Is this Oolong or Oo-wrong?

I’ve always enjoyed tea. But, having had a typical white-bread, middle-America life, I was never exposed to any good tea. But still, I’ve generally been one of the few people I know who prefer a cup of hot tea to coffee.

Recently, I’ve been really turned on to tea, much more than the casual interest I had before. I’m really quite intrigued by the culture (or cult) that surrounds it, and I find myself drifting in the general direction of a wannabe connoisseur. At this point, however, I’m a clueless (but adventurous) amateur who is trying to learn what’s good and what’s not. I’ve been exposed to brands and varieties that I never paid attention to before. I’ve found how good some of the British imports are that are so hard to find in the States. I’ve reached a point where the Lipton, et al. that I grew up on tastes like dishwater. I assume that’s a good sign.

I’m just trying to let everyone know where I stand in terms of knowlege of all that is tea. Enough to get myself in trouble, and not enough to stay out of it.

To the point…

Today, I was at the store doing normal everyday shopping. It seems that I can’t come home from one of these excursions without some new tea. (Although the choices at the corner supermarket are depressingly slim.) Today, as I went by the tea aisle, I saw some Oolong. It was Bigelow brand—their “Chinese Fortune” tea—something I was less than ecstatic about. But, it was the only brand to be found there on the Kroger shelf. They’ve got some decent black tea selections from Twinings and the like, but the Bigelow was the only straight Oolong they had. Had I been more patient, I could have made a trip to the snooty, upscale, overpriced, gourmet/specialty market down the road, and they would have had all kinds of choices. But I was there, and it was on sale. I thought, “at least this will help me figure out if I like it.”

So I got home and brewed a cup. Sugar, as usual. No milk, because it didn’t seem right to put milk in red tea, even thought I usually do so in black tea. It was okay…not unpleasant. But it smelled and tasted somewhat “woody.” It put me off a little bit…mainly because I wasn’t aware of that being a normal trait. It was definitely not the compromise between black and green tea that I expeted it to be. The second cup was better, but I didn’t brew it nearly as long.

Unfortunately, this experience hasn’t helped me figure out if I like it or not. Because I have this nagging suspicion that what I got was just substandard American schwag. So, did I get a representative sample of Oolong, or was this way off the mark? Anyone that’s had this brand and can compare it to other Oolongs: Is this Dom Perignon, or is it Boone’s Farm?

Any recommendations?

It does sound like Oolong that you got, but I would not consider putting either milk or sugar in it. If the taste is too strong make it a little weaker, don’t hide it with sugar. BTW I do hope we’re talking loose leaf tea here, not bags.

For me, if you’re going to go in that direction (woody/tarry) you may as well go all the way and get Lapsang Soochong. Now *that’s * a tea.

First of all, I think putting sugar in oolong tea is wrong. That being said, I was both surprised and disapointed to find out that ice oolong tea sold in China was sweetened. Yuck.

Anyway, there are several varieties of oolong tea and the taste varies quite a bit. You’ll probably have to go to a proper Chinese store to have access to some sort of choice. IMO, this is well worth the effort, though, as good quality oolong tea is truly delicious.

Here’s an overview of some of the major types of oolong tea:

This tea, produced in Fujian province can be considered the main type of oolong tea. This is a relatively bitter, though complex-flavoured, tea.

Another tea from Fujian, this one, compared to Tieguanyin, is less bitter and has more fruity notes. My personal favourite.

This is the main type of oolong tea produced in Taiwan. The best Donding tea have flowery undertones.

There are dozens of different types of oolong tea but the above three are among the most famous. The flavour of good Chinese teas are quite subtle and often complex which is why you don’t want to kill it with sugar. You should avoid crappy brands and teabags. Buying quality leaves really makes a big difference. You might want to see if you can order some over the internet.

green tea smells like fish oil to me. always has. Am I alone in this?

If you really want to experience good tea forget about the prebaged stuff. Your first cup of a good loose leaf tea would be a revelation. Its hard to find much of a selection of loose leaf teas in stores in most areas. There are some excellant on-line vendors that sell loose leaf teas. I personally use thought there are others. The price for loose leaf teas is actually generally very low and even the expensive teas are relatively cheap per cup. Even if that was not the case the improvement in taste and quality over the prebaged stuff would make it worth it.

Personally don’t drink much Oolong but I do know that its not a good tea for sugar or milk.

The oo-long suh-shong (sp?) that I found in UK was best described by my goo frien Paul as ‘smokey bacon flavoured tea’ it was so strongly smokey as to be unpleasent to both our tastes. This was bought from a speciality tea shop, so I doubt it was a particularly bad version of the tea, just very much not to my taste.

Actually, I’m aware of how much beter loose leaf tea is. It’s more different an experience than I had imagined. But it’s relatively hard to find, and certainly hard to find any decent selection. So that’s why I’ve only bought a couple packages so far. If I find a place with a good selection of loose tea in Dayton, OH, I’ll be all over it.

And I guess I was right to be suspicious of this Oolong I bought. It says right on the box that sugar “brings out the flavor.” Judging by the recommendations of people on here, I’ll take that as a sign that this stuff needs something to mask the taste. :wink:

But I do have a hard time with unsweetened tea. It just seems that it should be so much better with sugar. Or do those of you who recommend it only do so with Oolong? If I hear that some people dump sugar in their black tea but never in their red, I’ll feel better about it. :slight_smile:

  1. The taste and color of Oolong will vary depending on how and where it is made.

  2. There’s nothing wrong with the Bigelow brand. Of course you can get finer quality, more expensive teas, but for general purposes that’s a perfectly fine product. They make loose tea too.

  3. What you put in your tea (milk, sugar, lemon, whatever) is up to you and your individual tastes. There are no rules, no ‘right’ way or ‘wrong’ way to enjoy your tea, though I’d say if you find that you are dumping a whole bunch of sugar (or whatever) into your tea you might want to consider trying a different type, because you want to enhance the flavor with accoutrements, not hide it. If you’re trying to hide the taste, then it’s not the right tea for you. Experiment, have fun!

  4. I assume you’ve got Barnes and Noble bookstores in your area. They sell Republic of Tea products. Call 'em up and ask if they have loose teas in stock.

Actually, that’s the Lapsang Souchong tea **AndrewT ** mentioned a few posts back…

I’m not a big fan of it, either. I have recently become a big fan of Korean roasted corn tea, though. I used to be hugely into Japanese genmai-cha (green tea with roasted brown rice and popcorn), but I’m trying to avoid caffeine these days.

Both are really nice if you want a nice hot cup of tea, but don’t want anything sweet/bitter. You’ve got to boil the corn tea for 10 minutes for full flavor, though, so it takes a bit of advance planning.

I don’t care for Bigelow teas. I find the flavor flat and uninteresting.

Yes, loose tea is better than bagged tea, but there is a humongous variation in the quality of bagged teas. I use teabags all the time as a convenience. I use loose tea, too, of course, but when running around after a toddler, brewing any tea at all is an accomplishment. I’ve even resorted to using the microwave and a plastic mug! :o

Most of the better tea brands produce a passable teabag. I’ll gladly use Twinings teabags as they’re cheap and easily available. (For loose tea, I prefer Jacksons.) Surprisingly, my local supermarket’s el cheapo house brand tea bags are excellent. I used to use Tetley British Blend for iced tea, but the supermarket brand is better for that. I even use the supermarket brand to make hot tea a lot of the time.

It could just be tastebud preferences, but while that Bigelow oolong sounds serviceable, it’s not one you want to drink for the experience. A good oolong does not need milk or sugar. Teas in Asian usually don’t. It’s a strong tea, so you may just have to get used to, or perhaps it is just not for you.

jovan said: " I was both surprised and disapointed to find out that ice oolong tea sold in China was sweetened. Yuck."

On a hot and humid summer’s day, a glass of cold sweetened red tea is heaven-sent! I am feeling nostalgic just thinking about it.

I don’t think they have a store in your area, but I like teas from Peet’s Coffee & Tea (they do have internet/mail order). Of course, the prices will be higher than what you could find at the grocery store, but with looseleaf, just a pinch will brew a nice cup.

Thanks Monkeytoes you are of course completely right.

Red tea is fermented tea. Green tea is unfermented tea. Oolong is semi-fermented tea, just like black tea. Depending on the variety of tea tree and craftsmanship, taste of Oolong varies a lot.

A number of sources also recommend brewing oolong teas at temperatures below boiling, around 185 to 195 °F. Also multiple, short brewings bring out a lot of the flavor. I, personally, like a little sugar in mine.
For the lapsang souchong admirers-try russian caravan. Smokier than a wood fire. If you like that sort of thing.

Actually, this is true for all teas. Boiling water will kill some of the flavour. 80 °C is about right.

Well, the black teas seem to taste pretty good if brewed around 208°F or so, just a little below boiling. I have an electric pot that holds water at that temp.

Alton Brown (Good Eats) did a pretty good episode on the basics of tea. You might want to keep an eye out for a repeat on the Food Network. Marriage Freres, which I buy at Williams Sonoma, makes some awfully nice tea though they are not inexpensive. Some teas don’t seem to play well with sugar and honey or preserves might be more enjoyable.
But can anybody tell me what’s wrong with this Rooibos tea I’ve bought? No flavor until I doubled the recommended brewing time and then it was rather twiggy tasting and dull. I’ve never had it before and don’t know if that is what it’s supposed to be like or if I’ve got a bad brand.

If you want a compromise between green and balck tea, then perhaps you could try some yunnan.

Just a word of clarification: What Urban Ranger is refering to here is the Chinese terminology for tea. Fully oxidized (or fermented) tea–what we call black tea–is called red tea.

Another product commonly marked as “red tea” is rooibos, which is made from the needle-like leaves of a South African shrub (Aspalathus linearis, a.k.a. red bush). and since it does not come from the tea tree (Camellia sinensis), it is not technically a tea, but rather a tisane (an herbal infusion.) If you’ve seen something labeled “red tea” it was probably this. It’s caffeine free, and has a mild, sweet flavor, and offers many of the same health benefits as green or black tea.

audiolover, for a tea on the borderline between green and black, you might try Darjeeling. But this is definitely a case where you need to buy high quality loose tea. Anything you find in bags, including Bigelow brand, is probably a blend of a little Darjeeling and a lot of low quality black tea. Darjeeling has a sharp, refereshing astringent quality that many people really like. Aside from the astringency, its flavor is more reminiscent of green tea than black, IMHO.