolong comes from Chinese and means ‘Black Dragon’.