As we learn more and more about the true potential of all teas, the industry must fight to keep up with the ever-changing circumstances. Which see relatively obscure beverages rapidly increase in popularity over the course of a mere few years, this article answers the question, What is Oolong Tea?

Oolong is one such brew on the front line. Despite its nationwide adoration in China with it going as far as to be labelled a ‘Chinese Restaurant tea’, accounting for its high demand among those dining out across the country. Oolong is not as well as known within the Western Hemisphere.

In very recent years, however, this has changed at a rapid rate as Scientific Studies into Oolong Tea uncover the many incredible health benefits of this relatively unknown tea. During this period, markets have had to adapt to this newly-found demand among western countries, including Oolong tea in the UK, France and the United States.  But what makes Oolong Tea so special; and why does it still only account for 2% of the world’s tea intake?

Oolong Loose Tea

What is Oolong Tea?

Originating from the Fujian Province of China, Oolong is largely grown on the South-Eastern Coast. However, since its invention, Oolong tea has also been produced in Taiwan, as well as in the Darjeeling District of India, and even Vietnam!

The Fujian Province in particular has a subtropical climate with mild winters and heavy rainfall. Boasting magnificent mountain ranges and vast forests, these conditions are perfect for nurturing many different types of Oolong teas. Some of the most famous varieties of this beverage come from both the Wuyi Mountains and the Anxi County of the province, which are locations well-known for playing a pivotal role in Oolong tea’s history.

How to Make Oolong Tea

Combining the fresh fragrance of Green Tea with the indulgently malty flavours of Black tea, Oolong sits squarely in the middle between these two extremely popular beverages. This is because Oolong leaf tea is slightly fermented and semi-oxidized, meaning it is quite literally in between Black and Green tea when it comes to its processing! This particular processing method requires precision and care, which, in turn, involves repetition and extract timing. To ensure each batch is of the finest quality, the processing of Oolong is made up of many various stages, as follows:

Withering: After harvesting, the first main step in producing Oolong tea is to have the tea leaves left out in direct sunlight. Over the course of time, these leaves will begin to wither.

Bruising: Traditionally, this step would have been done by hand, as workers shook their withered leaves in wicker baskets. Today, however, this step is more commonly done using a specially designed machine. Ultimately, bruising the tea leaves will ensure the flavours are full and distinct. At the same time, this stage also helps to kick-start the oxidation process.

Further Withering: The tea leaves are once more left to wither and oxidise, with this second withering period most commonly conducted indoors. Meanwhile, it is during this period that Oolong tea’s recognisable flavour really begins to take shape.

Repeat Process: These early steps may be repeated a number of times depending on the desired result.

Fixing / Kill-Green: Here, the tea leaves are treated with heat to halt the oxidisation. The tea leaves are then rolled into long curl or small pearl shapes before being dried and roasted further. Finally, you have the finished product which can be consumed straight after its production. (How’s that for ‘convenient’?)

Over the course of many centuries, Oolong Tea has been known by many names, including Wu Long Tea and Black Dragon Tea.

Yet it is not quite as simple as it may seem, for there are many different categories of Oolong tea. These different varieties range in oxidation levels from as low as 5% to as high as 90%! The less oxidised Oolongs have a lighter, golden colour, whereas the more oxidised versions have a darker colour with an orange or brown tint.

Oolong Loose Tea

History of Oolong Tea

While it is not uncommon for various types of teas to have unknown origins, the history of Oolong tea is shrouded in great mystery, with a number of theories circulated on how it came to be. Dates from as early as the 10th century, to as late as the 17th century, have all been associated with the invention of Oolong Tea; yet to this day, there is no definitive answer to its true beginnings. Despite this, four of the most largely-acknowledged theories to have been considered are as follows:

The Tribute Tea’Theory: The oldest of all the many theories, this version of the story involves the Royal Court itself! During the Song Dynasty (906 – 1279 C.E) Chinese Emperors would be presented with ‘Tribute Teas’. In particular, the ‘Beiyuan’ tea garden in Fujian was renowned for producing a compressed tea cake with an imprint of a phoenix and a dragon, which had been especially popular until loose leaf teas began to come into fashion. In a desperate attempt to keep up with the times, the Beiyuan tea garden began to produce a darker leaf tea, which became known as ‘Wu Long’ (or ‘Black Dragon’). Through ‘Chinese Whispers’, ‘Wu Long’ became ‘Oolong’, and a new tea was allegedly born.

The Wuyi Mountains Theory: It is no secret that the Wuyi Mountains of the Fujian Province have a great significance to the story of Oolong Tea, but according to this legend, it was also its birthplace. With some evidence to back it up, this version states that Oolong tea was named after a part of the mountain range. Meanwhile, references to this can be found in a number of ancient Chinese poems.

The Anxi County Theory: With this theory, the origins of Oolong can be narrowed to the escapades of one man and a deadly snake. While tending to his tea, this humble farmer found himself confronted by a poisonous serpent and, while understandably making a hasty retreat, he dropped his tea leaves. When he returned the following day, he found that these leaves had oxidised, and in his curiosity, he decided to brew them in hot water and try it. The result was unexpected, yet delicious; and so, he decided to name his new creation after the snake that chased him: ‘Wu Long’ (‘Black Dragon’).

The Anxi County Theory: Similar to the previous legend, this story states that the man was distracted by a deer, rather than a snake. Keen to hunt his dinner, the man followed suit with his basket of tea leaves on his back. As he trudged through the forest, however, the leaves were shaken and bruised from the pursuit, causing them to oxidise. When he returned with the tea leaves, he noticed that something unusual had happened to them, yet he decided to try them anyway. Proud of his creation, he named the beverage after himself – or specifically, his nickname, ‘Black Dragon’.

We will never be sure whether or not any of these theories accurately portray the invention of Oolong tea, but perhaps there is some element of truth in all these wonderful tales! If one thing is for sure, however; it is that Oolong tea has survived through the ages to become one of the most popular beverages in Asia, where today, it remains an integral part of Chinese culture. So, now we have an idea on Oolong tea’s past, let’s explore the future!

Oolong Formosa

Oolong Tea Benefits

With ground-breaking Scientific Studies uncovering Oolong tea’s amazing health benefits on a yearly basis, it is no surprise that numerous Western Countries have finally realised what all the fuss has been about! From weight loss to Diabetes prevention, stronger bones to improved cognitive function, Oolong simply has something for everyone!

Antioxidants: Many of the health benefits of Oolong tea can be rightfully credited to the presence of disease-fighting Antioxidants in every cup. Many such compounds found in Oolong tea are known as bioflavonoids; a common type of antioxidant found in many fruits and vegetables, in addition to tea. Specifically, you will find myricetin, kaempferol, and quercetin, which are all capable of fighting heart disease, inflammation, allergies, and even the aging process! What more could you want?

Improved Digestive System: For those who are not sensitive to Caffeine, the consumption of Oolong tea can help alkalize the digestive tract, reducing inflammation in those with acid reflux and ulcer problems. Meanwhile, Oolong is also slightly anti-septic, meaning that when consumed hot, this beverage can clear bad bacteria in your stomach. This incredible ability is partly the reason that this loose leaf tea is so immensely popular in Chinese restaurants!

Improved Cardiovascular Health: In one recent study, patients were subjected to a month of frequent Oolong tea consumption, resulting in a significant decrease in the hardening and narrowing of arteries. also capable of combating the development of atherosclerosis by reducing the risk of dyslipidaemia; the initial elevation of triglycerides, plasma cholesterol, or both, that first lead to the development of this disease. However, The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company urges anyone to consult a doctor before considering this usage.

Oolong Tea Weight Loss: The frequent consumption of Oolong loose leaf tea, alongside a healthy and active lifestyle, has the ability to boost your metabolism, both on a short and long term basis! This type of tea contains polyphenols that are able to suppress enzymes that build fat. This means that you can Lose Weight with Oolong Tea, providing you do not overload your beverage with refined sugars and artificial sweeteners! If this routine is consistently maintained, you can also expect to see the reduction of inflammation, which contributes to stubborn weight.

Reduced Risks of Diabetes: With an astounding 25% of the American population currently being prediabetic, new revelations in the world of Diabetes are needed now more than ever. Oolong tea has been proven to regulate the amount of blood sugar and insulin which is in your bloodstream at one time. In fact, in a 2003 study, test subjects were given Oolong tea alongside their regular hyperglycaemic drugs, resulting in the balancing of blood sugar levels and the prevention of sudden drops and spikes.

Oolong Tea Health Benefits Skin: Many will already know that your diet has a huge impact on your skin health, with eczema becoming increasingly common around the world. Currently, there is no complete cure to this condition, but there are plenty of things you can do to help reduce its effects. In addition to eating less sugar and introducing more high-fibre foods into your daily routine, people who suffer from eczema should also consider drinking Oolong tea. In fact, in a 2001 study, 54% of test subjects found that their skin had greatly improved after 6 months of drinking Oolong tea daily.

Stronger Bones: While more studies need to be conducted, many believe that drinking Oolong tea can aid with bone mineral density, as well as reducing the risks of osteoporosis. Meanwhile, it is also known that it contains high levels of magnesium and calcium, which, in turn, can greatly aid your overall bone health. Furthermore, other studies have likewise indicated that this beverage can help protect your teeth. This is largely because the production of acid and the growth of bacteria are both inhibited by Oolong tea, meaning it is especially effective in combating tooth decay and build-up plaque.

Supports the Cognitive Function: Once again, more studies are needed but the initial results indicate that drinking Oolong tea can help maintain a healthy brain! This is because Oolong contains both caffeine and L-theanine nutrients known for their impact on brain function. Combined together within this beverage, early research has found correlations between the consumption of Oolong tea and the increase of visual information processing, attention levels, alertness, and calmness

Currently, there is no shortage of ongoing research on the Oolong tea health benefits, with many more studies expected in the near future. However, there is certainly no time like the present, and here at The Kent and Sussex tea and Coffee Company, we are ready to help you start your journey into the wonderful world of Oolong Loose Tea!

Monkey Picked Oolong


Our Selection of Oolong Loose Teas

Let’s begin with our very own Milk Oolong, This blend is made using the finest fresh leaves, which are then withered and rocked to divide the leaf grade. Finally, the tea is gently steamed over natural milk for flavour, resulting in a fantastic tea with a great aroma and sweet milky taste.

Why not try our Monkey Picked Oolong Tea, This particular beverage is named after the famed monkeys who picked tea for their owners. Understandably, this odd practice is no longer used, but this still does not take away from one of the finest and most rare Chinese Oolong teas.

Alternatively, you could take your first sip of Oolong Formosa, a speciality tea which originates from the mountains of Taiwan. After plucking, the loose leaf teas are fermented at approximately 50% before the withering takes place. This is followed by the leaves being frequently turned in bamboo baskets during the drying process, which ultimately helps the tea to develop a mild aroma and large curly leaves.

Whichever tea you decide upon, the Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company only provides the finest quality Oolong teas available on the market, with dozens of varieties to choose from.