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Growing Oolong Tea in Vietnam

oolong tea garden

Oolong tea is a traditional brew made from the Camellia sinensis bush that ranges in oxidation from 10 to 70 percent, which is between green and black tea fermentation levels.

The taste of the tea is more akin to green than black varieties. While lacking the rosy, sweet aroma of black brews, oolong offers a delightful, satisfying flavor without the stridently grassy vegetal notes that typify most green blends.

Preparation

Also referred to as wulong tea, it is commonly brewed to be strong, with the bitterness leaving a sweet aftertaste. Typically, preparation includes 2.25 grams of tea per 170 grams of water, or about two teaspoons of bulk tea per cup.

Oolong teas should be prepared with 180F to 190F (82C-87C) water (not boiling) and steeped 3-4 minutes.

According to tea expert and purveyor Adam Soliman of CharBrew, high quality oolongs can be brewed multiple times using the same tea leaves. Unlike other varieties, the tea improves with each steeping.

"It is common to brew the same leaves three to five times, with the third or fourth steeping usually being the most flavorful," Mr. Soliman added.

The Tea's Origin

The most famous and expensive varieties are produced in the Fujian province China. Taiwan began production in the mid 19th century.

Since then, many of the teas that are grown in Fujian province have also been cultivated in Taiwan where the tea industry has grown at a rapid rate in the past 30 years.

Cultivation Expands to Vietnam

Oolong tea cultivation migrated to Vietnam in recent years and has continued to grow in popularity, as Taiwan moves more of its trade to the country. The tea that is produced yields a high quality, less expensive variety offering an excellent tasting brew.

Vietnam's Tam Chau tea plantation, located in the highlands of Bao Loc at an elevation of 850-950 meters above sea level, is a major tea producer spanning 300 hectares or 741 acres in size.

The cultivation has been controlled strictly without using chemical fertilizer. The tea processing technology and machinery are imported from Taiwan, and all processing follows Taiwanese cultivation methods.

Tea Fermentation and Processing

Following are the steps of tea cultivation on the Tam Chau plantation from plant to consumer.

oolong
  1. First, the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant are picked from the plantation and are processed immediately. The leaves are then wilted in direct sunlight for about 10 hours.

  2. The leaves are then shaken in machinery to lightly bruise the edges. They are then spread out to dry until the leaves turn slightly yellow. The edges turn a reddish color as the chemicals in the bruised leaf react with oxygen (oxidation).

  3. The fermentation or oxidation period is halted by a process called firing where extreme heat is applied by using machinery similar to large-scale tumble dryers.

    oolong tea
  4. Since wulong tea is always whole leaf and never broken, a team of workers takes extra care to meticulously inspect each leaf. This stringent quality control step includes making decisions on whether to keep or discard leaves, how to grade the processed tea and how to prepare tea for packaging.

  5. The tea is then packed into vacuum-sealed bags and carefully loaded onto a shipping container. It is taken to a port in Saigon and prepared for distribution around the world for consumers to enjoy.
For more on tea production in Vietnam or information about the CharBrew tea brand, click here.

Related Information

Health Benefits of Oolong Tea
Facts About Tea
Tips on Brewing Tea



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