Oolong tea has been the drink of choice for centuries - but just what is it? Black tea is the most commonly drunk variety in the world, but oolong comes from the same plant.
Processing oolong tea
The difference lies with how the leaves are processed - oolong is partially fermented, black tea is fully fermented and green tea is not subjected at all to the fermentation process. Traditional production methods see the leaves processed straight after they have been picked - they are wilted in the sun for a while, before being placed into baskets and shaken until they become bruised. Once left exposed to the air, the leaves begin to oxidise before they are laid out to dry and then treated to stop the fermentation process from continuing any further. There are two types of oolong, with the darker-leafed varieties dried once 60 to 70 per cent oxidisation has been reached. Greener oolongs, on the other hand, are processed by placing the withered leaves inside a large cloth and rolling them in a special machine. The leaves are then exposed and left to lightly oxidise - this process is repeated until around 30 per cent oxidisation has been reached.
Additional oolong uses
Oolong tea has been used for several purposes over the years, including the treatment of high cholesterol, skin allergies and even to boost the immune system. As oolong contains caffeine, it is effective at stimulating the central nervous system and other vital parts of the body.
Drinking oolong tea
As with other varieties of tea, there is much debate over the best possible way to serve oolong - its delicate flavour means the drink is best served without milk. The depth of flavour will depend on how long the leaves are brewed for, although this is ultimately down to personal preference.