Oolong tea is made from the same plant as black and green tea, Camelia sinensis. The difference between black tea and oolong tea is the amount of time oolong tea is allowed to oxidize after picking. The process of oxidization is what gives tea a darker color. Oolong tea is oxidized for a shorter amount of time than black tea with 10-70% less oxidization, whereas green tea is not oxidized at all.
The Origins of Oolong Tea
Oolong tea is originally from China and many varieties are still grown and processed there. The word “oolong” (also known as “wu long”) is from the Chinese name for the tea, which means “black dragon tea”. This term may come from the appearance of the tea in traditional form, where it is rolled into long, curly lengths like a dragon’s tail. One of the traditional origin stories for the tea is that a man called Wu Liang was picking tea when he got distracted by a deer. By the time he returned to his tea, it had partially oxidized. Wu Liang was eventually corrupted to “wu long”.
There are reportedly oolong bushes still growing and being harvested in China that date back to the Song Dynasty that reigned around 700 years ago.
The Difference Between Oolong and Other Teas
Oolong tastes more like green tea than black tea, but is supposed to taste sweeter than green tea without its grassy flavor. Oolong lasts longer than green tea. Oolong tea is also often crushed and roasted gently before packaging. This is supposed to remove astringent flavors and make the tea more gentle on the stomach. Loose oolong tea is usually rolled into long curls or rolled up into small balls similar to gunpowder tea. Oolong tea should be prepared with water that is slightly less than boiling temperature and steeped for several minutes. Unlike other teas, oolong generally tastes better with each brewing, and high quality oolong tea can be brewed up to four times.
Health Benefits of Oolong Tea
Catechins are antioxidants that are found in tea, which help to fight free radicals and provide many of the health benefits of drinking tea. Catechins are lost during the oxidation process and consequently green and white teas contain the highest amounts of them, although oolong tea does contain some.
However, the oxidization process also increases the amount of theaflavins and thearubigins, antioxidants which could have a positive effect on the prevention of dementia, cancer and the reduction of blood cholesterol levels. Black tea contains the highest amount of these antioxidants, followed by oolong tea; and green tea contains little to none. Oolong tea is therefore a good medium between green and black teas when it comes to health, containing some of the benefits of both black and green teas. It has also been suggested that oolong tea can be beneficial in weight loss and cavity control.
Oolong tea provides the best of both worlds when it comes to drinking teas. It is also a great tasting beverage, with many health benefits that would be an excellent addition to any diet.