For serious devotees of Chinese and Japanese tea—and for curious tea drinkers who want to learn more—it's surprisingly hard to find a retailer in Manhattan with both quality selection and helpful service. Sure, you can get some decent Dragonwell at plenty of merchants, but most in this city cater to the Western-style milk-and-sugar set. Not so at Sun's Organic Garden, a source for specialty tea and exotic herbs, located in the heart of Chinatown.
'Oolong' on Serious Eats
If you've ever been to the Palais des Thés in Paris, you've probably found yourself coveting these well-designed tins of aromatic teas. Since they've recently launced a US e-commerce site, you can order them at home now (or buy a fancy gift for someone special.) We recently tried a few of their flavored teas (called Créations) and found a lot to like.
My favorite oolong tea lately has been Republic of Tea's Milk Oolong, but I was curious about a cheaper option and picked this box of bagged tea up at my local Whole Foods.
The cheek-to-jowl streets of Flushing, Queens may not seem like the place to find a serene idyll, but slipping into a cup of tea—especially with the right guide—can be just that. Herself raised in the Anxi region of China where Tieguanyin (or "Iron Goddess of Mercy") oolong tea originates, storekeeper Sue is excited to guide visitors through the process of gong-fu oolong preparation, offering as much depth in her knowledge as exists in the flavors of the tea itself.
In the mid-1800s, oolong tea, already well-rooted in the Fujian and Guangdong provinces of China, cleverly found its way across the "Black Ditch" strait to Taiwan. Here's our guide to Taiwanese oolong.
If you like woodland legends, oolong's is a good one. They say this semi-fermented tea was discovered by a hunter (or a tea farmer, depending who you ask) named Wu Liang, who was beguiled by the beauty of a passing deer. In the process of his deep distraction, the tea leaves he was carrying became bruised and rumpled, starting the process of oxidation that would lead to an even more beguiling catch...in his teacup.
Photograph from geekgirlunveiled on Flickr One summer I worked in the tea industry, and remember learning that oolong was held in high esteem. When referencing the semi-oxidized tea (somewhere between green and black), people usually looked at me funny. "Oo-who?" Jane Black at the Washington Post investigates the stigma against oolong. Part of oolong's lack of wide acceptance can be traced to a fear factor. Unlike green and black teas, which require one steeping, oolongs benefit from multiple infusions. That is because the leaves are picked when they are bigger and thicker, and multiple rounds of hot water help the flavors blossom and intensify. As a result, the Chinese and the Taiwanese like to drink oolongs gong-fu style. The...