Due to the numerous health benefits associated with oolong tea, it is rapidly becoming a favorite among tea connoisseurs. With this interest, it’s only natural that one would develop a sense of curiosity when it comes to the origins and production process of oolong tea. Also, a significant amount of work and vigilance goes into the entire process, and knowing about it makes one appreciate the product even more.
If you’re one of the people experiencing this curiosity, then you’re in luck! Today we’ll be discussing the production process behind this aromatic and beneficial beverage.
After the tea leaves are harvested from the crops, they are left exposed to sunlight to initiate the withering process. This removes excess moisture from the leaves, making it more suitable for immersion in water and eventual consumption. In addition to being exposed to direct sunlight, the leaves are also tossed and shaken in specially made baskets to further hasten the withering process. This withering is what triggers the oxidation process of the leaves.
While the above may sound as simple as just dumping leaves on the ground in the sun and shaking them in baskets, a significant amount of calculation goes into the entire exercise. Numerous factors including temperature, humidity, light intensity, and wind direction, are taken into consideration before the withering stage is initiated.
“Fixing” refers to the halting of the oxidation which is initiated during the withering stage of production. Depending on the type of oolong tea that is desired, the leaves are put through intense heat to kill the enzymes contained in the leaves that are involved in oxidation. This is where the tea leaves begin to properly dry and the signature taste of oolong tea begins to develop.
However, workers have to remain vigilant throughout the process as too much drying can negatively impact the taste and can even destroy the leaves beyond salvaging, leading to a significant loss.
Rolling is a further continuation of the bruising process during the withering stage and contributes to the shape of the leaves which is seen in the finished product. It also helps in developing the flavor profile as this stage breaks down the cellular walls of the tea leaves, releasing essential oils and enzymes that define the signature taste of oolong tea.
Even though the tea leaves have been drying since the initial withering stage, the leaves are still left to dry as moisture needs to be properly removed. This ensures that the tea can be stored for a significant time, as any unwanted moisture can cause it to spoil earlier than desired.
Finally, there is the sorting stage of the entire process. Once the leaves are sufficiently dry, workers sort the dried leaves into different categories and quality levels. Unwanted debris is removed and the tea is boxed, either as loose-leaf oolong or ground tea or even tea bags. The quality control element of production also comes into play at this stage, as workers sort the tea leaves into different batches depending on the quality of tea that different leaves would produce.
We hope this article has been educational for you. If you’re looking for a reputable tea and coffee company to buy your own batch of oolong tea, or to learn more interesting facts about it, be sure to check out the Kent & Sussex Tea Company.