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Oolong Tea

Tea has long been a popular drink around the world, following the original use in Asia. An increasingly popular tea is Oolong tea, and although not as well known as Earl Grey or English breakfast, it does have a popular following in Asia, Europe and the United States.

Oolong tea is a traditional Chinese tea, and is classed as a blue-green tea, although it can range in color from green to black. This color differentiation comes about by levels in oxidation. Many people like the distinctive taste that although not as rosy as black tea does have less of the grassy taste associated with green tea. Oolong tea actually has a range of varieties including Taiwanese, from the country's mountain ranges, and the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian. It is the latter venue that is often said to be the original source for the tea.

When the Oolong tea leaves are picked they can be either rolled into long curly leaves or into balls, although the curly leaves approach is the more popular processing method. Processing is normally a long set of steps which are altered to change the strength and taste of the tea. The leaves are left to dry in the sun to remove a proportion of the moisture. The Oolong tea leaves are then put into the shade to cool them down. The leaves are then deliberately bruised to allow for greater oxidation. The cooling and bruising are then repeated a number of times, depending on how much oxidation is required. Further oxidation is then stopped by applying heat, either through a machine or in a large pan.

The last parts of processing for Oolong tea comes about through dehydration and roasting. This last step allows, through changes in temperature, a different taste to be applied to the tea.

The tea is then ready to drink. Common practice has Oolong tea brewed at about 95 °C, never boiling, using spring water. The spring water allows the taste of the minerals to come out in the finished tea. Most people will brew Oolong tea to a strong level that will leave a sweet aftertaste. The best Oolong tea leaves can be used more than once and many people consider that it is only in their third use that the best flavors emerge. It is not uncommon for up to five brews to be taken from one set of leaves, unlike many other types of tea.

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