Oolong or Wu Long tea is a type of Chinese tea which has been consumed for centuries. Some Chinese tout its health benefits, claiming that it promotes a healthy digestion, among many other things, and a cup of Oolong tea is often offered around meal times in Chinese households. Studies on the tea have suggested that it does, in fact, help with digestion, as well as promoting overall general health. In addition to being flavorful, it would seem that Oolong is also a healthy addition to the tea cabinet.
To make Oolong tea, tea leaves are harvested and partially oxidized before fermenting and roasting. The oxidation is carried out by leaving the tea leaves out in large trays to be exposed to the sun and wind. After roasting, the tea falls between black tea, which is fully oxidized, and green tea, which is not oxidized at all. Oolong tea retains the benefits of both teas with a mild, creamy flavor which is somewhere in between.
Consumption of Oolong tea is beneficial to the digestion in a number of ways. First, the tea alkalizes the digestive tract, which can be helpful for people with problems like acid reflux and ulcers. Oolong tea also stimulates the metabolism, and it helps the body to break food down more quickly, which is why some people promote it as a weight loss aid. Oolong is especially good at breaking down fat, making it easier for the body to process. In addition, Ooolong tea has mild antiseptic properties, and it can help clear bad bacteria out of your digestive system.
Oolong is also a very mild, smooth tea. It doesn't tend towards bitter and tannic like black tea does because it hasn't been fully oxidized, and it's not as harsh as green tea. The mild flavor of Oolong can help to settle and soothe the stomach, especially after a rich meal with a lot of spicy or greasy food. The tea also acts as a diuretic, and it helps to flush toxins from the body. Japanese studies have shown that Oolong tea may work as an expectorant as well, when it is consumed hot, because the vapors in the tea can loosen mucus in the lungs, making coughing more productive.
While Oolong is certainly not a panacea, it can be a healthy addition to the diet when consumed in moderation. Many markets stock Oolong, and it is always readily available from Chinese grocers; try to purchase it looseleaf, if possible, since looseleaf tea tends to be of a much higher quality.