Continuing the oolong theme here for a bit, let’s take a look at a tea that is both an oolong and a specialty tea. Unique to China, it is also unique among teas.
Milk Oolong: How It’s Made
This exquisite tea is produced in mountainous Fujian Province—the birthplace of oolong tea—located on mainland China’s southeast coast.
This was the starting point of the ancient maritime Silk Road developed during the Qin (221–206 BC) and Han (206 BC–AD 220) dynasties. Its Wuyi Mountain region and Anxi County have been producing oolongs for centuries.
Plucked tea leaves are first withered or just lightly oxidized. Note that China also produces other specialty, or “scented teas.” Think jasmine, rose, lychee. For these, the leaves may be fully oxidized.
After withering—and while they are still pliable and moist—tea leaves can easily absorb fragrances and flavors. Tea masters skillfully regulate how much flavor the tea leaves pick up. Placing the leaves over a steam bath that contains flower petals or fruit juice gives us rose tea and lychee tea. Layering tea leaves with jasmine blossoms results in jasmine tea.
For milk oolong, the tea leaves are placed over a gentle steam bath of milk and water. This process retains the emerald to olive green color of the leaves while giving them their unique and deliciously creamy aroma and flavor.
The leaves are then rolled by hand and dried.
Milk Oolong: How It’s Enjoyed
The milk oolong shown here is China Milky Jade from TeaHaus. I used one heaping teaspoon of tea for eight ounces of filtered, boiling water, with a two-minute brew time. Alternately, water that has been boiled and cooled to 194°F can be used.
With brewing, the rolled balls begin to open, yielding mostly intact leaves and a green-gold cup.
Oolongs are meant to be rebrewed. Although some people do a quick first “rinse” of the tea leaves and then toss that brew, there is no reason to do this. The first cup of any high-quality oolong will be delicious, with successive infusions imparting flavor variances..
As oolongs are re-infused, the leaves continue to open up (as you can see below), releasing more flavor.
Sweet and creamy, with a subtle floral note, this tea is like no other!