Thursday, March 16, 2006

A lot of hype about Wu long (oolong) tea

Well it's about time that I started using my blog! I have so many ideas and opinions on the happenings in the tea world I am not sure why it's taken me this long. The real motivator is all the questions I have received over the last few days regarding one companies push of a miracle weight loss tea called wu long.

Here's the truth;

Wu long is just another name for oolong tea, a partially oxidized tea that ranges in character from green to dark. Oolong tea is terrific, varies in cost and comes from several regions, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, India etc.

The oolong being hyped as a "miracle" is from Fujian province in southern China, specifically the Wuyi Mountain region, an area that has produced great oolong tea for centuries. My problem is not that this company is promoting tea drinking but that they are make ridiculous claims and prying on people's need to change and the hope that there is a quick fix.

When I visited the site, several customers sent me links, I tried to verify the studies that they quoted and while the impressive research catalogs are pictured the articles are not linked.

Anything that is to good to be true is to good to be true!

Oolong tea has long been used as a cleansing tea with some weight loss benefits. The US Agriculture Dept found that drinking oolong can help to flush carbohydrates and fats from your system and increase your metabolism. But lets face it you can drink oolong by the gallons and if you eat a pint of ice cream every night you are not going to see the benefits.

Oolong teas are delicious and good for you. If you are making changes in your lifestyle i.e. eating better, exercising and drinking more tea I would definitely encourage you to add oolong to your diet. Oolongs are one of my favorite categories of tea, I am drinking a cup right now. I especially enjoy the variety oolong tea offers. If you want to add oolong as a means to aid weight loss make sure you select a dark oolong that's what we have seen results with.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Silver Needle Teas

For me, this time of year is filled with anticipation of the fabulous spring teas. While the weather always dictates the precise timing of the harvest; Chinese Yinzhen or Silver Needle teas are going to be first out of the garden. White tea has a rich history steeped in cultural importance. White teas vary in type and quality, so we will focus on the Yinzhen or Silver Needle white teas of China.


This little known, somewhat rare varietal is gaining recognition and popularity, due in part to the highly publicized potential health benefits. These incredible teas have shown great health promise and have been found to;

Strengthen the immune system, warding off colds and flu.
Have a high content of EGCG the powerful antioxidant known to help prevent certain types of cancers.
Fight free radicals both internally and externally, making it a great topical for skin.
One of the most recent studies, to be presented at the 104th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, May 23rd, 2006, suggests that white tea may have preventative applications in retarding the growth of bacterias that cause infection; specifically Staphylococcus (staph) and Streptococcus (strep) infections, pneumonia and dental caries. White tea may have an anti-viral effect on human pathogenic viruses as well as anti-microbial effect on oral bacteria. In lay terms this study indicates the powerful disease and infection fighting properties of white tea.

Historical Overview

As early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), some compressed forms of tea were referred to as "white teas" and consisted of first flush teas with little or no processing. In the early Sung Dynasty (960 - 1280 A.D.), tea was distributed primarily in loose form in order to preserve its freshness. White teas' popularity among the royal courts elevated it's status and these teas were often presented as gifts of "tribute" to noble courts. Considered a tea connoisseur, Emperor Huei Tsung (1101-1126 A.D.) proclaimed that "white tea" was the most rare and delicate.

Later in the Sung Dynasty powdered teas became fashionable. Harvested and quickly steamed to preserve their unique character, powdered teas were ground and whipped with boiling water resulting in a frothy brew. This early utilization of powdered tea is thought to be the inspiration for Chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony, brought to Japan by Buddhists monks studying in China. Chanoyu, still practiced today, is a refined adaptation of the early Chinese tea ceremony blended with Zen philosophy.

The production, manufacture and brewing methods have also evolved over time. From the Song Dynasty through the late 1700's white teas were harvested only from specific bushes adding to their obscurity. During the Qing Dynasty, 1796, white teas were harvested from a mix of bushes, producing thin small buds with little white hairs. Production shifted once again the late 1800's and white teas were only plucked from specific varietals. The Big White and Narcissus varieties produced the finest white teas, Silver Needle. The first of these rare teas was exported out of China in the 1890's.

White Tea Today

Still a specialty of the Fuding and Zhenhe districts in Fujian province, there are many factors that result in a superior cup of white tea. Standards of selecting and plucking play an important role in the final production. Only early spring buds of the Big White or Narcissus bushes will become Bai Hao Silver Needle. If picked with the presence of leaf or stem they will become a lesser grade of white tea referred to as White Peony.

Modern day white teas are not steamed as often thought, but are slightly withered and dried. Withering, the removal of moisture from the bud/leaf, is crucial to the process. Humidity and temperature play an important role and the tea maker's ability to balance outdoor conditions with indoor withering is key to quality.

Characteristics of a quality dry Silver Needle; bright in tone, uniformly shaped buds, soft and slightly pliable to the touch, covered with white hairs with no leaves or stems.

Proper Brewing

A lot of debate has centered around proper brewing of white teas, frequently a hot topic in our office. At the end of the day it's your tastes that matter most. Some believe that white teas should be brewed like green teas while others claim brewing times of up to 15 minutes are best. Here is my personal guideline to successfully brewing white tea.

Always start with cold, filtered water.
Bring water to a temperature of approximately 180 -190 degrees, I like it on the lower end.
Use a heaping teaspoon of tea per 6 - 8 ounce cup.
Pour prepared water over the tea and allow to steep from 2 - 6 minutes, depending on your personal preference. The longer the brew the more body and caffeine in your cup.

Once brewed, depending on the brewing time, the liquor will appear pale yellow to dark golden with a glistening tone and will have a fresh somewhat nutty note and a slightly sweet undertone.