Oolong Tea – Taste, caffeine, health benefits and side effects

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oolong tea

There is an amazing tea known as Oolong tea. This exquisite tea of Chinese origins hosts a ton of complex and delectable flavors, an interesting method of production and a few health benefits or two. Let’s see how “black dragon tea” is made. Twists, rolls and all!

What is Oolong tea?

The origins of Oolong, like many other tea varieties in the world, aren’t entirely certain. There are three prevailing theories as to the origins of Oolong in China.

One suggests it was an offshoot of a variety of tea cake. This theory suggests that as Chinese tea culture moved from cakes and bricks of tea to loose-leaf, the long, blackish and curly leaves came about from the once-solid bricks of tea leaves. This also explains the name “Oolong”. Because these leaves were dark and resembled the curling, serpentine bodies of dragons, they were called “black dragon”.

Other theories suggest Oolong was a tradition that originated in the Wuyi mountains. In contrast, another theory suggests the place of origin was Anxi province and developed by a man coincidentally named, “Oolong”.

Whatever the truth is, Oolong tea is twisted and rolled leaves of the camellia sinensis plant. The leaves are harvested and allowed to oxidize longer than green tea, but not to the extent of black tea. The twisting, bruising, and rolling of Oolong leaves allows them to develop their truly remarkable appearance, aroma, and intriguing flavors.

This imparts Oolong with an interesting and complex flavor array with some hints and notes akin to fermentation. Oolong is still popular in Fujian and other regions in southern China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. Oolong is also often used as the basis for bubble tea as well as the Fujian Gongfu tea ceremony.

What does Oolong tea taste like

The flavor of Oolong, like all teas, depends on the terroir, geography, harvesting time, processing method, and brewing method all used to produce the tea.

Some varieties, especially those grown in the Taiwanese highlands are said to be sublimely exceptional, even being referred to as the “champagne of teas”.

Oolong tea’s flavor and aroma palette can range from woody and thick with green and vegetal hints to sweet, fruity and floral. Some Oolong teas can even have nutty, smoky, and malty flavor palettes.

Some traditional methods of enjoying Oolong include using the Yixing clay pot. This method allows the clay pot’s porous earthenware interior and the flavors and aromas of the tea to harmonize and produce a complex and rich character that greatly enhances the drink’s flavor. Enjoying Oolong with a gaiwan cup is also a traditional method of Oolong preparation. Both Yixing and gaiwan cups may be featured in Gongfu tea ceremonies.

Health benefits of Oolong tea

Some keen health-enhancing effects Oolong possesses include:

  • Providing vitamins and minerals like potassium, magnesium, and fluoride.
  • A healthy dose of age-defying and cell-strengthening antioxidants.
  • Caffeine boosts our physical and mental performance.
  • Promoting weight loss and helping to cut down on bad cholesterol.
  • Heart protecting properties.
  • The antioxidants and fluoride in Oolong can promote healthy bones and teeth (Medical New Today).
  • Can potentially help to soothe eczema.

How much caffeine is in Oolong?

Many Oolong teas on average will contain anywhere from 10 to 60 milligrams of caffeine per an 8-ounce cup.

This sets the amount of caffeine in Oolong a bit higher than the average green tea, but lower than black tea or coffee. This does not mean every single Oolong leaf will be brimming with caffeine, however.

The caffeine content in tea can vary based on the tea’s growing conditions and how it is brewed.

What are the side effects of Oolong?

In an ideal world, we would say, “none” and mean it! Teas like Oolong have so many great benefits; it is hard to see the negatives in them. Unfortunately, there are a few. Many of which can be avoided by enjoying Oolong in moderation. Some of the side effects include;

  • Excessive caffeine consumption can lead to insomnia, headaches, anxiety, and high blood pressure.
  • The flavonoids in tea can inhibit iron absorption from our food, but this can be ameliorated if one adds foods high in vitamin-c to our menus.

But, for those who keep their Oolong intake within reason, these various health risks may not pose much of an issue. Still, always consult your doctor or physician when adding beverages to your diet, especially if you are taking medication.

Best time to drink Oolong tea

You can drink oolong tea during the day, but it is best as a morning pick-me-up tea. It is also suitable to drink during the afternoon when you want to sharpen your focus and feel more energized.  

As mentioned above, the caffeine content varies depending on the tea variety, the quantity of tea used, and the brewing method. If you are sensitive to caffeine, avoid drinking an excessive amount. 

It is not recommended to drink oolong tea on an empty stomach or before bedtime. Like some other teas, it can cause stomach discomfort or insomnia in these situations. 

Different Types of Oolong Tea

Jasmine Oolong Tea

Jasmine oolong tea consists of oolong tea infused with jasmine. During the baking progress, it gradually absorbs the fragrance of the jasmine flower. Another way for infusion is to store tea leaves with jasmine blossoms.

By combining two of Asia’s favorite: oolong tea and jasmine flower, it offers a wonderful taste that can be enjoyed hot or cold. The tea has a mellow flavor, a notable floral aroma, and sweet aftertaste. 

Ginseng Oolong Tea

Ginseng oolong tea is the combination of oolong tea and ginseng, originated from Fujian province in China. Later on, Taiwan is also famous for this tea.

The ginseng component in this tea can come from ginseng roots or leaves. Ginseng powder is incorporated with the tea leaves before rolling it into small tea pallets or tea balls. This tea has a crisp taste of oolong and the distinctive aroma and flavor of ginseng. 

Monkey Picked Oolong Tea

Monkey picked oolong tea is one of the highest quality oolong teas in the market. The term “monkey picked” does not necessarily mean that monkeys actually go on picking tea leaves. Even though there are many legends about monkeys picking tea leaves in remote and hard to access areas, today the term implies more about the quality and rarity of the tea. 

The tea leaves are hand-plucked from tea bushes’ top leaves grown in high elevation tea gardens. It has complex flavors, a hint of honey, orchid, roasted nut, and a subtle sweetness. The price for 100 grams of this tea can range between $30 to $50.  

Oolong Milk Tea

Oolong milk tea refers to a specific oolong variety from Wuyi Mountains, Fujian province, China. Another famous variety, high elevation Jin Xuan comes from Taiwan. It is created by the Taiwanese Tea Research and Extension Station in the 1980s.

The tea is renowned for its bright, smooth, and creamy taste. A milky and lingering sweetness makes it a pleasant cup of tea for anyone. A lot of tea in the market are not actually “milk oolong tea” but marked as such and sold for a higher price. They often use milk flavoring and artificial sweeteners to mimic the taste of this tea. 

Final Thought

Oolong tea is one of the most complex and multivarious teas in the camellia sinensis family. Oolong’s flavor and aroma always offer something interesting and new. Oolong has a host of keen health benefits, and if enjoyed within reason can provide a healthy, and delicious caffeine experience!

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