Chinese Oolongs are a relatively recent development. While green tea was the norm for thousands of years, the Chinese began to produce oolong tea and quickly learned to perfect it, now producing some wonderful oolong teas. The Chinese call fire the teacher of tea. To this day even with the advent of electricity used in the production of heat for tea making instead of charcoal, the methodology of oxidizing and firing their tea has not changed in terms of the production of the finest oolongs. Some of the more commonly found oolong teas are:
A rare tea from the Fujian province, a Bohea called Yancha is grown on cliffs, from which the myth of “monkey picked tea” has arisen. Contrary to marketing propaganda, no tea is actually picked by monkeys.
Iron Goddess of Mercy (Tieh Kuan Yin or Ti Quan Yin)
Ranked one of China’s ten most famous teas, this tea is best made gongfu style, with the leaves placed in a small pot for steeping and poured into tiny cups for drinking. This is a very strong tea, but is nearly unparalleled in terms of fruitiness, aroma, and depth of flavor.
Water Sprite/Narcissus (Shuixian)
Phoenix Select (Fenghuang Dancong)
The Shuixian tea plant grown almost nowhere outside of the Funian Province of China, and its leaves must be specially processed due to their thickness and texture. The Phoenix Select is such a tall tree, that pickers must use ladders to harvest the leaves. Both of these teas are of excellent quality, but are not commonly found in the west. Hairy Crab (Maoxi) and Big Red Robe (Da Hong Pao) are some known varieties (Maoxi being a favorite of mine) and all of these oolongs are quite distinct from each other. All are best consumed gongfu style.