When the phrase, “All Natural Vintage Oolong Tea,” is typed into Google search, the first result brings up a tea sold through Amazon.com in their gourmet food section with exactly that name. This tea is sold in 100 individually wrapped bags for $7.99 plus shipping. The product description mentions that it is effective in the control of body weight. It mentioned that the Japanese did some research into this.
Looking at some of the sponsored links on Google, gives the impression that the reason that oolong is so popular right now is because of its weight loss potential. One of the oolong teas used in their advertising that Oprah Winfrey and Rachel Ray use oolong tea to stay healthy and slim. Oprah Winfrey and Rachel Ray are two hugely popular people on TV. This advertising suggests that since those two women use it and look good that oolong tea must produce that result.
In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 81, No. 1, 122-129, January 2005, an article titled, “Ingestion of a tea rich catechins leads to a reduction in body fat and malondialdehyde-modified LDL in men,” was published. The research was conducted by Tomonori Nagao, Yumiko Komine, Satoko Soga, Shinichi Meguro, Tadashi Hase, Yukitaka Tanka, and Ichiro Tokimitsu. These researchers performed a 12 week double-blind study and concluded that tea containing 690 mg catechins might be useful in the prevention and improvement of obesity.
In the Journal of Nutrition, 131:2848-2852, November 2001, an article titled, “Oolong Tea Increases Metabolic Rate and Fat Oxidation in Men,” was published. The research was conducted by William Rumpler, James Seale, Beverly Clevidence, Joseph Judd, Eugene Wiley, Shigeru Yamamoto, Tatsushi Komatsu, Tetsuta Sawaki, Yoshiyuki Ishikura, and Kazuaki Hosoda. These researchers studied how tea influenced energy expenditure in humans and concluded that oolong tea stimulated energy expenditure and fat oxidation in normal weight men. They also concluded this effect would only be realized by chronic tea consumption and if the individual did not consume more food than the individual normally would.
The most useful definition of catechins was found in Wikipedia. Catechins are polyphenolic antioxidant plant metabolites. They are also known as flavonoids. These catechins are found in greatest concentration from tea made from the Camellia sinensis plant. The most abundant catechin in tea is EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate).
The main oolong tea producing areas are in China and Taiwan. In China, Anxi and Wuyi in Fujian province and Phoenix Mountain in Guangdong province are well known oolong tea producing areas. Oolong tea was produced roughly 400 years ago in Fujian province. Oolong translates as “Black Dragon” and refers to teas that have been oxidized more than green tea but less than black tea. There are a couple of versions on how Oolong got its name. One version states that it was named after the way that it looks after hot water was poured on it. Some people thought that the tea resembled little black dragons. The second version states that it was named after a farmer who had left his tea leaves out for awhile allowing them to semi-oxidize.
China has several signature oolong teas. The most famous oolong teas are from the Fujian province where the tea grows on cliffs that create the Wuyi Rock or Cliff Teas. The best Wuyi teas are mellow and rich in flavor with the aroma of orchids and an aftertaste of ripe fruit. A famous tea that comes from Anxi County is Tie Guan Yin which has a smooth mellow flavor. Fenghuang Dancong is a tea made from leaves of trees grown in Guangdong Province.
Most of the oolong tea that is produced in Taiwan came from tea plants that were brought from the Fujian province in the 19th century. Wuyi oolong was planted in central Taiwan while the Anxi varieties were planted in northen Taiwan.
The making of good oolong tea is difficult and requires a lot of expertise. If too much moisture is left in the tea leaves, the tea will seem to be moldy. If it is baked at a too high temperature, the tea will seem to be burnt. After picking the tea, the leaves are spread thinly and allowed to dry in the sun for 30 minutes to one hour. Next the leaves are dried indoors. One method of processing the tea leaves requires it to be shaken in bamboo baskets, bruising the leaf edges, causing them to oxidize faster than the center. Another method has the tea continue its oxidation process for about eight to ten hours while the leaves are turned by hand about every two hours to make sure the leaves oxidize evenly. The leaves can be roasted by a mechanical process or pan fried. The leaves can be roasted, then cooled, then roasted again a number of times, depending on the tea manufacturer. The leaves are rolled and refried. Each tea manufacturer has their own methods of processing the tea leaves and the quality of the tea depends on part on the tea maker’s skill and the exact method used in rolling and roasting. Processing tea can be a labor intensive process.
There are many oolong teas available for sale and the price of the tea can vary greatly. Before purchasing any oolong tea, try to find out as much information about it as to where it came from and how it was processed if possible. After purchasing oolong tea, make sure to read the instructions if any are provided. Preparing the tea correctly with the right water temperature and length of seeping should bring out the flavor of the tea. Tea prepared incorrectly won’t taste as well. Choose to drink tea and it may just provide the benefits that a lot of these teas tout in their advertising.