So what is oolong tea, anyway?

At Three Leafs Tea we specialise in premium oolongs from the beautiful island of Taiwan. You may have heard of oolong before, but what exactly is it?

Oolong comes from exactly the same plant as any green tea, or black tea for that matter: It’s all Camellia Sinensis. Yes, it all comes from the same plant!

Camellia Sinensis is a hardy plant, and as such is cultivated just about everywhere in the world and at a huge range of altitudes, but above all favors warm, humid climes—such as that found in Taiwan.

Of course, this isn’t the whole story: under the Camellia Sinensis umbrella are varieties (of which there are only really two – var. sinensis and var. assamica) and then what are called cultivars, and you will see that we make mention of these when you browse our tea, for example, Qing Xin Wulong, which is very popular among Taiwan’s tea farmers. These cultivars refer to certain plants that have been bred to retain certain desirable characteristics, such as resistance to cold weather. 

The main differences between these teas arise from how much the leaves are oxidized (or fermented—only GABA tea is fermented in an innovative process without oxidization).  This oxidization or fermentation process is halted by steaming or frying the leaves. While green and white teas undergo zero oxidization, and black teas 100% oxidization, oolongs lie somewhere in between.

Dong Ding Oolong is an example of a lightly fermented tea, whereas Red Ruby is an example of a tea that has been fermented as much as 80%.

Of course, fermentation/oxidization level is just one factor that lends oolong tea character. The terroir, altitude and climate conditions, roasting time all impact its flavor, aroma and color in unique ways. Farmers allow a common pest, the tea jassid, to feed on the leaves of Oriental Beauty, which stimulate the production of natural chemicals called terpenes to repel them and lend this tea an exquisite, honey-like flavor.

But enough of our talking: why not start your oolong tea journey with our mixed sampler box containing twelve of our teas and discover for yourself just how fermentation alone yields such an amazing array of flavors!