Saturday, June 14, 2014

Blue Tea

The first time I heard the term “blue tea”, I thought it was totally bogus. A UO professor asked me if I'd ever heard of this kind of tea before. When I said that I hadn't, he offered to bring me a copy of a book that he had just brought back from Mainland China. Flipping through the book, I was shocked to see that the tea the author classified as blue tea was oolong. I dismissed it as a fluke and hoped I would never come across the term again. If only I had been so lucky...

I have one request of the tea world. Let's agree not to call oolong blue tea. More and more, I see books and magazine articles referring to oolong as blue tea. We have to put a stop to this. I am slightly color blind, and maybe for that reason, I want things that are called blue to really be blue, or sad, and oolong is neither of the two. 青 or “qing” is one type of oolong. Qing can be translated as either green or blue. This category of oolong is what we at J-TEA refer to as “green oolong.” We call it green oolong, well, because it is green. But maybe, because qing can be translated as either green or blue, then maybe it could be called blue tea. But in my mind, for the reason stated above, and because qing is only one type of oolong, it should not be called blue. To leap from this one mistranslation, to calling the entire category of oolong “blue tea” is absurd.
An example of qing oolong tea

When I was trying to make sense of this nonsense, I reached out to the online tea community. “Tea enthusiasts, what is this nonsense about calling oolong blue tea?” It was here that I learned that there was some genius who thought, because other tea categories were named by color, that all teas should be named by color. This makes sense right? I mean white tea is not white, and black tea is not black, unless it is Lipton, which uses food coloring, so why can't oolong be blue? I guess we could if we really want it to be.

But do we? Do we want to be this lazy in our approach to classifying tea? Are we really going to call roasted oolongs, amber in color, the traditional color of oolong, are we going to call this blue? Formosa oolong's or eastern beauties; intoxicatingly translucent red, are we going to call this blue? Traditional iron goddess of mercy, a dark rich ruby red, should we call this blue? I must protest. I must find a way to put a stop to this. There is such a wide range of oolong teas, and it makes no sense to give them the color code blue. Classifying all oolong as blue is too lazy, and classifying qing as blue is a mistranslation. So it looks as though I have another fight with the tea world's status quo. Let it be known that I am fighting for transparency, not obfuscation. We can all say oolong, weather you spell it oolong or wu long. So say oolong like you mean it, like you are proud, and it won't be too long before everyone knows this amazing category of tea by its proper name.  

Aged 1986 Dong Ding Oolong, looking anything but blue.

No comments:

Post a Comment