Oolong Tea is the category of semi-oxidized teas. The process for making an Oolong Teas is different for each kind, but includes nuances from green and black tea production. Oolong teas are very much like wine in that geographical origin can signal a specific tea bush varietal, micro-climate, and tradition of processing.
To encourage and control leaf oxidation, the Tea Masters who make Oolongs employ various stages of withering, bruising (to encourage oxidation), roasting (to stop oxidation), rolling, and baking techniques. The amount that a particular tealeaf is allowed to oxidize before baking results in the range of oolong infusion color: from bright green or golden to amber or reddish infusions.
Oolong Teas that are more oxidized, as with black tea, have a darker, coppery, reddish-amber infusion. Less oxidized Oolongs have a greener or golden-green infusion.
Oolong Teas was first made in Fujian, China during the 18th century. Today Oolongs are produced in Guangdong and Fujian, China, Taiwan, Northern Thailand, Myanmar, and Vietnam. Oolongs can be made with spring, autumn, and winter leaves- with each harvest possessing unique characteristics.
Oolong teas have complex flavor profiles and there is a wide range of them. Some oolongs are processed into tightly packed pellets or pearls (pack rolled), while others are long and twisted (long rolled). These differences in appearance are created by distinct rolling techniques that vary from region to region.
Jill, a regular customer of ours recently inquired how we, a “socially responsible company” could be so insensitive as to purchase the entire existing lot of Mi Xiang oolong tea–and that our doing so was an indication of Samovar turning into a big, careless corporation. I disagreed, and responded to her with the letter below. I have posted it to our blog because I feel it provides some good insight into who we really are. Enjoy!
Thank you for writing, and, for your concern about the purchasing stance of Samovar Tea Lounge. I thought I would write to let you how and when and why we buy tea, to hopefully ease your concern about Samovar.
My friend Josh is married to a Taiwanese woman, and he travels regularly to Taiwan to visit her family. Her family’s neighbors grow this tea for themselves, and, when he tasted it with them over dinner and realized how amazing it was, he asked if they were interested in selling it to an American customer base. They did not believe there was a market in America for a tea like this–so unusual, so premium an oolong, and, so rare. They had all the tea they needed, so, they sold him 20 lbs to take to America. Josh is a one-man-shop, and, just starting out in the US to make inroads to the burgeoning tea market. He knows of Samovar’s national presence with online sales, and of our strong Bay Area presence among locals coming to our store, and, he wanted to jump start his business, and introduce a really unusual, artisanal, and delicious tea, but didn’t know how–so I offered to sell it for him, to try it out with our customers.
Mi Xiang was an immediate hit, and we sold out 3 lbs (600 servings!) in less than two weeks. I told him that the risk was well taken, and, that if he didn’t have any other interested buyers, that I would happily take the rest of it because we had so many customers asking for more Mi Xiang. And so, he sold me the remaining 17.5 lbs (now down to about 10 lbs actually)–because of customer requests.
I understand your sensitivity to “corporate America,” and I couldn’t agree with you more about greed. I hope you do see the difference in this situation, especially because Samovar is the furthest thing possible from corporate America.
To give you some examples:
We’re not a corporation. Samovar is owned by me, and my two friends Paul and Robert–and it is run by an amazing staff.
Also, I don’t think corporate America provides massage, acupuncture, and free yoga to their employees! I believe strongly that if we do our best to take care of the people who make Samovar special, they will take care of Samovar, making it special–ie, the polar opposite of corporate America.
I hope I did not bore you with the length of this email, and that the information has been useful in clarifying Samovar’s stance. Feel free to email me directly if you have any other questions or concerns–or do say “hi” if you’re ever in either location!
Below is the customer’s email:
Thank you for the Newsletter. I was, however, sorry to read that you had
bought all of this tea “in existence.” How greedy of you! Reading
that fact did not sit well with me. You could have left some for others perhaps? I guess that’s corporate America–for you-all or nothing. Living like there’s no tomorrow-is that what
global warming is about? Thank you for listening. No need to reply to this letter.