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There’s not a single taste, aroma, or style that identifies oolong tea. Oolong comes in a lot of different flavors, ranging from sweet and fruity to thick and woody. It depends on how the tea was cultivated and prepared. What identifies oolong tea are its levels of oxidation and its oxidation process. Oolong is baked or roasted in the last stage of manufacture, which makes it unique among teas.
Making Your Tea
Like many other teas, there isn’t one perfect way to brew oolong tea. There are different kinds of oolong, and the leaves can come in different sizes and oxidation levels. You may have to tweak steeping times to accommodate these variations and bring out the best in your tea leaves. This guide is more of a basic way to brew oolong, and you can base variations that suit your tastes on the techniques and guidelines you’ll find here.
You can use all kinds of teapots to brew this tea. The Chinese Gaiwan and clay yixing teapot are great for steeping a lot of tea leaves in a shorter period. The yixing is particularly good if you’re a serious tea drinker and you’re interested in learning the traditional Chinese way of brewing tea. However, you can also use a ceramic or glass teapot. If you don’t like letting perfectly good tea go to waste and you’re the only one who will be drinking it anyway, you can use an infuser to make a single cup. Keep in mind, though, that the infuser should have enough space for the tea leaves to expand and release their flavor fully.
Loose leaf tea or tea bags?
At this point, you may be asking: what’s the difference between using loose tea leaves and using tea bags? It turns out that there’s a lot of discernible differences. For one thing, loose tea leaves tend to be fresher and tend to create better-tasting tea. Tea bags constrict the expansion of the tea leaves, thereby hindering the leaves from fully releasing their flavor. The tea leaves in tea bags are also of lower quality and are not guaranteed to be fresh. Drinking tea from a bag won’t kill you, but you might get your Serious Tea Drinker card revoked if you do. Of course, you probably won’t always have fresh loose leaf tea available to you, so tea bags are the alternative. It’s better to use teabags that come in the shape of pyramids, because they give the leaves more space to expand and release flavor.
You can adjust the tea-to-water ratio to suit your tastes, but there is a prescribed ratio that is best for oolong tea. For every six ounces of water, you can use the following amounts of tea: two teaspoons if the leaves are rolled into balls, a fourth to two teaspoons if the leaves are rolled into strips, or one to two teaspoons if the leaves are mostly whole. You can also use two to three grams of tea instead, no matter in which form the tea leaves come.
You can always experiment with these ratios to get the exact flavor you want.
All kinds of water can be used to make tea, though there are some considerations that you might want to consider. It’s usually best to use filtered water, though spring water is also good. Distilled water tends to taste flat, though many tea drinkers prefer it. Tap water is also fine, but it tends to be chlorinated and comes with impurities that can affect how the tea tastes. Whichever kind of water you use, make sure that it is fresh and cold when you boil it, and that it has not been boiled before.
If your tea kettle has temperature control, heat your water to temperatures ranging from 185 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature range is ideal for oolong, because it’s not too hot that it breaks down the tea’s aromatic chemicals. If your kettle does not have temperature control, you can instead watch the water as it boils. Once you notice large bubbles come up to the surface of the water in what look like streams or ropes, turn the heat off. This, however, works if you’re close to sea level. If you live on a higher elevation, above 3,000 feet, you can just bring the water to a rolling boil.
Rinse and steep
Before you steep your tea, you need to rinse it out first. Put the tea in the pot and pour in just enough boiling water to cover the leaves. Pour the water out right away and avoid losing any tea leaves. You can use a strainer or infuser to do this properly. This step prepares the leaves for steeping and releasing flavor, and it also washes away any impurities that might still be present.
Remember your tea-to-water ratio as you pour the water for steeping into the pot. Let the tea steep for two to five minutes, depending on how strong you want it to be. You can either lessen the tea leaves you use or shorten the steeping time if you find the tea too strong for your tastes, or you can add more leaves and opt for a longer steeping time if you want the tea to be stronger.
Benefits and Risks
Oolong has a lot of anti-oxidants as well as vitamins and minerals. It can also help your metabolism and keep help you manage your weight. There have also been experiments that suggest that drinking oolong three times a day can help people with eczema manage their condition. Oolong has also been found to prevent osteoporosis, control diabetes, and lower the risk of cancer.
However, despite these benefits, you need to keep in mind that oolong has caffeine. If you have anxiety or caffeine sensitivity, it’s best to avoid this tea. If you have no problems with consuming caffeine, though, oolong tea is great for keeping you alert and awake throughout the day and healthy throughout your life.
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