History of Oolong Tea

History of Oolong Tea
July 6, 2018 lauramiraclep

Oolong tea, sometimes written as Wu Long tea (Wu means Black, Long means Dragon in Chinese), is a well-loved traditional Chinese tea due to its unique bittersweet taste that sits somewhere between a black tea and a green tea. So, what’s the story behind this healthy wholesome beverage?

There are various stories about the history of Oolong tea but the following three are widely believed to be the origin of Oolong tea:

1. Tribute Tea

Oolong tea, or originally known as Beiyun tea, was invented during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907) in the Beiyuan region of Phoenix Mountain, Fujian Province. Due to its fine quality and unique taste, the Song emperors (960 – 1279) considered Beiyun tea as a tribute tea – a tea that was given in tribute for the indulgence of the royalty. The Song emperors were known for their high taste in leisure, including tea drinking, and for being extravagant. They even built the imperial tea garden of Beiyuan in Fujian Province where they grew tea. Then, they compressed and molded these tea leaves, imprinting tea cakes with the design of a dragon and a phoenix. Hence, called the Dragon-Phoenix Tea Cake (Longfong Tuancha).

Soon after, during the Ming dynasty, they stopped producing tea cakes because they were considered outdated as tributes and were replaced by loose-leaf tea. Their loose leaf tea was glossy and dark. Thus, called Black Dragon tea (the original Oolong tea).

2. Wuyi Mountain

Oolong tea was first crafted in the Wuyi Mountain of Fujian Province during the era of Ming dynasty (16th century). This was documented in poems.

The first is Wuyi Tea Song (Wuyi Chage) by Yi Chaoqun:

In the 15th century 
tea fields were abandoned 
as some of the rock tea starts to grow
they love it when the north wind blow in a sunny day
but not the south wind or rain
the fragrance dissipates
the beautiful plum and orchid aroma
come from the final baking process

The second is Tea Tale (Chashuo) by Wang Chaotang:

Wuyi tea is first left to sun in bamboo basket
Then roasted and baked
Longjing tea is pure because it is roasted but not withered
Only Wuyi tea is roasted and withered
Half green and half red
Roasted green and withered red
Left to wither then shaken
When the fragrance emerges, it is roasted
The timing has to be precious

The tea was named after the Wuyi Mountain where it was produced, Wuyi or Cliff tea.

3. Anxi County

Anxi is a county in the Fujian Province of China. It is renowned for producing the Iron Goddess (Tie Guan Yin) Oolong tea. The tea plant was originally named after the person who discovered it, Su Long. However, misinterpretation in local dialects resulted in the name Su Long to become Wu Long.

Another popular version of the “Anxi” story is about a hunter named Dragon. His skin was dark so he was called Black Dragon. One day, when he went for hunting, he accidentally kept tea leaves in his bag for too long because he was distracted by a beast creature. Oxidised and fermented well, the tea was found to be very fragrant and people nearby caught the aroma. They decided to name it after him as a remembrance for his accidental discovery.