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The Perfect Brew: Oolong Tea

Oolongs are the wide, wide category of tea in between green and black, and through skilled, labor-intensive processing, a tea-maker can coax anything from buttery florals to deep chocolate to roasted nuts to tropical fruit out of a single batch of leaves. The tea water is greenish to yellowish with the roasted ones producing an amber to dark red tea water.

While good growing conditions certainly matter, the quality of an oolong is largely dependent on the processing of it. Get something wrong and a batch may reek of grandma’s perfume or taste as charred as a steak from the barbecue. Get it right, though, and you have a tea with marvelous complexity, one that develops and evolves in your cup more than any black or green tea. Some oolongs can be steeped a dozen times or more, and by the time you’re finished, the final steep may feel like it’s from a totally different tea. (Try that with your English breakfast and all you’ll get is brown water.)

  • As a general rule of thumb let the water heat to 180°F to 200°F, which you can measure using a thermometer or simply eyeball it.
  • Steep for 1 – 5 minutes depending on how strong a taste preference you have.
  • You will need 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons of oolong tea (less for rolled-style tea, more for leaf-style tea) per 6 0z cup.
  • The exact amount of time will depend on the particular tea, the size and shape of the leaves, and your personal preference. Leaf-style oolong teas typically infuse more quickly than ball or rolled-style oolong teas.
  • Taste the tea at the 1-minute mark and then every 30 seconds until it’s just right for you.


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