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QTrade Teas & Herbs provides specialty teas, herbs, spices, custom blending, product development, and private label services to businesses all over the world. We are the largest importer of organic teas in North America, with an expanding selection of flowers, fruits, and berries. (949) 766-0070 www.qtradeteas.com

Tea Basics 107: What is Oolong Tea?

What is Oolong Tea? Oolong is one of the most complex categories of tea. It has the widest range of color and flavor and is the most intricate in its production.

Grown almost exclusively in China and Taiwan, the word “oolong” literally means “black dragon” in Chinese.


One of the best known varieties of Oolong is known as “Tie Kwan Yin” or “Iron Goddess” tea. Legend says that a poor farmer noticed that the temple that housed an iron statue of Kwan Yin the goddess of Mercy was in disrepair. Being only a poor farmer, this man did his best to repair the temple with what few materials he had. On his way home from the temple (or in a dream, in some versions) the goddess appeared to him and told him where he could find a treasure behind her temple. In the place where the goddess indicated stood a tea bush. He took cuttings from the plant home and grew it. The proceeds from the leaves made him prosperous.


The craft of Oolong tea production has been perfected through generations of Chinese artistry. Once plucked, these leaves go through a complex drying and heating process which make the tea come alive in the cup.

One of the unique characteristics of Oolong tea is that after being plucked and withered they immediately go through a process of rolling. Sometimes this rolling is done by hand. In these instances the tea master will gather the leaves into a piece of cloth and roll/ compress them into a ball using his own body weight. Sometimes the leaves are allowed to oxidize between rollings yielding an even darker liquor.

Color and Flavor

Oolongs can range in color from a faint, naive green to a dark, brooding orange. The level of oxidation varies widely according to the variety of oolong, how tightly it is rolled, and other contributing factors such as the terroir it was grown in.  Some oolongs are mild and subtle others are rich and toasty. This variety is part of this category’s appeal.

Brewing Oolong Tea

Generally speaking, we recommend that you steep 3 grams of Oolong (roughly two teaspoons) per cup at about 190 degrees Fahrenheit. One of the benefits of a tightly rolled tea is that it is often conducive to multiple steepings. With each successive cup different flavors can be detected.

Have questions about this post? Ideas for future posts? Leave us a comment below! We love to hear from our readers.

www.QTradeTeas.com | (949) 766-0070 | info@qtradeteas.com
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2 Comments on “Tea Basics 107: What is Oolong Tea?”

  1. Shawnee September 13, 2012 at 2:19 am #

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    • QTrade September 18, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

      Thanks Shawnee!We hope you stop by often.

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