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Red Oolong - Taiwan’s Emerging Specialty Tea

red oolong in small cups and gaiwan

You've heard of oolong, perhaps even heard of high-mountain oolong and roasted oolong. But what on earth is red oolong? Red oolong or 紅烏龍 (hóng wūlóng) is a recent development of the Taitung branch of the Tea Industry Improvement Station 茶業改良. The leaves are ball-rolled and the tea soup is bright, clear, and orange-red. It is a new specialty tea in Taiwan boasting a lustrous, sweet, and smooth taste. It is also perfectly suitable for both hot and cold brewing. I especially love this Taiwan's Ministry of Agriculture's allegory:

If the strip-shaped Baozhong can be compared to a young girl about to bloom, Dongding oolong tea is a charming lady, and Tieguanyin is a down-to-earth and capable middle-aged man who has experienced vicissitudes of life, then Red Oolong can be said to be a chivalrous man with tenderness, honor, strong martial arts, and a hidden secret.

Characteristics of Red Oolong

dry red oolong leaves
  1. Red oolong is a newly created specialty tea that combines the processing characteristics and quality characteristics of oolong tea and black tea. The degree of oxidation can be said to be the highest among oolong teas currently.

  2. The dry leaves are hemispherical, dark red and shiny.

  3. The color of the tea soup is amber-orange, bright and clear, just like the color of black tea, but the taste is like oolong tea.

  4. The tea is thick and has a ripe fruit aroma. The taste is mellow and smooth, yet it yields many steeps.

  5. Red oolong is heavily oxidized and then roasted. The emphasis is on the sweetness and the color of the tea soup. It is less likely to deteriorate after long-term storage and can be used as an aged tea.

Honey and fruity taste

red oolong tea soup is clear and warm in color

The characteristics of red oolong are unique. It combines the best of black tea and oolong tea into a whole category of its own. The sugary sweetness of black tea merges with the gentle florals of oolong resulting in a mellow symphony of honey and red fruit. The tea doesn't have the tart astringency of black tea, is not afraid of boiling water or long steeping times, and is perfect as a cold brew drink as well, making it perhaps the most beginner-friendly tea to date.

Among the red oolongs there is variation in taste depending on the cultivar, the terroir, production process, etc. For example, the two red oolong we have in our store both have unique characters. Hong Long is made from the Four Seasons cultivar, which grants the tea extra flowery notes and a brighter pallet. Heavenly Red, on the other hand, is made from Big Leaf Oolong cultivar, one of the four main cultivars of Taitung. This cultivar grants the tea more baked fruit and honey notes.

How to prepare Red Oolong?

Red oolong is highly flexible and can be prepared gongfu style, in a large pot or cold brew.

  • Gongfu Style: Use around 92-100°C water and around 3-5g per 100ml water. Steep for 30-45 seconds each time, increasing the steeping time to your liking. the tea is resilient and can grant you around 5-6 steeps.

  • Large Teapot: Use 95°C water and around 7g per 1 liter water. Steep for 2-3 minutes, depending on your preference.

  • Cold Brew: 8-10g per 600ml cold or ice water, keep it at room temperature or in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before drinking. Alternatively, use 5g per 600ml water and steep overnight in the fridge.

Here's a tip: the higher the temperature, the more fragrant your tea will get. Lower temperature results in a sweeter tea.

steeped red oolong leaves are darker

A little bit of history

Red oolong is a specialty of Taitung. Since its launch in Luye Township, Taitung County in 2008, red oolong has gradually attracted the attention and love of consumers. Located on the east coast of Taiwan, Taitung entered the tea-growing industry quite late (around the 1960s). The period from 1980 to 1995 can be considered the heyday of tea for the region. At that time, the central and southern tea areas and high-mountain oolong were not yet so massively popular. The late winter and early spring tea produced in the Taitung tea area gradually became popular among tea merchants and tea manufacturers. Industry leaders came to Taitung to engage in tea processing and wholesale business, laying a solid foundation for the development of Taitung's tea industry. The tea growing area was once as large as 500-600 hectares.

After 1996, Fulu tea entered a period of bleakness, with the area of the tea area gradually decreasing, the number of tea factories dropping from 50 to 60 at its peak to the present 10-odd, and the area of tea gardens dropping to about 200 hectares so that the development of the tea area is facing a new test of survival. The reasons for the sudden decline of the tea plantations are complex, one is the separation of growing and processing. Tea farmers are responsible for growing tea, and the tea leaves are sold to the tea factories for processing, and it is difficult to strike a balance between the tea farmers and the tea factories in terms of the quality and quantity of tea and the opposing ways of marketing. Secondly, the tea area lacked characteristics and was not well-known. The tea produced was the same as in other tea areas, and the market could not be developed. Third was the impact of imported teas to Taiwan.

Thanks to the joint efforts of industry, government, and academia, the Taitung Branch of the Tea Industry Improvement Center is actively guiding the transformation and upgrading of tea areas and comprehensively strengthening the transformation from a "production-based" tea industry to a "knowledge-based" tea industry. In terms of the cultivation of special varieties, the Huadong region is already the largest producer of the Big Leaf Oolong cultivar in Taiwan. Yongkang Mountain wild tea is also being bred and is expected to become another specialty of the eastern tea region. Tea processing has currently launched honey fragrance black tea, honey fragrance green tea, red oolong, and other teas, which have gradually gained the love and recognition of consumers.

Among these teas, honey fragrance black tea has become a specialty tea of ​​the Wuhe Tea Area in Ruisui Township, Hualien County. The first choice of tea for consumers coming to Wuhe Village is honey-flavored black tea. Wuhe Village has become the place for honey-flavored black tea.

Experience our honey fragrance black tea from Ruisui and red oolong from Luye to understand the unique taste of the eastern coast of Taiwan.


Source: Ministry of Agriculture Taiwan


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