All about Oolong


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All about Oolong

Postby PolyhymnianMuse » Sep 3rd, '08, 18:10

For some reason today I started heavily thinking about oolong and all of its aspects. I have a pretty basic knowledge of oolongs and brewing them but was wondering perhaps someone with much more information than myself could fill me in.

I mostly brew my oolongs in a 120ml gaiwan, although occasionally I will go and brew western style 6-8 oz. What is a good leaf to water ratio to start out with? I've been doing about a gram to 30 ml of water for gongfu and probably around 3 grams western style. I'm also wondering about brew times and temps. I'm curious about these things in regards to all different types of oolongs, most of the time I just wing it haha.

Yixing is another thing when it comes to oolongs that I am very interested in but have no idea about. What types of oolongs are preferable for yixing?
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Postby hop_goblin » Sep 3rd, '08, 18:13

Well, to simplify your dilema and answer for that matter, ALL OOLONGS AND TEAS can be brewed in a Yixing with the acception of greens and white teas. Greens and whites are too delicate for the heat retention of Yixing. Just think of Yixing as a brewing vessle nothing more or less.
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Postby scruffmcgruff » Sep 3rd, '08, 18:36

Yixing can be used with any oolong, though I much prefer it for heavier, darker oolongs. Baozhongs and high-roast green oolongs are less obvious; sometimes they are better when brewed in a high-fired yixing (these have a higher pitch when tapped, and don't muddle flavor/aroma as much), but I usually use a gaiwan, especially for baozhong.

I don't brew oolongs western-style very often, so I can't help there. Sorry!
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Postby silverneedles » Sep 3rd, '08, 19:17

i do it western style most of the time
or a botched gaiwan-dixiecup hybrid

recently got a scale but haven't used it much,

it could depend on the tea itself - as i'm doing a mediocre(IMHO) bi luo chun now and i barely get "any" flavor out of it with 5g + 8oz x 3min. (flavor excludes astringency)

can also depend on how you like the tea - i noticed i'm doing 5g +8oz x3min on YunnanSourcing's yunnan gold tips (if i get any sort of "watery" then it needs more leaf for my taste.)

ok, just tried a YS green oolong and i'm using 5g + 8oz x 3min and its very nice and flowery(aroma mostly), no astringency (which i dislike any presence of, unless the flavor is nice)

hmmm, ok, so, maybe, in conclusion: i use 5g + 8oz x 3 min :)
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Postby ABx » Sep 3rd, '08, 21:37

In a gaiwan I usually use around 2g per oz (30ml). The harder part of that is that I really judge more visually than by weight - with yancha I will usually fill the giawan/pot about 1/4, baozhong a bit more, rolled oolongs sparsely cover the bottom, etc. The individual teas will also dictate the amount of leaf used more than anything, I have some that require more leaf and others less, but the above is generally how I start out. If I don't want as much of the tea then I might use a little less leaf to produce fewer infusions.

In the end I find that it's more about intuiting the steep time for the amount of leaf being used and what brewing vessel to use, and then experimenting a bit. I mess up now and again, but at some point you start to recognize different signs/aspects/characteristics and it just becomes second nature.
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Postby PolyhymnianMuse » Sep 4th, '08, 16:08

Ok, now what about steep times for different types of oolongs?

I know dan cong has very short steeps, but what about Shui Xian, Da hong pao, etc.? How many different types of oolongs are there anyway (at least the more commonly seen ones)?
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Postby scruffmcgruff » Sep 4th, '08, 16:25

PolyhymnianMuse wrote:Ok, now what about steep times for different types of oolongs?

I know dan cong has very short steeps, but what about Shui Xian, Da hong pao, etc.? How many different types of oolongs are there anyway (at least the more commonly seen ones)?


It depends on how much leaf you use. Usually what I do is guess on the first infusion, usually around 10-30 seconds, depending how much leaf I added (1/4 to 3/4 full, depending on how adventurous I am feeling). Then I decide whether it was over- or under-steeped and adjust.
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Postby Bubba_tea » Sep 4th, '08, 16:59

I think this is good advice:

http://chineseteas101.com/goodcupotea.htm
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Postby edkrueger » Sep 4th, '08, 17:27

I always fill the tea pot up half way with stripe oolongs and 1/4 full with rolled ones. My steps are consistently 30 seconds.

Basically what I said with more info:
http://houdeblog.com/?p=136
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Postby tony shlongini » Sep 4th, '08, 21:29

hop_goblin wrote:Well, to simplify your dilema and answer for that matter, ALL OOLONGS AND TEAS can be brewed in a Yixing with the acception of greens and white teas. Greens and whites are too delicate for the heat retention of Yixing. Just think of Yixing as a brewing vessle nothing more or less.


That's very interesting. I've used yixings for greens and even a few whites. If I'm brewing at a pretty cool 140 degrees, I want some heat retention, and I can brew at a lower initial temperature without a final product that's too cool to drink.
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Postby hop_goblin » Sep 4th, '08, 21:35

tony shlongini wrote:
hop_goblin wrote:Well, to simplify your dilema and answer for that matter, ALL OOLONGS AND TEAS can be brewed in a Yixing with the acception of greens and white teas. Greens and whites are too delicate for the heat retention of Yixing. Just think of Yixing as a brewing vessle nothing more or less.


That's very interesting. I've used yixings for greens and even a few whites. If I'm brewing at a pretty cool 140 degrees, I want some heat retention, and I can brew at a lower initial temperature without a final product that's too cool to drink.


Then my friend, you are a better tea brewer than I. I have had abysmal experience when brewing whites. :lol: I just can never gauge the temp! ARGHH!
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Postby PolyhymnianMuse » Sep 4th, '08, 22:24

How does dedication go in the ways of yixing and oolong?

Do you generally want to do light oolongs/dark oolongs specifically or is there some rule of thumb to start at?
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Postby taitea » Sep 5th, '08, 07:24

I'm wondering the same thing. Can I dedicate one yixing to all dark oolongs? I'm guessing "no". Wuyis just seem so much stronger and different from say, an oriental beauty. On the other hand, I think it might be ok to dedicate one yixing to wuyis in general.
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Postby Salsero » Sep 5th, '08, 07:46

The level of specialization in your pots is entirely up to you. Some people brew everything in one pot and others have many dedicated pots. I tend to distinguish among sheng, shu, dark oolong, light oolong, black tea. I should really pick one for aged as opposed to young sheng, but so far I haven't. Play around with your pots and see how it goes. I think the idea is to have fun, not to get too rigid. If a pot really wants to brew just Dan Cong, for example, it will find a way to tell you, especially if you are listening.

My only (personal) caveat would be: avoid brewing anything else in a pot you use for shu.
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Postby tony shlongini » Sep 5th, '08, 09:26

hop_goblin wrote:Then my friend, you are a better tea brewer than I. I have had abysmal experience when brewing whites. :lol: I just can never gauge the temp! ARGHH!


I wouldn't go that far, nor even dream of suggesting it. I was basically agreeing with you that an yixing is just another, albeit refined, brewing vessel. A pot is a pot is a pot, even if it is (as my daughter likes to say) "one of daddy's pots made from magic dirt". :lol:

In one of his articles, the esteemed Hobbes, who brings an uncanny level of erudition to his tea reviews, once used the allegory of the aspiring archer as it relates to the zenlike progression of tea brewing. First you think, count, and measure; eventually you just know what to do. You know the amount to use without a scale. You know the temperature of the water without a thermometer. You know the time without a clock. You simply know. When you know all of this without having to give it a thought, you've achieved a higher level still.

Now although I agree with this sentiment entirely, I think it's somewhat oxymoronic to "overthink zen", so I'll add the addendum that the same can be said for that perfectly cooked steak that arrived at your table. You may poke and prod your steak, or even (gasp) stick a thermometer into it, but the accomplshed cook just knows when it's right, even if he's a toothless, illiterate, illegal immigrant laborer (exactly whom do you think cooked that steak for you, Andre Soltner?) two steps removed from the bread line who has never even heard the word zen. Advanced skill sets are just as impressive and transcendental in the absence of any associated mysticism.

I know little about brewing tea, and nothing of archery, but I do know a bit about sharpening knives. The goal is similar- perfection that is unattainable, only asymptotically approachable. By dint of constant practice, the goal eventually comes within view, whether it's drawing a bow, cooking a steak, or brewing a cup.
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