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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

PRODUCT: The Wonderful World Of Oolong Tea

Oolong means “black dragon” in Chinese, a reference to the appearance of the tea after it has been processed. The long, twisted, blackish-green leaves reminded the poetic Chinese person who named it, of a dragon. But the “black dragon” leaves produce a tea that is graceful, alluring and a world favorite.

Oolong is a relative newcomer to the ancient world of tea. It was developed in Formosa (Taiwan) in the mid-nineteenth century. A cool-climate tea, it is also grown in the misty hills of China’s Fujian province. While all oolongs are aromatic with a lingering finish, Chinese oolongs tend to be more green and floral, reminiscent of orchids. Formosan oolongs, which are oxidized and fired for a longer period, have a more ripe and fruity profile: hints of peach and apple flavor are typical.

We’ll take a moment to point out that the many hundreds of different tea styles all come from the same plant species: Camellia sinensis. As with grapes, coffee and other agricultural products, the distinctively different flavors and appearances of the different styles of tea are a result of terroir (pronounced tur-WAH, the microclimate where it is cultivated) and processing techniques. Learn more about tea in our Gourmet Tea Section.

 

Two of Republic Of Tea’s selections of oolong
tea. Photo courtesy RepublicOfTea.com.

If you like oolong, deepen your appreciation by trying different varieties—grown in different locations—and experience the differences of terroir. Republic of Tea, one of our favorite tea purveyors, offers oolong lovers a beautiful selection of oolongs.

Whether for yourself, a tea-tasting party or a gift for your favorite tea lover, the Republic Of Tea makes it easy to comparison-taste different oolongs. While some of the more rare teas may seem pricey at $13.50 to $37.00 per canister (22¢ to 62¢ per cup), it could be half that cost, since the full-leaf tea can be infused at least twice.

“Rare” refers to a tea that comes from a specific location—a single estate or an even smaller microsite— and by result of its small growing area, is available in limited quantities. It offers very complex flavors to the demanding palate. Don’t even think of adding milk and sugar or you’ll cover up the glory of a rare tea! (In fact, Republic Of Tea’s products are so fine in general that each one should be brewed properly and tasted straight. Milk and sugar are best used to enhance less flavorful teas.)

Take a look at these lovely hand-picked oolongs:

WHOLE LEAF LOOSE OOLONG TEAS

  • Ti Kuan Full-Leaf Tea. This tea from the Fujian province is named after the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, also known as the “Iron Goddess“—a reference to the large, iron-colored leaves. It has a fresh, orchid flavor and a clean finish.
  • Wuyi Oolong Full-Leaf Tea. This tea is named after the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian province, where it is grown. Its large, silver-tipped leaves and peachy flavor are distinctive, with additional notes of chestnut and honey. Highly aromatic and completely lacking in astringency, this oolong has the flowery upper register of a top-grade Darjeeling, but is rounder and deeper.
  • Imperial Republic Monkey Picked Oolong Rare Full-Leaf Tea. During the Chinese dynastic period, trained monkeys plucked the best tea leaves from the highest branches of the tea bushes. Monkeys are still used on a novelty basis, as the tea plants are pruned to bush height for easy plucking by humans. This oolong from the Fujian province has a floral hint with peach notes and a rich, toasty finish.
  • Imperial Republic Orchid Oolong Rare Full-Leaf Tea. This rare, mountain-grown tea builds on the natural orchid notes found in some oolongs, with the addition of essential orchids. The result is a dramatic floral presence: a fragrant orchid aroma with a refreshing, well-balanced flavor and a floral finish.
  • Old Bush Shui Xian Rare Oolong Full-Leaf Tea. This famous oolong tea originated from an old tea bush discovered near a cave dedicated to the Immortals of Daoism. The leaves are exceptionally long and fragrant. The tea starts light, intensifies with a rich flavor and ends with a smooth, slightly smoky finish.
  • Osmanthus Oolong Rare Estate Tea-Full Leaf. This Taiwan-grown oolong has a vivid fragrance. It is scented overnight with fresh, wild osmanthus flowers, and then is dried over fire. Sun-dried osmanthus flowers are then added to the processed tea, to enhance the fruity and floral characteristics.
  • OOLONG TEA BAGS

    There are two options for those who prefer tea bags to loose tea:

  • Black Dragon Oolong Tea Bags. The tea is from the lush, misty hills of the Fujian province.
  • Peach Blossom Oolong Tea Bags. This oolong tea is grown along winding mountain streams in the Fujian province. The added essence of spring peach blossoms compliments oolong’s natural fruity flavor.
  • Loose tea or tea bag, the Republic Of Tea’s airtight metal canisters keep the tea fresh (and can be repurposed when the original tea is gone). The attractive label designs are good for gifting.

    The teas are certified gluten-free and certified kosher by OU.





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