Oolong teas, are partially oxidized tea first produced in China, but other countries are now also producing oolong now.There are least two different production methods to manufacture two different styles of oolong – i.e. Classic Chinese oolong & Light Chinese Oolong.
Classic Chinese Oolongs are made by withering the leaf in the sun outdoors and then indoors on bamboo baskets.This allows some of the water in the leaf to evaporate and starts the oxidation process. The leaves are turned every two hours and shaken or ‘rattled’ in the baskets to break the cell inside and on the surface of the leaf. When the oxidation has reached around 70%, the leaf is turned for 5-10 minutes inside a hot panning machine to stop further oxidation and then dried in hot ovens. These darker classic Chinese oolongs (e.g. Da Hong Pao as well as Tieguanyin Classic) can be infused several times, give a pale amber liquor and have a soft fruity, honeyed character with undertones of peach and apricot.
The production of the light Chinese Oolong start with the withering and tumbling of the leaf as for the classic Chinese oolongs. When they reached around 30% oxidation, the leaves are put through the hot panning machine for 5-10 minutes to stop any further oxidation then dried and allowed to rest overnight. Next day, the leaf is wrapped inside large cloths to form that contains 9kg of tea. Each bag is tightened and then rolled in a machine to bruise and squeeze the leave inside. The bag is then opened and the compacted leaf is separated and immediately wrapped into a ball again. This tying and rolling of the bags is repeated at least 36 times and sometimes up to 60 times until the leaves are tightly rolled up into rough green pellets. The semi-balled tea is then dried in large ovens. These light Chinese oolong can also be infused several times, give a very pale amber-green liquor and have a wonderful fragrant character that is often reminiscent of narcissus, hyacinth and lily of the valley.Ti Kuan Yin Light is an example of oolong with low oxidation, they are closer to green tea and have a much greener appearance.