Follow Mint Lounge

Latest Issue

Home > Food> Drink > Pick a flavoured Chinese oolong

Pick a flavoured Chinese oolong

The best oolongs are rarely available outside China and Taiwan; and flavoured oolongs make for a more accessible entry

The oolong offers an incredible range of flavours.
The oolong offers an incredible range of flavours. (Istockphoto)

The tieguanyin has been on my list of oolongs to try. One of the classics from China, its name translates to “Iron Goddess of Mercy”. There are several legends but the one I like features a Buddhist farmer named Wei Yin who lived in Anxi province. Coming upon an abandoned temple to the deity, Guan Yin, worshipped as the Bodhisattva of Compassion, he decided to look after its upkeep. He was rewarded with a vision to seek a cave behind a temple. There, he found a tea shoot. He nurtured it and soon, all the farmers in Anxi planted it and made a superlative tea, which in turn brought prosperity. The Food and Agriculture Organisation recognises the Anxi tieguanyin tea culture system as one of the globally important agricultural heritage systems or GIAHS.

Also read | Time for Indian tea to show its fun side

This week, I sampled two oolongs, a flavoured tieguanyin and a ginseng oolong. I have begun to lower my resistance to flavoured teas and was eager to see if I could enjoy them for the flavours as much as for the tea. The tieguanyin was milk-flavoured. Now, there’s a style of tea called milk oolong that comes from Taiwan whose milky notes are attributed to the cultivar (Jin Xuan) and tea processing.

For a tea enthusiast, the oolong is worth pursuing when you want more than a malty black, a vegetal green or even a velvety white because there’s so much happening here to offer an incredible range of flavours. What adds to the complexity is the degree of oxidation that spans the whole range between green tea (unoxidised) and black tea (fully oxidised) and the extent of roasting, which is done to arrest the flavour and enhance its shelf life. Roasting also adds another layer of flavour and can be light, medium or heavy.

Of the two I tried, the milk-flavoured tieguanyin was dominated by its scent—unlike a natural milk oolong which has a more subtle scent. The long leaves were green—less oxidised than the traditional tieguanyin—and well twisted, unfurling beautifully in water. What I recall most of its taste is a pleasant nuttiness from the roasting.

The ginseng oolong carried a more earthy fragrance from the ginseng root. What I missed was the twisted and rolled leaves that oolong is famous for because the ginseng oolong presents as green, dung-coloured pellets. However, they brew much better than they look; just steep in small volumes (2.5g in 100-150ml) and do multiple steeps.


With the best oolongs rarely available outside China and Taiwan, flavoured oolongs do make for a more accessible entry. You could start with a ginseng oolong (Burma Burma, 699 for 20g) or a roasted green oolong (Chado Tea, 499/50g) and make your way through a natural milk oolong (Chado Tea, 999/50g ), a tieguanyin (Newby Tea, 3,432/250g), capping it with a High Mountain Taiwanese oolong (San cha Tea Boutique, 650/25g).

Tea Nanny is a fortnightly series on the world of tea. Aravinda Anantharaman is a Bengaluru-based tea blogger and writer who reports on the tea industry. She posts @AravindaAnanth1 on Twitter.

Also read | Sugar, tea and a slice of history

Next Story