Tea 101
Oolong Tea Facts – Learn About Your Favorite Tea

Oolong Tea Facts – Learn About Your Favorite Tea

Oooowee!!! Let’s talk about some oolong tea!

Oolong, also known as wu-long or black dragon tea, is a sort of hybrid between black and green tea. This tea, while only making up 2% of the tea types, is unique and quite profound in the tea culture.

As mentioned, one of the most distinguishing characteristics of oolong tea is that it is neither black nor green tea, but it is its own variation. Depending on the processing and location it is grown, oolong tea can range anywhere in between green and black tea in terms of oxidation, flavor, shape and more!

Keep reading to discover more interesting oolong tea facts!

Origins

Oolong is its own beautiful hybrid. The origins of oolong tea seem to be muddled a bit. There are many stories out there of where it was originated, who is the originator, etc. Among all of this, it is extremely popular among the Chinese and Taiwanese cultures!

oolong-black-dragon
Oolong Black Dragon

One story passed down tells of a farmer, Wu Lang (later switched to Wulong) who one day left his tea leaves unattended for far too long. When he came back he found his withering leaves already beginning to oxidize! This gave birth to the oolong leaves (or wulong named after him)!

Another Chinese story tells of a hunter named Dragon. This hunter, from the Anxi county in China, was dark-skinned and nicknamed the Black Dragon. On one of his hunts, he brought tea with him. As he left them in his bag to ferment, he forgot about them while stalking a beast. As he followed and chased his prey, the tea leaves fermented far too long and due to bruising of the leaves in the bag, they began to oxidize! After he realized what had happened and how delicious of a tea it made, people named the tea after him.

Whatever the story is of this ancient and fragrant tea, we are thankful for the discovery of it!

The Process

In all the origin stories, whether it was a farmer, hunter or another worker, there is a common theme amongst the stories. The oolong tea was discovered after allowing the Camellia sinensis tea leaves to wither and oxidize just a bit too long for green tea standards, but too short for black tea’s!

Oolong starts similarly to black and green tea. Below are the steps of how this wonderful tea is made!

oolong-tea-production-process
Oolong tea process

  1. Withering: This is process of taking the fresh picked leaves, leaving them in the sun for several hours, and allowing to shrivel. The leaves are intentionally bruised and tossed in this step to begin a light oxidation (this is important for oolong).
  2. Cooling: The leaves are next set a side out of the sun to wilt and flatten.
  3. Light Rolling/Bruising: This process is a key step for determining the flavor composition and overall look and characteristics of the tea. The bruising is done very lightly to break the cell walls on the outer edge of the leaves. This releases enzymes and oils within the leaves thus altering the flavor and composition. Rolling also shapes the leaves into the “dragon-like” shapes that oolong is!
  4. Oxidizing: This is process of allowing the leaves to be exposed to oxygen. The longer the exposure, the more oxidized the leaves become. This is the primary step that alters flavor compositions. Oolong tea can be oxidized anywhere from 8 – 80%! That is why there are so many shapes, colors and flavors of this tea.
  5. Roasting/Fixing: Once the oxidation reaches the tea masters desired levels the leaves are subjected to heat to halt the oxidation process. This also adds a nice roasted flavor to the tea!
  6. Rolling: This step defines the final shape of the tea giving it the true “black dragon” look!
  7. Drying: This removes all moisture from the leaves allowing them to be stored without spoil.
  8. Sorting: Finally the leaves are sorted to small, medium and larger leaf sizes. This is done because each will have a slight difference in taste. The leaves are then packaged, shipped, sold and steeped for enjoyment!

Many Varieties

China and Taiwan are the largest producers of oolong tea. Each country, while not only has different geographies, also has slight differences in processing of the tea leaves from beginning to end. This allows for variations of the oolong tea to come from each country!

Chinese Oolong Tea:

Phoenix Tea (Dan Chong): All oolong tea grown and processed in the Guandong province of China is known as Phoenix Tea. This tea has a rich and full-bodied feel to it. It is known for its natural floral and fruity aromas and flavors. The flavors can range anywhere from an orange blossoms to ginger or grapefruit!

Iron Goddess of Mercy (Ti Kuan Yin): Arguably the most famous oolong tea, this tea is harvested from the Fujian province, more specifically the Anxi county (remember where the hunter from the origin story is from? Hint, it’s Anxi)! This tea has a light and airy feel to it. It has hints of flowers, honey, orchids and an overall refreshing finish!

Wuyi Oolong Tea (Dan Hong Pao): This is one of the heavily oxidized oolong teas. This tea is a high standard for tea. If purchased from a place that has harvested the leaves from one of the original plants, which are over 1000 years old, the cost for 1kg can be $1,000,000!!! This tea has a sharp, smoky flavor with hints of caramel, butter and toast. It is well-known for the high health benefits.

Taiwanese Oolong Tea:

High Mountain Oolong Tea (Gaoshan): This tea consists of a mixture of many regions leaves. Those regions are Alishan, Wu She, and Yu Shan. All of these regions are at elevations of 3,300 ft or higher, thus the name “High Mountain”. This tea develops aromas of jasmine, rose, and geranium. The flavor is generally crisp and sweet with notes of pine and flowers. The aftertaste is typically buttery, to taste and leaves a smooth and creamy feel.

generation-tea
Click on the picture to check out Generation Tea’s site!

Milk Oolong Tea (Jin Xuan Tea): AKA Golden Daylily, this tea is also grown at higher altitudes. The flavor is buttery and creamy with a smooth finish. It gets this milk-like flavor from the specific oxidation done to the leaves.

To try a few of these varieties, check out Generation Tea’s oolong selection!

Other Quick Facts

Here are some more oolong tea facts!

  • There is typically about 50 – 75mg of caffeine per serving.
  • Oolong tea is very nutrient dense, containing polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
  • The polyphenols may aid in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.
  • Oolong tea may help decrease the chance for stroke and heart attack.
  • The caffeine, antioxidant and theanine content may help prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s.
  • Similar to green and black tea, regular consumption may aid in certain cancer prevention.
  • It strengthens enamel in teeth and overall bone density.
  • The polyphenols may relieve eczema in some people.
  • So much more!

The Magic of Oolong Tea

Oolong, wu-long, black dragon, or whatever you call it is a beautiful hybrid cousin of green and black tea. Its true origins are a bit uncertain, but overall we are very happy that it is common place in our world today!

Oolong tea is popular in the Chinese and Taiwanese cultures. With that brings slight variations in flavors due to geographical differences as well as processing changes. Overall, this tea has a wide range of flavor and compositions!

On top of all these amazing tastes, oolong is packed with a crazy amount of health benefits!

If you want to check out some of the awesome oolong varieties, check out Generation Tea’s site by clicking here!

Let me know what your favorite oolong tea facts are in the comment section below!

2 thoughts on “Oolong Tea Facts – Learn About Your Favorite Tea

    • Author gravatar

      Really interesting article! I just started drinking tea in the last year or so and was mostly going with green tea because of the health benefits. I didn’t realize that oolong tea shared so many of those benefits, so that’s good news – I prefer the taste of oolong anyway. One question… If there are decaffeinated varieties (not sure if those even exist), do you know if any of the other nutrients/benefits are taken out with the caffeine? Thanks in advance.

      • Author gravatar

        Jordan, thanks for the comment and question! It is amazing all the health benefits found in oolong and green tea, two of my personal favorites! Decaffeinated tea does lose nutrient, like polyphenols. Decaf teas can lose up to 25% of their nutrient density actually. This depends on the type of processing. When looking at decaf versions, look for tea that is decaffeinated using a process called effervescence. This retains roughly 95% of the nutrients. Let me know if you have any other questions!

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