Steeping Oolong Tea

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Asian-style and Western-style methods of steeping oolongs differ completely in the ration of tea to water used and in the type of tea vessels used to steep the tea. Chinese and Taiwanese oolongs are manufactured in three distinctive styles, each with unique tastes and distinctive appearances.

Western-style steeping in a medium to large sized teapot (24 -32 ounces):

  • First measure the capacity of your teapot
    Fill your teapot to capacity with water and then measure this volume of water in ounces. Divide this munber by 6.
    Most recommendations for amount of tea to use are based on 6 ounces of water. For example, a 24-ounce teapot would require
    4 measures of tea to make a full-strength pot of tea.
  • Measure of tea:
    use 2 to 3 grams of leaf per 6 ounces of water

For semiball-rolled-style oolongs this is approximately 2 teaspoons of leaf
For strip-style oolongs this is approximately 1.25  Tablespoons  to 2 Tablespoons of leaf
For leaf-style oolong this is approximately 1 Tablespoon to 2 Tablespoons leaf

  • Water temperature:
    use water that is 180°F – 200°F

Asian description: ‘string of pearls’ water. That’s when tiny bubbles thread along the surface – or boil the water and let it rest for two minutes
( a general rule of thumb for this diverse category with its 20-degree range is ‘the darker the leaf the hotter the water’ )

  • Rinse the tea:
    Place the tea in your teapot or tea vessel and begin by rinsing it with a quick application of hot water. To do this, add just enough water to cover the tea lea Immediately discard this liquid. Add additional hot water for the 1st steeping.( See Note below)
  • Steeping Time: keep the leaf in the water for the appropriate amount of time.

Oolong tea prepared in a Western-style teapot can be steeped 3 to 5 minutes depending on whether the leaf is semiball-rolled,
open, flat leaf; or a long, folded leaf. Oolongs steeped this way can be re-steeped, but they may only yield a second infusion,
not the multiple infusions obtained when using Asian-style oolong preparation.

Asian-style steeping in a small teapot (under 10oz) or in a gaiwan:

We encourage tea enthusiasts to experiment steeping oolongs the Asian way in a porcelain gaiwan or small unglazed clay teapot when possible. These are the methods of choice used for steeping oolong in China and Taiwan.

If you purchase an unglazed clay teapot for oolong, remember that Asian tea lovers use a different teapot for light and dark oolongs. This is because the teapot will absorb some of the flavor of the tea, so it is best to use only one style of oolong with each teapot.

Gaiwans are made of fully-glazed, hard porcelain and do not absorb flavors. So they are a great choice for steeping any type of oolong.

  • Measure of tea:
    use 5 to 6 grams of leaf per 6 ounces of water
    (on Taiwan it is not uncommon to use 6-8 grams of leaf for this amount of water, so you may need to increase the size of the teapot if you are steeping a semi ball-rolled oolong and the leaf expands significantly when rehydrated)

Fill the gaiwan or a 4 to 6 ounce Yixing teapot one-half to two-thirds full of leaf, depending on the style of the leaf
( follow our lead from the instructions above – a smaller volume of leaf is required initially when steeping a semiball-rolled-style and a larger volume for a strip-style or open leaf-style oolong ) Ultimately the volume of leaf for most oolongs will be similar after rehydration, so gauge your teapot selection on the known or anticipated volume of the leaf when you are finished, not when you start!

  • Water temperature:
    use water that is 180 °F – 200°F

Asian description: ‘string of pearls’ water
That’s when tiny bubbles thread along the surface – or boil the water and let it rest for two minutes
(a general rule of thumb for this diverse category with its 20-degree range is ‘the darker the leaf the hotter the water’)

  • Rinse the tea:
    Place the tea in your teapot or tea vessel and begin by rinsing it with a quick application of hot water. To do this, add just enough water to cover the tea lea Immediately discard this liquid. Add additional hot water for the 1st steeping. (See Note below)
  • Steeping Time: keep the leaf in the water for the appropriate amount of time.

Oolongs prepared Asian-style are enerally steeped for 30 seconds to a minute,
and can be re-steeped 6 to 8 times, depending on the type of oolong.

NOTE:
Oolongs are traditionally ‘rinsed’ before being steeped. This is done with a quick application of hot water that is poured over the tea in the gaiwan or teapot and then immediately poured off. Most oolong enthusiasts do not drink this 1st steeping, but use it only to help the leaves open. Add additional hot water for the 1st steeping and steep as intended.

View our Oolong tea

More tea steeping information:

Steeing Black tea,     Steeping Green tea & Jasmine tea,      Steeping Pu-erh & Hei Cha,     Steeping White tea,     Steeping Yellow tea