What Is Oolong Tea?

Oolong Teas

Black tea, white tea, green tea—they’re all pretty straightforward.

But then there are the oolongs. Where do they fall in the tea spectrum? And just what are they?

dragon-crop-w-frame-webBlack Dragon

Although the exact origin of oolong tea—with its time-consuming production process—is rather a mystery, we do know that it originated somewhere in China quite a few centuries back. And whether the name refers to the tea’s appearance, or was the name of the person who developed this tea, oolong translates as black (oo/wu) dragon (long).

What Is an Oolong?

Oolongs fall between green teas, which are not oxidized, and black teas, which are fully oxidized. And they may be anywhere on this oxidation scale—from lightly (10%) to more highly (85%) oxidized.

MJ-w-frame-web

619-w-frame-web

The oxidation level:

  1. results from how the oolong is produced, and
  2. determines how you want to make your tea at home:

less oxidized = use a lower brewing temperature (like green tea)
more oxidized = use a higher temperature (like black tea)

Time + Work = Oolong

But it is more than just the degree of oxidation that results in the unique flavor and aroma of an oolong tea. It is the slow and controlled process by which it is oxidized.

After the Camellia sinensis leaves are picked, they are:

 withered on a drying rack to evaporate some of the moisture in the leaves
 bruised by tossing, which releases the oil in the leaves and begins the oxidation process
 rested
 hand rolled, which breaks down the leaves a little
 dried

brewed-leaves-w-frame-webThese steps can be done in various ways and for various amounts of time, and many of them are repeated.

For example, the leaves are bruised and/or rolled (to allow oxidation) and dried (to slow or stop oxidation) repeatedly, which intensifies and refines the distinct characteristics of oolongs.

The bruised edges may turn reddish, as can be seen in these leaves after brewing.

Also to note: leaves destined for oolong may be harvested at various times of the year, meaning that the leaves have different flavor profiles even before the production steps, allowing for yet more variations.

Why You Should Try Different Oolongs

The techniques used, the drying temperatures, the resting times—every step of the production process contributes to the resulting product.

Hence, every oolong has its own distinct characteristics—nuanced and complex—which makes sampling and comparing them a lot of fun!


Oolongs teas shown here are available at TeaHaus.

2 thoughts on “What Is Oolong Tea?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s