Oolong Tea, "Everything you Need to Know"
Did you know that less than 2% of Tea drinkers choose Oolong Tea? Here at The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company, we think it’s time that changed. Why? Partly because of Oolong Tea benefits; partly because, well, Oolong Tea is simply fantastic!
In many ways, Oolong Tea is the ‘middle-ground’ between Green Tea and Black Tea. However, in the west, practically no one has heard of it! Indeed, only recently has this delicious beverage started getting the recognition it deserves.
Leaps and bounds in modern science have led to a more considerable amount of information on Oolong Tea benefits. This has propelled it just a little closer to the limelight, but it’s time we gave it an extra push.
We hope this blog helps answer some of your questions. We hope that after reading it, you’ll want to try Oolong Tea for yourself.
What is Oolong Tea?
Oolong Tea combines the fresh, alluring fragrance of Green Tea with the indulgently malty flavours of Black Tea. This is because Oolong Loose Tea is slightly fermented and semi-oxidised, meaning it is quite literally between Green Tea and Black Tea when processing is concerned.
Like all “real” Teas (which excludes Herbal and Fruit Teas), the leaves used in this beverage come from the Camellia sinensis (Tea) plant. And like all Teas, Oolong Tea must be processed soon after harvesting.
This process differs in small yet significant ways to other Types of Tea. It can also get even more complicated depending on the type of Oolong being made!
An Oolong Tea, depending on its distinct processing, can resemble a Black or Green Tea, or it can resemble neither - or both! How is this possible?
The simple answer is that no two Oolongs are the same.
Those creating an Oolong Tea ultimately determine the desired oxidation levels, which can vary from 8% oxidation to 80% oxidation.
In other words, an Oolong Tea with 8% oxidation will boast characteristics reminiscent of Green Tea While one with 80% oxidation will offer notes much more like Black Tea.
As likely already suggested, a Tea oxidised at, say, 40% will have qualities of both types, while also consisting of other qualities exclusive to Oolong Tea.
How is Oolong Tea Made?
A traditional Oolong Tea, one that is in-between Green Tea and Black Tea, undergoes the following processing methods:
After harvesting, the first primary step is to have the Tea leaves left out in direct sunlight. This causes the leaves to wither.
Following this, the leaves are slightly “bruised” by workers who toss or shake them in baskets. This initiates the oxidation process, and as the leaves wither, they begin to lose their moisture content while also becoming more flexible and supple.
Many see bruising as a continuation of the withering stage. This is because heavy bruising goes with light withering. And heavy withering goes with light bruising! These two early stages influence oxidation significantly; more so than later stages.
The bruising and withering of the Tea leaves may be repeated depending on the desired result. Workers also consider factors such as wind speed, light intensity, temperature and humidity on that particular day.
Fixing / Kill Green Process:
Factory workers must remain vigilant at all times, but especially when it comes to reaching the desired oxidation level. Once the leaves have oxidised the ‘correct’ amount (which depends on the type of Oolong Tea made), these workers must halt the process.
To do this, the Tea is roasted (sometimes multiple times, again depending on the Tea). Producers apply heat to the leaves to kill enzymes. This, in turn, stops oxidation. At this point, the Tea begins to dry, which ultimately lends essential flavour characteristics to the finished product.
It’s crucial that the Fixing/Kill Green Stage lasts only a short while. If it goes on for too long, the leaves begin to lose their moisture too early. This is yet another reason to remain vigilant!
Rolling the leaf makes up, in many respects, part of the bruising process. Furthermore, it helps to develop the unique appearance and flavour profile of the Tea.
This (sort-of) bruising breaks down the cellular walls of the leaves. It releases the enzymes and essential oils contained within, which in turn helps to define the tasting notes when later brewed.
While rolling, producers likewise shape the Tea. Depending on varieties, this shape can be either long or curly, semi-rounded (like our Dong Ding Oolong) or fully-rounded.
Shaping, similar to rolling, contributes to the Tea’s flavour notes. Most of all, however, it defines the final appearance of the leaf.
At this stage, the Tea has already started to dry. In fact, it’s been drying since the withering stage! However, factory workers must make time for the Tea to dry in its own time. This ensures that the moisture content reduces sufficiently.
It is crucial to completely reduce the moisture content of the leaf so that later, it stores without spoiling. Following this stage, the processing of Oolong Tea is almost complete.
Following the drying stage, Oolong Tea is technically consumable. However, workers often sort the leaves into various groups of similar size and colour to create different batches of Teas of matched quality.
The sorting stage also plays a part in removing any leaves of ‘lesser’ quality. It’s inevitable that some leaves make it this far that shouldn’t have. Workers swiftly and carefully remove them from the batches, along with any twigs or other ‘debris’.
Producers grade each batch of Tea accordingly. They then ship these batches to establishments such as The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company. For us, we strive for quality. This means that we select only the ‘best’ batches!
Where is Oolong Tea from?
Oolong Tea has a nickname: Chinese Restaurant Tea. It refers to the popularity of this Tea in restaurants across China, mostly for aiding digestion. The name likewise makes mention of its country of origin: China.
Chinese Oolong Tea originates from the Fujian province, located on the south-east coast of the country. Since then, its production has also spread to:
- Taiwan (formerly Formosa)
- Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon)
- Assam (India)
- Darjeeling (India)
The most famous location, however, remains the Fujian province, which has a subtropical climate with mild winters and heavy rainfall. It boasts magnificent mountain ranges and vast forests - conditions perfect for creating many different types of Oolong Tea.
Some of the most famous Fujian varieties of this beverage come from the Wuyi Mountains, as well as the Anxi county.
History of Oolong Tea
Outside of legend and speculation, nobody knows for sure how or when precisely Oolong Tea was created. Some suggest its origins date back to as early as the 10th Century CE, while others theorise as late as the 17th and 18th Centuries CE. Alas, we’ll likely never know.
There are, however, some truly fascinating and, at times, enchanting stories of how this remarkable Tea first came into existence. The four main theories are:
The Tribute Tea Theory
The oldest of all the theories, this version involves the Chinese Royal Court. During the Song Dynasty (906 - 1279 CE), Chinese Emperors were presented with so-called “Tribute Teas” as a sign of respect.
The Beiyuan Garden in Fujian, at the time, was one of the most highly-regarded producer of Tea. This was mainly for their compressed Tea cakes depicting an imprint of a phoenix and a dragon.
But following the popularisation of Loose Leaf Tea, the Beiyuan Garden struggled to maintain the interest of the Royal Court.
The Beiyuan Tea Garden desperately tried to keep up with the times. It began producing a darker leaf Tea, later known as “Wu Long” (Black Dragon). Through an elaborate game of ‘Chinese whispers’, “Wu Long” became “Oolong” - or so the story goes!
The Wuyi Mountains Theory
According to this legend, the Wuyi Mountains were the birthplace of Oolong Tea some hundreds of years ago. Though little historical evidence exists for this story, some suggest that this Tea took its name from the mountain range.
If one chooses to believe this tale, then the naming of Oolong Tea took place during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 CE), not the Song Dynasty. This would most likely date back to the 16th Century. Nevertheless, it may, again, be just a story.
The Anxi County First Theory
Two theories exist from the Anxi County. Both are similar in many ways, with only small yet significant differences. The first theory refers to one man and a deadly snake.
The man in question, a farmer, one day found himself confronted by a poisonous serpent while tending to his Tea crop. He made a hasty retreat, dropping a basket of harvested Tea leaves in the process.
When the farmer returned the following day, he found that the leaves in his basket had begun to oxidise, creating a Tea type never before seen at the time.
Intrigued, the farmer brewed the Tea and tried it. The result was unexpected, yet delicious. And eventually, the Tea was named in honour of the snake that led to its creation: Wu Long, meaning Black Dragon. In time, Wu Long became Oolong.
The Anxi County Second Theory
This theory replaces the snake with a deer. Keen to hunt the beast, the farmer followed the deer into the forest with his basket of Tea strapped to his back.
Inside the basket, the Tea leaves were shaken, bashed and bruised as the pursuit continued. When the farmer returned home with his Tea leaves, they had long begun to oxidise. Again, the farmer tried the infusion. And again, he was delighted with the result, just like the first tale.
However, in this version, the farmer named the beverage after himself, or specifically his nickname. This was, as you may have already guessed, Black Dragon. Whether the farmer caught the deer, in the end, remains a mystery!
Formosa Oolong Tea History
Less speculation surrounds the history of Formosa Oolong Tea, which comes from modern-day Taiwan. It arrived in Formosa, along with most other Tea types, during the mid-19th Century. Since then, Tea has become a staple of Taiwanese society. Oolong Tea, in particular, has led the way.
In 1866, during the Chinese Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1912 CE), a British trader named John Dodd began championing Taiwanese Teas on the world market. The Qing Dynasty was a time of great upheaval in mainland China and led to a significant increase in Chinese immigration to the island.
This, in turn, prompted a tremendous boom in the Formosan Tea industry. Tea farmers from Fujian brought with them their expertise in cultivation and production.
Large-scale industrialisation later swept through Formosa following the Japanese occupation of the island in 1895. With industrialisation came mechanisation. Soon after, family-run Tea gardens across Formosa became mass-producing factory farms.
Following the defeat of the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939-1945), Japanese forces left Formosa. Their legacy, however, was a thriving Tea Industry. This applied especially to Oolong Tea.
Whether Taiwan today is officially a Chinese territory or a country unto itself remains a topic of considerable debate. Nevertheless, through all the hardships the island has suffered, Oolong Tea has prevailed. It is now one of the island’s most reliable exports.
Oolong Tea Benefits
The taste and aroma of Oolong Tea are exceptional; however, nothing beats its astonishing, and best of all, proven health benefits. Every year, it appears we learn something new about Oolong Tea benefits. From weight loss to diabetes prevention; stronger bones to improved cognitive function, Oolong Tea simply has something for everyone.
Most notably, this Tea contains an abundance of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, including fluoride, manganese, potassium, sodium, magnesium, niacin, myricetin, kaempferol and quercetin. Combined.
These incredible components can, among other qualities, combat free radicals in the body, which are products of natural, though harmful, human oxidation.
By neutralising these free radicals, the frequent consumption of Oolong Tea can slow down human oxidation, which in turn reduces the risks of developing a variety of chronic conditions.
Improved Digestive Health
Most famously, Oolong Tea has a close association with the improvement of the digestive system.
Studies have suggested that this is because Oolong Tea helps to alkalise the digestive tract. This is especially beneficial to those with acid reflux and ulcer problems as it leads to reduced inflammation.
Less known is the fact that Oolong Tea is also slightly antiseptic. This means it can clear bad bacteria in the stomach. Ultimately, many choose to drink Oolong Tea either before or during a large, fatty meal for these reasons.
It is no real wonder, then, that the name “Chinese Restaurant Tea” has stuck!
Improved Cardiovascular Health
The antioxidants in Oolong, in themselves, improve cardiovascular health. However, it isn’t the only way that this Tea can keep your “ticker in check”.
In one recent study, patients consumed Oolong leaf Tea for a month. This resulted in a significant decrease in the hardening and narrowing of arteries.
Furthermore, it can combat the development of atherosclerosis by reducing the risks of dyslipidemia (unhealthy levels of one or more kinds of lipid (fat) in the body). Until more is known, however, The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company recommend you consult a medical professional.
Oolong Tea Weight Loss
Does Oolong Tea help with weight loss? You bet it does! This isn’t just a myth. It’s true. Best of all, it’s proven. But how does Oolong Tea burn fat exactly?
Oolong Tea, as well as most other types of Tea, has metabolism-boosting properties. The metabolism refers to the chemical reaction that takes place in your body’s cells.
It essentially converts the fuel in your food into energy, which is then used to power near enough everything we do. With a boosted metabolism, one can burn fat quicker and more efficiently.
Unfortunately, boosting the metabolism is only half the work. Exercise and healthy eating are still required for Oolong Tea to reach its full potential.
A recent study has proven there is a link with Oolong Tea and Weight Loss, the findings were very encouraging and link Green Tea will in time make Oolong the must have cup of tea.
Reduced Risks of Diabetes
According to recent statistics, around 25% of the American population is currently prediabetic. Indeed, the UK isn’t far behind.
Oolong Tea could be the answer. It can regulate the amount of blood sugar and insulin in one’s bloodstream at one time.
In one 2003 study, participants consumed Oolong Tea alongside regular hypoglycemic drugs. This resulted in the balancing of blood sugar levels. It also prevented sudden drops and spikes.
The early results appear promising. Drinking Oolong Tea for the reduced risks of Diabetes has shown very encouraging signs. But until we know more, we again advise consulting a medical professional.
Improved Skin Health
Conditions such as acne and eczema are on the rise globally. What’s the answer? It comes as no surprise to hear that one’s diet has a significant impact on skin health.
But in addition to eating less sugar and introducing more high-fibre foods to one’s daily routine, people who suffer from skin blemishes should also consider Oolong Tea.
In a 2001 study, 54% of participants found their skin had improved dramatically after six months of drinking Oolong Tea daily. So, before spending large sums of money on the latest skin cream, why not first try Oolong Tea for Healthier Better Looking Skin?
It’s important to note that, like Oolong and the potential of diabetes prevention, we await further studies before endorsing this Tea for this purpose. However, preliminary research has suggested that Oolong can improve bone strength.
Oolong Tea contains remarkably high levels of magnesium and calcium. These two constituents can aid bone mineral density. In relation to bones, Oolong Tea can also protect one’s teeth by combating tooth decay and build-up plaque.
Enhanced Cognitive Function
Preliminary research supports the idea that Oolong Tea can maintain a healthy brain!
This beverage contains both caffeine (approx 35 mg) and L-theanine. These components can both support brain function, though in only small ways.
Furthermore, some scientists have recognised minor correlations between drinking Oolong Tea and increases in visual information processing, attention levels, alertness and calmness in the brain.
Oolong Tea Caffeine
From reading the above, you will already know the answer to the question: “does Oolong Tea have caffeine in it?” Let’s now answer the question, “how much caffeine does Oolong Tea have?”
It’s important to remember that oxidation levels vary from Oolong Tea to Oolong Tea. The same applies to caffeine levels, which is heavily influenced by oxidation.
On average, this Tea contains 37 mg of caffeine per 8 oz serving. However, it can be as low as 16 mg and as high as 55 mg. If you’re wary of the caffeine side effects of drinking Oolong Tea, be sure to read the descriptions carefully!
Different Types of Oolong Tea
The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company proudly stock a wide variety of Oolong Loose Leaf Teas.
Choices differ depending on a multitude of attributes ranging from location, oxidation levels and flavour notes.
This means that one should be sure to read each description carefully before deciding on the brew that’s right for you. Here are just some of our favourites:
Wu Long Choice Chinese Oolong Tea
Grown in the Wuji mountain range of the Fujian province, China, our Wu Long Choice Chinese Tea is of the highest quality, offering tastes like no other.
In the cup, it boasts bold, earthy aromas and defined toasty notes. The trained palate may also pick up subtle grassy undertones.
Milk Oolong Tea
As the name suggests, Milk Oolong Tea consists of a rich creaminess seldom found in any other Tea.
The reason for this remarkable flavour note lies in its unique processing, whereby the leaves are briefly heated in milk water steam, leading to the absorption of unmistakably milky flavours.
Oolong Formosa Tea
From the beautiful mountains of Taiwan comes our “House” Formosa Oolong. This particular beverage is made from wild curly leaves which, when brewed, offer a mild aroma and a delicate taste.
For those who do not wish to be overpowered by their morning cup, our Oolong Formosa Tea is the choice for you.
GABA Oolong Tea
GABA stands for “Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid”, which is the result of the unique manufacturing process this Oolong Tea goes through.
The concept refers to the oxidation of Tea, whereby a high-nitrogen, oxygen-free environment is used instead of oxygen during oxidation. It is becoming increasingly popular, particularly owing to GABA Oolong Tea unique health benefits.
Vietnam Tung Ting Oolong
This Tea is grown in the Lam Dong province of southern Vietnam, near Bao Loc. The country has adopted the manufacturing methods of Taiwan, producing Oolong grade Teas of a very high standard.
Our Vietnam Tung Ting Oolong is, of course, no exception. It provides traditional Oolong flavours with a delectable aftertaste.
Moragalla Ceylon Oolong Tea
The Sri Lankan Moragalla Tea Estate lies in the South-West of the so-called “Island of Tea”.
The garden is in the coastal distinct of Galle, close to the town of Kadugannawa, with its altitude and climatic conditions contributing significantly to the rich soil, and in turn, the Tea it produces.
The end result is our Moragalla Ceylon Oolong Tea, which has a full malty aroma and taste.
Assam Tea Smoked Oolong
This is a very special Tea painstakingly manufactured, by hand, into a fine Oolong during the 2nd Flush period.
The leaf is large and twisted, and when brewed, boasts a slight smokey character. Many choose Assam Tea Smoked Oolong owing to its resemblance to Lapsang Souchong, which is a type of smoked Black Tea.
Thailand Jinzuan Oolong
Teas from Thailand are quite a rarity, making this one especially sought-after here at The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company.
When it comes to taste, our Thailand Jinzuan Oolong consists of flavours more like Green Tea than Oolong Tea. It is grown in the North of Thailand on the fertile slopes of Mount Doi Phayathai.