Discovering new teas: white and oolong

In the past two posts, we covered the two most popular types of tea in the Western world: black and green. Although you might not be familiar with them, a full introduction to tea would not be complete without covering white and oolong tea.

White tea

White teas are the most delicate of teas because they undergo the least amount of processing after plucking. This is also why they have the most amount of antioxidants so if you’re looking for a drink that is healthy and can help (not drive) weight loss, white tea is the best! It is a speciality of China and they only go through the withering and drying stages.

If you remember that leaves went straight to the firing process for green tea, they are left to wither in the case of white tea, just like black tea. This process reduces the moisture naturally by drying them out in open air, but instead of 18-30 hours needed in the black tea process, now they get to relax for 48-60 hours. When the moisture level is at about 5%, they go through the drying process like the others did.

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White tea from Teavana: Silver Needle

Oolong tea

Oolong (sometimes called Wu Long) is the resulting tea from a combination of the black and green tea processes. If you imagine a scale with black tea on one end and green on another, oolong is somewhere in the middle, though more towards green. That’s because it’s semi-oxidised, so it follows this order:

  1. Withering (like black and white) for a period of 1-4 hours, then cooled down. Repeat twice!
  2. Oxidation by gentle stirring (rather than rolling over high heat in the case of black tea)
  3. Firing between 30 seconds and 5 minutes to destroy the enzyme that causes oxidation
  4. Rolling and drying when the leaves are still warm so they’re more flexible
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Oolong tea from Teavana

As I know all I’ve explained is a lot to take in, I thought I’d make it a bit more visual.

tea-processes

You might be thinking, that’s all great, but when do we actually get to do some drinking? A theoretical tea blog is probably not what you signed up to read! Rest assured, that’s next time on White, No Sugar.