China does not allow its sacred gardens to be strolled through by anyone other than workers in that garden. Sacred gardens produced tea which at one time was only allowed to be touched by the human skin of the Emperor. All others wore silk gloves. These sacred gardens still exist. Still produce tea. The Emperor has been replaced by high-ranking party members, high-ranking central government officials, high-ranking provincial government officials, high-ranking bureaucratic officials, etc. Teas, particularly Green and Oolong teas, fall into the category of “Sacred Garden” teas. Not all of them, of course, but some of them. These teas are not shipped out of China or, by extension, Formosa. Some of the teas I will mention were, literally, smuggled out of China. Peoples’ lives were put in jeopardy to make them available. Smuggling into or out of China is a capital offense.

Oolongs or semi-black teas can be in the “most expensive teas in the world” category or in the least expensive category or anywhere in between. They run the full gamut of price structure. The very best are, of course, “Sacred Garden”. The teas in the next category down are called “Artesanal” meaning that the tea is harvested from only a few trees and processed in the ancient China method. Some teas in either grouping can fetch several million dollars a pound on the private market.

Oolong is a semi-oxidized whole-leaf tea. The tea liquors to a color between pale cherry and deep red. It is a refreshing beverage and produces a flowery aroma. Some are more refreshing and flowery than others, with low quality grades being toward the bitter end with a blackish tea liquor color. The leaf is always large (bulky) and whole (lower grades are pieces) and should take on the shape of dramatic forms (the many shapes of dragons or other mythological creatures, insects, animals, fishes, birds, etc.). The leaf should unfold in the pot as a morning mist unfolds and covers the valley. China Oolongs undergo a 20% oxidation while Formosa Oolongs undergo a 60% oxidation. Do not let the names China and Formosa throw you off: remember, Formosa was once a province of China and many of the tea manufacturing processes used in Formosa originated in Fujian Province and thus both methods are used in China proper today. Therefore, Formosa refers to two things in the tea industry: (1) a process, and (2) a growing region. An Oolong which is 60% oxidized but which is grown and processed in China is called FORMOSA OOLONG.

Water with which one prepares Oolong is very, very important. Remember, tea is nothing more than colored, and flavored water: true, it contains vitamins, minerals, tannin compounds and other ingredients helpful to the human diet, but it is essentially flavored water. Oolongs should be made with a low calcium (soft) water, between 30 and 80 PPM. If such is available from the tap, you can do as I do, and filter your water through a Carbon Block Filter to remove extraneous odors, and use a pre-filter to remove the fines. In addition, if your water is too hard (80 PPM and up) you will have to use a Reverse-osmosis filtration system. For traveling, a pH neutral bottled water such as Poland Spring, preferably in clear or blue plastic, designed specifically for drinking water, is a good choice.

I, personally, infuse semi-black teas for 3 1/2 minutes; however, I hasten to add that this time period is and must be flexible dependent upon the semi-black tea one uses. Also, upon one’s personal preferences. Remember, we are all different. We all have different flavor perceptions. Also, the water temperature at the time of infusion should be approximately 185 degrees. The water should first be brought to a 10 second boil and then allowed to cool down. The free floating oxygen should be given a short period (the 10 second boil) to boil off in the form of gas, otherwise the tea’s flavor will be diminished.

Imperial Oolongs represent the top end of the Oriental Beauty or Black Dragon teas. They liquor up Amber in color and are many times simply called “Amber Oolong.” They are highly aromatic with a slight Chestnut/Honey flavor.

Grand Pouchong is a China Oolong with a golden color, light aroma and somewhat subtle flavor which, once found, is seldom forgotten.

Ti Kuan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy) liquors up to a lighter Amber than Black Dragon but has a more highly-developed aromatic quality, mild flavor but does not have a Chestnut/Honey after-taste.

Tung Ting is rooted in the China Oolongs of the past from the Fujian Province but now grows only in Formosa. The liquor is more orangey-red and has a mild flavor.

Oolongs From China

Name Quality Identical with: English Name Evaluation
Amber Autumn in Gorge Wu Lung        
Anqi oolong        
Anxi Oolong        
Anxi Tie-guan-yin   Ti Kwan Yin    
Bai Hau Oolong     Inner Beauty  
Bai Ye Dan Cong        
Bau Jong Oolong        
Bohea Wuyi Mountains Hidden Peak        
Bu Chi Chun        
Ch'iao-She     Sparrow's Tongue  
Da Hong Pao   Dahongpao    
Dahongpao     Scarlet Robe  
Dark Oolong        
Dragon's Beard Oolong        
Elegant Gathering of White Snows Wu Lung        
Fenghuang Dancong   Fongwang Tan-chung    
Fenghuang Select   Fongwang Tan-chung    
Fenghuang Shui Hsien        
Fenghuang Suey Sian   Fenghuang Shui Hsien    
Flowery oolong        
Fongwang Tan-chung        
Fu-Shou     Buddaha Hand  
Fujian Sweet        
Fukian Oolong        
Green Oolong        
Green Oolong Imperial Green Oolong    
Guan Yin of the Water Moon Wu Lung        
Hookien Oolong        
Hsiang Pean   Ron Gui    
Hsiao-Chung     Small Leaf  
Huang Jin Guei   Huangjin Guei    
Huang Jin Gui   Huangjin Guei    
Huang Tan   Huangjin Guei    
Huangjin Guei        
Hung-P'ieh     Red Border  
Ji Siang        
Kung-Fu     Requiring Skill  
Kwangtung Oolong        
Lien-Pai     Lotus White  
Liubao,the Energizer        
Liuxiang   Wuyi Liu Hsiang    
Louyan Huang Jin Gui        
Ma Law Mit        
Mao-Hai     Hairy Crab  
Min Nan Special        
Min Pei        
Minbei Suey Sian        
Ming Xiang        
Mingcong Qizhong     Famous Rare Orchide  
Mingzhong   Wuyi Min Chung    
Minnan Se-chong        
Minnan Suey Sian        
Nanyan Oolong        
Nanyan Ti Kwan Yin   Ti Kwan Yin    
Oolong Special In-101        
Orange Blossom        
Oriental Beauty   P'eng-Feng    
Pai-hao Wu-lung     White Hair  
Pai-Mao-Hou     White Haired Monkey  
Pai-Mao     White Fur  
P'eng-Feng     Booster  
Phoenix Oolong        
Phoenix Single Stem Oolong        
Qizhong   Wuyi Chi Chung    
Ron Gui        
S 102        
Se Chung Std. S-102      
Seiyen Ti Kwan Yin   Ti Kwan Yin    
Shi Gu Feng Ti Kwan Yin        
Sh'ing-Hsiang     Clear Fragance  
Shou Ding Ti Kwan Yin        
Shui Hsien     Water Sprite, Iris eller Water fairy  
Shuixian   Shui Hsien    
Sichuan Oolong        
Song Yan Tea King        
Song Yan Tie Quan Yin        
Souchong   Hsiao-Chung    
Sparrow Garden        
Suey Sian   Shui Hsien    
Suey Sin Golden Lock Shui Hsien    
Suey Sin Golden Turtle Shui Hsien    
Suey Sin Iron Man Shui Hsien    
Suey Sin Large Scarlet Robe Shui Hsien    
Ta-Hung-P'ao   Dahongpao    
Ta-Pai, kolla om detta är vitt     Great White  
Tai Guan        
Ti Kwan Yin   Ti Kwan Yin    
Ti Kwan Yin     Tea of the Iron Bodhisattva  
Ti Kwan Yin 1st Grade Ti Kwan Yin    
Ti Kwan Yin Elegant Queen Ti Kwan Yin    
Ti Kwan Yin K100 Ti Kwan Yin    
Ti Kwan Yin Monkey Picked Ti Kwan Yin    
Ti Kwan Yin Preferred Ti Kwan Yin    
Ti Kwan Yin Special Grade Ti Kwan Yin   4
Ti Kwan Yin Spring Floral Ti Kwan Yin    
Ti Kwan Yin Spring Tea Ti Kwan Yin    
Ti Kwan Yin Superior Ti Kwan Yin    
Ti Kwan Yin Sweet Lady Ti Kwan Yin    
Ti Kwan Yin Tie Baoota (Iron Pagoda) Ti Kwan Yin    
Ti Kwan Yin Top Confou Ti Kwan Yin    
Ti Lohan     Iron Arhat  
T'ieh-Kuan-Yin   Ti Kwan Yin    
T'ieh-Lo-Han   Ti Lohan    
Tielohan   Ti Lohan    
Tiguanyin   Ti Kwan Yin    
Tong Mow        
Tz'e-Mao     Purple Fur  
Very Oolong        
Wu-T'ui     Black Heap  
Wu Yi Bao Zhong        
Wu Yi Yan Cha        
Wuyi Chen Chung        
Wuyi chi-chong   Wuyi Chi Chung    
Wuyi Chi Chung        
Wuyi Hsiencha   Wuyi Shui Hsien    
Wuyi Liu Hsiang        
Wuyi Min Chung        
Wuyi Shui Hsien        
Xian Her        
Yellow Gold Superior      
Yu Wi Yan Cha Imperial      
Zhenzhong   Wuyi Chen Chung