Well, I'll try to give you a general guide in the hopes that the tea masters around here will correct me, thus accidently giving out information they would not otherwise bother sharing with beginners. I'm tricky that way.
Generally oolongs are classified by the following data. A lot of oolongs have names of course, but usually these refer to either the region or the type of processing, etc. I'm trying to give structure to something that doesn't seem like it has any at first so that you can start understanding oolong classifications better. This isn't a 'guide' per se, just a 'framework for learning':
- Region they are grown
- Type of processing
- Varietal of tea plant
- Degree of oxidation
- Degree of roasting
- Harvest season and year
Here are some examples:
Dong Ding - refers to a mountain in Taiwan, but now is produced all over asia so now is more of a indication of the varietal and processing.
Gao Shan - means high mountain, usually Formosa, which means Taiwanese.
Li Shan, Ali Shan, etc - refers to a specific mountain area in Taiwan
Wu Yi / Yancha - Again, a region I believe.
Anyway, my point was, the names for these things generally fit into one or more of the classifications I list above. So you'll want to start asking about all of them when tasting tea. Within a 'named' oolong there is usually variance as well. You can get a Baozhong 'style' processed tea with a Wu Yi tea plant variatal grown in Formosa. Really to identify a tea you often needs that entire list above. If you keep track of that list for all the oolongs you sample you will start to see patterns emerge of what you like, etc. Maybe you like anything roasted, or purhaps you like heavily oxidized tea from a certain varietal, etc.
My recommendation would be to go into that shop, find somebody knowledgeable and ask to taste a couple samples and discuss.
This forum can also be a great resource, as can www.wikicha.com
( a side project of some of the tea geeks here ) but I can't stress tapping a real live person enough.
I saw this quote today and laughed for a good minute:
"If television's a babysitter, the Internet's a drunk librarian who won't shut up." --Cat and Girl comics
Welcome to oolongs, don't be intimidated, be excited!