Oolong Growing Areas Compared – Thailand, India, and Elsewhere

THIS IS NOT MEANT TO COVER EVERY OOLONG OUT THERE.
IF I’VE MISSED ONE, PLEASE NOTE IT IN A COMMENT.

Our series on oolongs has covered Northern Fujian (Wuyi Rock) Oolongs, Southern Fujian Oolongs, Dancong Oolongs, and some Taiwan Oolong Champions. Now, we’re going to showcase oolongs from some areas that are beginning to be recognized for their oolongs outside of their own countries. Some we’ve carried on our store site and gotten good feedback from customers.

The Location

There are more and more noteworthy oolongs coming from Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Indian states of Sikkim, West Bengal, and Assam, plus ones from other areas that are a bit surprising. Sometimes tea is a replacement crop for opium poppies as the governments there try to get people to make the transition away from what is a big cash crop. A lot of this has been reported on Siam Tee blog.

New Zealand is gaining a reputation with their “Zealong” versions. Tea growing in New Zealand for these oolongs is a pretty recent thing (early 1990s) when a Taiwanese migrant imported cuttings of two cultivars especially good for oolongs (qin xin and jinxuan) and planted them. Now they cover about 40 hectares and have a unique terroir character. (See more about terroir on our blog here.)

Some Oolongs from These Other Locations

As you’ve seen in the previous articles, oolongs are a varied and rewarding class of teas. If you get a chance, try some of these:

  • Zealongs – A clever name for these teas from New Zealand.
    • Zealong Dark – a more roasty, vegetal tasting oolong that is more oxidized and infusing a pale green liquid.
    • Zealong Pure – a mildly planty tea with a somewhat buttery mouthfeel and a pale to deep yellow color as you infust it multiple times.

Zealong_Pure

  • Sikkim Oolong Tea from Temi Tea Garden – The state of Sikkim was an independent country but is now a recent addition to India, lying next to Nepal. Temi is the only known tea garden there.
  • Darjeeling Oolong – made according to Chinese methods but still having that distinctive fruity quality that teas from the Darjeeling area of West Bengal in northern India have become famous for.
  • Assam Smoked Oolong – the state of Assam in northern India is known for it’s coarse, lower grade black teas, but the bar is being raised with oolong tea made according to Chinese methods and delicately smoked over open fire, plus green and white teas.
  • Nepali Oolongs – teas from Nepal are little known in the U.S. but are gaining more attention, and their oolongs are steadily improving.
  • Thai Oolongs – the oolongs we have tried and have in stock are from northern Thailand from the Doi Mae Salong cultivation area. The elevation is 1200-1800 meters.
    • Doi Mae Salong Shi Er Black Pearls are actually more of a black tea with dry leaves rolled up into nugget shapes and a nutty, cocoa-ish aroma similar to Ti Kuan Yin Iron Goddess Oolong.
    • Doi Mae Salong Si Ji Chun 4-Seasons Oolong – appears to be a mid-oxidized oolong with leaves that have a sweet spinach-like aroma. The liquid is also mildly sweet and a bit spinachy. The plant used has four harvests per year – thus the name. The plant was developed in the mid-1980s in the Alishan mountain region of Taiwas and then brought to Thailand.
    • Doi Mae Salong (DMS) Oolong Chaa Nang Ngam Beauty Pearls Tea – harvested once per year from a tea plant species developed in and imported from the Alishan mountain area of Taiwan in the mid-1990s. Like Oriental Beauty, this tea is made from leaves bitten by a leafhopper species that leaves a special secretion behing, giving the tea its heavenly flavor. ‘Cha Nang Ngam’ is Thai for ‘beautiful female’ (not just physical appearance, but also a beautiful character). The tea is lightly oxidized (about 20-30%) and infuses a light yellow liquid with a floral aroma.
    • Doi Mae Salong (DMS) Oolong Dong Ding Blue Pearls Tea – another import, this time around the turn of the millennium and from the Dong Ding region of Taiwan. The liquid has a prevailing milky note that is somewhat sweet. A medium-oxidized oolong that evokes impressions of milk, sugar, and honey but not overwhelming.
    • Doi Mae Salong (DMS) Oolong No. 17 Ruan Zhi Jade Pearls Tea – and another import originating in the Alishan highlands of Taiwan around 1994. ‘No. 17’ stands for the hybrid, which is also called ‘Ruan Zhi Jade’ due to the color of the liquid (ranging from a lovely jade-green to bright yellow). It is a lightly oxidized oolong that has been carefully handpicked and rolled into the pearl shape. The flavor is mild with a rich aroma and a velvety, fruity touch of sweetness and a floral note coming through subtly.

Thai_OolongsThat wraps up our oolong saga for now. We’ll be sure to report on more findings as we come across them and look forward to hearing about yours. You can comment here or post on our Facebook page.

About Janice and Stephen Shelton

Purveyors of Premium Teas
This entry was posted in Oolong Teas, Tea Info for Newbies and Up, Thailand Teas and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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