Red Oolong is a deeply fermented and moderately roasted oolong tea. It was initially developed in Taiwan and perfected by the Wu family farm in Luye Valley of Taitung County, Taiwan. Nestled between two of Taiwan's highest mountain ranges, the valley's pristine nature and fresh air attract many for tea tourism and the annual hot air balloon festival.
Our stumble upon the Luye Red Oolong farm was accidental. While visiting the Luye Valley, we came across Mrs. Wu's small tea house. While not big, it had an inviting atmosphere — in the true Taiwanese style, everything was made from local darkish-red wood. The furniture, the giant tea table, and beautifully carved frames adorned the tea house. There were many traditional art pieces and scriptures on the inside. It seemed the tea house was still in the midst of opening up for the day. Ms. Wu and her family were quietly packing tea. The strong scent of roasted oolong filled the surroundings. It was hard not to come inside. Mrs. Wu quickly turned on the lights and proceeded to treat us to their signature tea.
She started us off with the Red Oolong cold brew while waiting for the tea kettle to slowly heat on the brazier near the tea-table. Next came the Red Oolong brewed gong fu style. The Wu farm only specializes in Red Oolong, so they have perfected the technique. They offered three different grades of the same tea. Starting with the third grade, we couldn't believe the two to come are considered even better. The one we were trying already had such an irresistible roasted aroma and honey sweetness!
While all three tea grades were delectable, we had no doubt — we had to introduce our customers to the best quality! It is truly an indescribable tea. There is no confusion why it has been consecutively winning the highest award at the iTQi Competition in Belgium since 2017.
Taiwanese Bug-Bitten Red Oolong is a tea without rivals. This tea type exists only in Taiwan. The bug-bitten technique is already quite popular in Taiwanese oolong production. When bugs attack the tea leaves, the plant releases enzymes that alter the original taste. Then, sugars are sent to the bitten areas for fast recovery, creating an exceptionally sweet final product. The taste is delightful, of a medium roasted oolong with bright notes of honey and ripe fruits. However, it is the landscape and the Wu family's meticulous care, which make this tea a specialty.
While we sipped the delicious tea, we couldn't stop noticing the strong aroma of roasted tea surfacing around the tea room. Ms. Wu kindly proceeded to show us the rooms where all the tea is produced, from roasting to packaging. Indeed in the next-door room of the tea house were special machines roasting the tea leaves according to very specific temperatures and times. Usually these are a trade secret of the specific tea farms, as everyone has their own. This is one criteria that makes many teas of the same style so variant.
After purchasing tea from the Wu family farm, we proceeded to visit some local wild hot springs in the Luye Valley. The folks who were already enjoying the springs greeted us kindly and proceeded to tell us about the beauty of the area. After some time, they pulled out a bottle of home-made cold-brewed tea and proceeded to treat us to it. To our surprise, it was Ms. Wu's red oolong tea! An incredibly enjoyable option while enjoying refreshing cold-brewed oolong tea!
We just knew that we had to source this tea and be able to share it with our clients from outside Taiwan! After some work, we are very happy we are able to stock the tea and share it with everyone.
The Best Ways To Brew Luye Red Oolong:
Red oolongs are exceptionally good brewed in many ways: gong fu style, western style, and cold-brewed. The cold-brewing method highlights many aroma notes which don't surface as easily when brewed hot, plus it's a very refreshing option, especially during Taiwan's hot and humid summers. After all, hot-brewing is a classic which we will never say no to. Hot brewing Luye Oolong indeed brings out the tea's warming roasted qualities.
Tips for brewing Luye Red Oolongs:
- For gong fu style and western-style: Lessen the tea leaves to 2/3 of the ordinary amount you would use with similar oolong varieties. Shorten the brewing time.
- For cold brewing: use 3-5 grams of tea leaves to make 600ml (20 oz) of tea. Store it at room temperature or refrigerator. It's ready in approximately 3-8 hours.