Tea leaves used for oolong teas are allowed to partially oxidize before being heated and dried. They fall between green teas and black teas. The degree to which an oolong tea is allowed to oxidize greatly affects its taste and aroma. Lighter oolongs like a pouchong, which are still very green in appearance, tend to be floral. Darker oolongs, which may be close to black teas in appearance, tend to be more fruity and woody.

Picking: For oolong teas, the bud and up to three leaves may be picked.

Withering: The leaves are then laid out to wither, often outdoors. Withering softens the leaves.

Oxidizing: The withered leaves are then placed onto bamboo trays to oxidize. They are stirred regularly to help release their flavorful and aromatic oils. The humidity and temperature are carefully controlled during this process. As stated above, the degree to which the leaves are allowed to oxidize determines the finished tea’s taste and aroma.

Heating: The leaves are then heated in large tumbling machines to prevent them from oxidizing further.

Rolling: The tea leaves are rolled while still warm from the heaters. This releases flavorful and aromatic oils from the tea.

Drying: The leaves are dried to stabilize the oils released during rolling.

If the finished tea is to have a tight, rolled shape (as with Green Dragon Tung Ting), it will undergo additional steps. The heating, rolling and compressing steps will be repeated numerous times before the leaves are dried and sorted.

Heating: The leaves are heated to soften them.

Rolling: The tea is then packed into cloth and the cloth rolled into a rounded shape.

Compressing: The cloths are then compressed by machine.

Drying: The leaves are dried to stabilize the oils released during rolling.

Sorting: Finally, the leaves may be sorted to remove undesirable bits.

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