More of that practical approach to reading tea leaves, as begun in my article Reading Tea Leaves — Green Teas. Before steeping, these leaves tell of the process they endured once plucked from the tea bush (Camellia Sinensis). After steeping, they reveal their true nature more fully. Oxidation levels can make quite a difference in Oolongs, from more lightly oxidized tea leaves giving a more planty flavor to the cup and more heavily oxidized tea leaves giving a deeper flavor.
Here are tales from a few oolong teas I’ve tried:
Buddha Hand — Dry, the leaves look like little Buddha hands, clutching fresh, slightly sweet, and floral aroma inside them. They open wide and large as they steep, releasing that aroma into the liquid where it is translated into a flavor to delight your tastebuds. The leaves tell a definite story of loving care and peaceful transition from bush to cup, as if carressed by Buddha’s hands all the way.
Tung Ting (also called Dong Ding) — The dry leaves show that more oxidizing was allowed than for many oolongs and that the drying was severe. Steeped, these leaves are smaller and more broken than those of Buddha Hand, telling their tale of being handled not too roughly but with some tossing and tumbling. They foretell a tea liquid of amber hue and that hot is fresh and planty with a hint of honey and that chilled is slightly smoky but very nice with a touch of sweetener.
Dan Cong — A fruity, apricotty aroma of the dry leaves foretells that taste emerging as they steep. You can also see when they are dry that these leaves have been escorted gently from bush to cup. After steeping, they tell the tale of gentle hands guided by knowledgeable minds to select just the right leaves, including some two-leaves-and-a-bud combos. Definitely a tea that is a “favorite child,” treated with the kind of care and attention provided by the most loving parents.
The tales that tea leaves tell! Next time, we’ll see the wherewithals of white teas.
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