What You Should Know About Oolong Tea

Tea Essentials

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You've tried green and black (and perhaps white and jasmine too), now how about oolong tea? With the fragrance of green tea and the smoothness of black tea, oolong tea is full-bodied, sweet, and reminiscent of stone fruits like apricots. Although it is traditionally served hot, I think oolong also makes particularly good iced tea.

What Is Oolong Tea?

Like all true teas, oolong tea is produced from the leaves of a shrub called Camellia sinensis. Primarily grown in China and Taiwan (Formosa), this tea is also known as wulong, which means "black dragon."

Whereas green tea is not oxidized and black tea is fully oxidized, oolong tea is semi-oxidized to varying degrees between 10 and 80 percent. (It is sometimes referred to as semi-fermented but fermentation is a misnomer.) Oolong is always a whole-leaf tea with the leaves being open, rolled, or curled.

Varieties of Oolong Tea

The aroma and flavor of oolong tea can vary depending on where it is grown, when it is plucked, and how it is processed. The color of the infusion can also vary; less oxidized teas have a lighter, more golden color, while more oxidized teas have a darker, orange or brown color.

Here are a few oolong teas to look for:

  • Bai Hao (Oriental Beauty, White Tip): Clean and fruity (Taiwan)
  • Da Hong Pao (Red Robe): Highly oxidized, earthy, and rich (Fujian Province)
  • Feng Huang Dan Cong: Sweet and floral (Guangdong Province)
  • Pouchong or Baozhong: Minimally processed, subtle, and delicate; often used to make jasmine tea (Fujian Province and Taiwan)
  • Tie Guan Yin (Iron Goddess): Sweet and fruity (Fujian Province)
  • Tung Ting (Frozen Peak): Smooth and nutty (Taiwan)

Oolong Tea and Health

Oolong tea is sometimes touted as a "weight loss" tea. Studies have indicated that drinking oolong tea may increase energy levels, improve metabolism of lipids, and lower blood sugar.

The caffeine level of oolong tea can vary widely based on the level of oxidation, but it is generally between that of green and black tea.

Do you have a favorite oolong tea?

(Image credits: Emily Han)

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Emily Han (formerly Emily Ho) is a writer, recipe developer and educator on topics such as food preservation, wild food and herbalism. She is author of Wild Drinks and Cocktails (Fall 2015), co-founder of Food Swap Network and creator of Miss Chiffonade