What is Oolong Tea?
Oolong is a partially oxidized tea made from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant. Oolongs fall somewhere in between black teas, which are fully oxidized, and green teas, which are unoxidized, and share some common characteristics with both of these types of tea.
Oolongs can vary in their oxidation level, ranging from approximately ten to ninety percent oxidized, depending on the particular tea. Because of this, oolong can differ widely from one another, and may taste more similar to a black or a green tea depending on how they are processed. In terms of flavor, various aspects determine where an oolong tea falls along the green to black tea spectrum in addition to oxidation, including terroir, harvest date, processing style.
China and Taiwan are the best known producing countries in the world today. The moniker “oolong” is an English transliteration of the Chinese “wulong,” meaning black dragon. In China, oolong teas are sometimes also referred to as dark green teas. Chinese tea production reaches back centuries, in particular among the geographic regions of Fujian and Guangdong. Within Fuijan, tea production is clustered around the areas of the Wuyi Mountains and Anxi County. Oolong teas are closely associated with Gonfu Cha, a traditional Chinese tea ceremony where tea leaves undergo many successive infusions in order to draw out different nuances in flavor.
Taiwan, China’s neighbor to the east, is a relative newcomer to the world of tea, with tea production beginning in the early eighteenth century on the island of Formosa. Taiwanese oolongs tend to have lower oxidation levels than their Chinese counterparts, and are often lighter and more similar to green teas. In recent years, Taiwan has experienced a rapid surge in the demand for their unique teas, including speciality oolongs such as Milk Oolong.
In recent years, some oolong teas have been produced in other countries, such as India, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. While these countries are still perfecting their oolong recipes, and haven’t yet achieved the stature of China or Taiwan when it comes to oolong production, many new and exciting oolongs originate from these countries!
How Oolong is Made
After the leaves from the tea plant are harvested, the leaves are withered and partially oxidized. During this process, oolong tea leaves may be rolled or shaped into tight balls or twists. The shaping and rolling is what contributes to an oolong tea’s unique appearance and characteristics. Because many oolongs consist of an entire tea leaf that is delicately rolled into a smaller, more compact shape, oolong teas are an excellent candidate for multiple infusions, and may be steeped several times without losing their flavor.
After the tea leaves are partially oxidized and carefully shaped, they made also be roasted, which imparts a rich, nutty flavor to the teas. Depending on the level of oxidation, the shaping process, and whether or not they are roasted, oolong teas can vary widely in terms of their shape, color, and flavor.
Oolong Health Benefits
Like all teas made from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant, oolong teas have a wide variety of health benefits, including a wealth of antioxidants. Generally speaking, oolong teas have less caffeine than most black teas and more caffeine than most green teas. Because oolongs can vary widely, however, they tend to exist somewhere on a spectrum between black and green teas in terms of caffeine.
Drinking oolong teas may help to suppress appetite, lower blood pressure, and even ward off some types of cancer. Oolong teas also contain a unique compound known as l-theanine, which helps to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Whether you’re interested in these teas for their unique health benefits or their delicious taste, you really can’t go wrong with a cup of oolong!
Oolong teas can be steeped several times, with each infusion resulting in subtle differences in flavor. We recommend using one teaspoon of oolong tea for every six ounces of water, and steeping the tea in 195 degree water for two to three minutes. For subsequent infusions, add an additional one to two minutes per infusion. For best results, use fresh, filtered water.
Here are ArtfulTea, we have a variety of oolongs to strike your fancy, from the crisp, classic Jade Song to the dark, fruity Passion Petal and everything in between!
A superior quality oolong from Taiwan, Jade Song contains large, hand-rolled leaves that unfurl to release a delicate vegetal flavor with a smooth finish. Many infusions are possible with this classic, fragrant tea that tends more green than dark.
An autumn flush tea from Nepal, this double roasted oolong is full-bodied, with subtle notes of apricot, malt and caramel in a deep amber-red brew. Similar in characteristics to a malty black tea, this innovative oolong is a prime example of quality Nepali tea.
Prized for its milky aroma and rich, tangy flavor, this Milk Oolong is produced by hand in the Fujian Province of China, within the Prefecture of Quanzhou. These hand-rolled leaves are a rich olive-green color and brew into a golden-green liquor. This relatively new cultivar of tea has the distinctive, mellow buttery flavor sought by those who enjoy specialty oolongs!
This lovely flavored oolong combines the taste of passion fruit with an intense and enchanting tropical fragrance. Aronia berries, mango cubes and rose petals enhance the exotic flavor of this partially oxidized tea. Passion Petal also makes a lovely iced tea in the warmer months!
Our Ginseng Oolong comes in the classic form of small rolled balls of tea leaves, which are coated with ginseng and blended with licorice root. This enjoyable oolong brews into a naturally floral cup with a hint of spice. This blend is well-known in China for its many health benefits, and is sometimes called “King’s Tea” or “Emperor Oolong.”
A superb blend of exceptional quality oolong with natural citrus essential oils. This beautiful tea will carry you away with its uplifting flavor and fragrance. Grown at high elevation in the Fujian Province of China, this is a crisp green oolong enhanced by a subtle grapefruit flavor.
Whether you’re a longtime oolong fan, or are just interested in learning more about this unique variety of tea, we’re sure to have a blend that will hit the spot!