Fine oolongs make up a tea category of the most diverse tastes and aromas. Theirs are by far the most potent, distinct, and enjoyable in all fine teas. The various production styles and large range of cultivars give them unique combinations of flavonoids, carbohydrates, amino acids, sugars and essential oils that are not found in other categories. These substances are tea’s building blocks of gastronomic qualities.
The aroma of an oolong can be warm and nutty like freshly roasted arabica beans, or it can have more bouquet fragrance than a bunch of flowers. Its body can be full and fruity, or strong and dry. The texture can range from velvety rich to tinkly silky. This is by far the most colourful of all tea categories.
The formation of these taste substances is a result of the carefully executed "partial-fermentation" processing that produce these tealeaves. Traditional practices differ hugely from automated processes not only in taste quality, but also in the great diversity of tea varieties. Quality in production attentiveness and expertise is naturally proportional to the quality of the tea selection.
Confusingly, oolong is not only a category name but also a name used by some particular tea varieties, e.g. Lishan oolong. There are some cultivars which names contain that word too. For example, Qingxin wulong. In this site, we shall use the English spelling “oolong” for both the tea category and tea varieties, and the spelling “wulong” for tea cultivars.
There are two main appearance styles for the tea: curly leaf sticks that are twisted longitudinally and semi bead style that the leaf is twisted into a curled-up tadpole. The former is the traditional style, the latter is only about 200 years new. Some people compressed certain oolongs to bars or bricks too.
The range of quality in this category is as huge as any other and we shall examine this topic in detail in this site.