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What is Oolong Tea?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Oolong tea is a mix between green and black tea, and it has often been called “blue-green tea.” It is harvested when the leaves are partially photosynthesized, anywhere between 10-70%, so it generally has a darker, richer flavor than green tea but a lighter flavor than black tea. Oolong is a familiar taste to anyone who frequents Chinese restaurants, as it is the most frequent tea choice served along with meals.

There are various grades of oolong tea, and it is often considered the most desirable of Chinese teas. Some is served after being dried and packaged, while other variants are aged, producing complex flavors and greater expense to the consumer. Most varieties are roasted after air-drying. They then go through a further drying process before being packaged.

In loose form, oolong looks like little green balls. The term "oolong," taken from the Chinese word Wulan means dragon, and some people say that the balls of tea unfold like dragons exposed to heat.

The tea plants prosper best in mountainous regions with relatively harsh climates. Primarily, oolong is grown in China on Wu-Yi mountain, although teas from the south Fujian province, Tie Guan Yin, are also quite popular. On Wu-Yi, Da Hong Pao is one of the most popular Chinese teas ever.

Since the 1800s, Taiwan has also produced numerous excellent oolong teas. These include Dong Ding and Pouchong. Dong Ding is extremely fragrant and will entice any lover of tea, but it is also quite expensive. Consumers can also buy oolong grown in India and in Vietnam. Darjeeling oolong from India is highly prized.

Tea lovers are often fans of the many varieties of oolong. Most attest that it is not merely the taste but also the fragrance of the tea that lends it such appeal. The flavor varies with different varieties, but many people say that it has a strong initially bitter taste and a sweet, melon-like finish. Oolong tea is thought to be so fragrant because the leaves are harvested when the essential oils are strongest. Others enjoy this tea because the roasting process seems to make it rather gentle on the stomach.

In China, oolong tea was often part of traditional medicine for curing digestive problems. It has also been thought to be of help in headaches. The benefits of green and black tea in modern medicine are thought to come from the presence of antioxidants, which may prove helpful in reducing the effects of aging and in fighting cancer.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By burcinc — On Jan 20, 2013

@simrin-- I had oolong tea for the first time a couple of days ago. It definitely tastes more like green tea than black tea, but it's a lot stronger than green tea like the article said. The leaves have a dark green color.

I had loose oolong tea. The first day, the color of the tea was very light, almost clear. But I didn't throw away the teas and just added hot water to it the next day. The second time, the color of the tea was much darker and the flavor was more complex. I actually liked the flavor much better the next day. I guess it's a good idea to reuse oolong leaves.

By serenesurface — On Jan 19, 2013

@petch-- I've heard the same claim about green tea so I'm not surprised. I think there is something about oolong tea and green tea that helps burn fat. But people shouldn't overdo it with these teas to lose weight because I've heard that drinking these too much can be dangerous for health as well.

If people drink things like soda regularly and replace it with oolong tea, that will definitely lead to weight loss since oolong tea has no calories when it's not added sugar.

By SteamLouis — On Jan 19, 2013

In terms of taste, which is organic oolong tea closer to-- black tea or green tea?

By fBoyle — On Aug 26, 2012

@anon2514-- Isn't sun tea made with the heat from the sun? I don't see why that would affect the benefits of oolong tea. Oolong tea is very helpful for losing weight. I've been drinking it regularly in addition to regular exercise and healthy diet and have been seeing great results. I think oolong is even better than green tea for weight loss.

But keep in mind that if you add honey or sugar in your oolong tea, you are adding calories. You still get all the ooling tea benefits, the antioxidants and everything. But it might not be as helpful for weight loss then. I think it's better to have it without sweetener and if you really have to, with natural, sugar-free sweetener.

By donasmrs — On Aug 25, 2012

@burcidi-- Yea, that's right. Oolong teas are know as "semi-oxidized" teas. The processing is a little different than green tea and black tea though. And even among different oolong teas, the processing can be different so it really depends on the specific type of oolong tea you're having.

The kind I drink is Wulong oolong tea in cake form. So I buy them individually from the Asian grocery and put one inside a pot and add boiled water. It's really good. You can definitely have this in the morning. If black tea is too caffeinated for you, oolong should be enough to wake you up. I usually like having mine in the afternoon with some cookies.

By burcidi — On Aug 25, 2012

As far as I know, black tea is actually green tea that has waited and oxidized which turns it black. So is oolong tea, tea that has waited and oxidized a little bit but not as much as black tea?

I also know that green tea has less caffeine than black tea. So I'm guessing oolong tea is somewhere in between two in terms of caffeine amount?

I like black tea but the caffeine is too much for me and green tea doesn't wake me up in the morning. So maybe I can have oolong tea instead?

By anon2514 — On Jul 14, 2007

can you still get weight loss benefits from oolong tea if you make it as sun tea? And drank as ice tea?

By petch — On May 23, 2007

There is also claims that oolong (same as Wu long) tea helps with weight loss. your teeth will supposedly improve as well.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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