Monday, March 10, 2008

Monkey Picked Oolong Tea

A friend recently told me about this wonderful (albeit pricey) tea. She warned me not to go into Teavana and try a sample or I would be hooked for life as she is. So, of course, I just had to go into Teavana and try it, and yes, it is delicious. But it is definitely a tea for special occasions, not for everyday use.

You may be wondering - is it really picked by monkeys?! Sadly, no. I had these fascinating visions of darling little monkeys picking my tea. There is a tale going round that Buddhist monks long ago trained monkeys to pick tea leaves, but there are differing opinions on whether or not that is true. There is, however, one company in China today that claims to have monkeys picking tea for them.

At any rate, today the name Monkey Picked Oolong means the finest variety of Oolong tea. Oolong tea is the type of tea often served in Chinese restaurants. It is lighter than black tea. The differences are in how the tea is processed (it is called fermentation, but not the same fermentation as one would find with alcohol):

  • Black tea: When tea leaves are bruised or crushed, enzymes in the leaf cells are exposed to oxygen and a chemical reaction (oxidation) takes place that causes the leaf to darken, or ferment. When tea leaves are fully fermented, the end product is black tea.

  • Oolong tea: The fermentation process is stopped prematurely, once the leaves are slightly yellowed. When steeped, Oolong tea produces golden or light brown tea with a very delicate flavor resembling neither black nor green tea.
After a very hectic week and weekend, with both of my daughters dancing in a show, I felt it was a good day to have my Monkey Picked Oolong!

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