If you're new to loose-leaf tea and are preparing to brew an oolong, it's important to realize that the way you brew the tea will have a notable impact on its flavors and overall appeal. To ensure your oolong is as enjoyable as possible, follow these brewing tips.
Make sure your water is between 180 and 190 degrees F.
A lot of beginner tea brewers make the mistake of simply pouring boiling water over their tea leaves. While this may be adequate for preparing mass-produced tea bags, it is too hot to extract the proper flavors from the oolong. Use a thermometer to ensure your water is between 180 and 190 degrees F when you pour it over the tea. It's generally easier to heat your water in a pan than in a kettle, since you can monitor the temperature more easily this way.
Oolong is not intended to be steeped (or brewed -- the words are used interchangeably in the tea world), for a long period of time. Once you introduce the leaves to the water, only leave them to steep for about 30 seconds to a minute. Any longer, and you risk extracting bitter compounds, called tannins, from the tea.
Use a tea ball or net.
Because oolong is steeped so quickly, the easiest ways to steep loose-leaf oolong are to either put it in a metal tea ball, which you then immerse in your cup or pot of water, or enclose some of it in a single-use mesh pouch and insert that into your water. Start by using about 1 teaspoon of oolong leaves per cup of tea. If you desire a stronger flavor, add a little more the next time, and experiment until you find the right proportion of tea leaves to water for your personal tastes.
Re-steep your tea leaves.
Don't discard your tea leaves after you have removed your tea ball or pouch from the water! Set this aside, and when you're done drinking your first cup of tea, make a second one using the same tea leaves. Traditionally, oolong leaves are brewed several times. You can keep reusing the leaves until the tea tastes too bitter for your preferences.
Don't add anything to your oolong tea.
Oolong is traditionally enjoyed as-is. You do not need any milk, sugar, honey, or lemon with this luxurious and flavorful beverage. Just sip and enjoy its subtle nuances. If you're able, it's always nice to buy several different types of oolong at the same time, and brew them side by side to compare their flavors. For more information about oolong tea, talk to a professional like My Fresh Tea.