Se Chung Oolong Tea

Monday, July 7, 2008

Se Chung is hard to describe in a PG-rating manner. I will say this though, the way it looks and smells... well, as one co-worker put it after a long stare and big whiff, "Looks like I could roll it and smoke it."

Oh, those crazy, bra burning, flower children of the seventies.

I passed around the tea to a group of friends later, one was a bit more blunt (get it?) asking, "Is this tea made from pot?" The tea has become quite popular in this regard, a sort of new-age, new-herbal sort of tea that's still classically old school.

However taste wise, it's something completely different. It's very reminiscent of teas you might get in a Chinese restaurant. There is a light straw like flavor with airy hints of rice, it slips down with a spring in its step and reminds you of your favorite traditional sushi house. The tea is palate cleansing, clean and almost purifying, but still a pleasant reminder of flavor lingers with you that's almost cantaloupe-ish.

Oolongs require special brewing, as many of them require that you infuse them in hot water for just a moment, then pour off the water to get rid of the initial bitterness and impurities. This allows you to wash away the first harsh flavors and keep only the more subtle delicate notes.

Oolongs are basically a tea in between green and black teas and are between 10%-70% oxidized. In China, since these teas are neither green nor black they are called qīngchá or "green-blue" teas. Se Chung is a prime example of a basic oolong.

Still, it brings up an intrinsic and necessary tea cooking question... can I smoke with it?


  1. And to answer the eight e-mails I already received, no I don't smoke pot. I was running with the joke. *shakes fist at the internet*

  2. I've used the smoked black tea Lapsang Souchong (or the milder Russian Caravan) to use for grilled meat to get a quick faux-smoked flavor. I created a rub using Chinese five-spice, cayenne, garlic and onion powders, pepper, and whatever else strikes your fancy, mixed in with a considerable amount of the dried Lapsang Souchong. You can also brush the meat with oil before applying the rub and grilling to make it less grill-sticky. I've used it on salmon steaks mostly, but it would also be delicious on any lighter like chicken or pork (maybe even beef). You can leave the tea on when you eat it, or just scrape the crispy leaves off on your plate, either way is fine (but the large leaves do get a bit crunchy during cooking).

  3. i love se chung oolong and i don't smoke pot either!
    i buy my tea from zhi, they rock. i am addicted to the golden lily oolong.
    oh, and to respond to kristin, yeah, cooking with lapsang is awesome. lapsang smoked salmon is divine!


  4. In my day we called the pot smokers, "tea heads."

    Never knew about the first pouring off-thanks for the tip.

  5. That Se Chung Oolong looks gorgeous. But if you like soothing herbs think about trying pot one day. Don't knock it till you've tried it! I enjoy drinking herbal teas but I was wondering if anyone recommends smoking Oolong...

  6. I tried some Se Chung oolong a long time ago and loved it...and while searching for it I found this blog. However, I still had unanswered questions about it.

    After doing more research, I uncovered some fascinating secrets...Se Chung is not one type of oolong but rather a whole class of oolongs, encompassing anything from Anxi County (famous for Tie Guan Yin = Iron Goddess of Mercy oolong) other than Tie Guan Yin.

    I've compiled all this information into a page on Se Chung Oolong -- and there are subpages describing a number of sub-types of this oolong, which have crazy names like "Profound orchid" or "Hairy crab".

    I have fallen in love with these teas...they are remarkably inexpensive compared to their quality, and they are surprisingly diverse--but many of them have a similar aroma (haha) to what you describe this particular tea as having.

    I hope you enjoy this page. And if you smoke any of this stuff, BTW, please tell me what happens. I'd be very curious.

  7. Alex: Thanks so much for the heads up!


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