Best Oolong Tea Reviewed and Tested
Oolong tea comes from the same plant as most varieties of green and black tea, Camellia sinensis. Oolong is a unique Chinese hybrid of green and black tea; it is not fully oxidized or fermented like black tea, nor is it completely un-oxidized like green tea.
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Therefore, the taste and aroma ranges between the two types of teas. Most oolongs are whole leaf and not broken into little pieces like other teas. After drying, the tea is placed in special cloth sacks and gently moved about. This action affects the leaf slightly, causing some level of oxidation to occur. This process is repeated multiple times until the tea leaf takes on a dark spectrum of color.
Oolong tea is only partially oxidized, anywhere from 30% (more like a green tea), and 70% (more like a black tea). After oxidation, the tea is fired under high heat to lock in the complex flavor. Shorter firing produces teas with a fruity flavor, while a longer firing will produce a rich amber cup with more “woody” notes. Because of the variety of production processes, the flavors of oolong vary widely as well.
10 Best Best Oolong Teas
1. Prince of Peace
- Good price
- Great quality
- Mild flavor
- May not suit everyone's taste
2. Stash with White Peach
Considering its inexpensive price tag, this product’s superior quality and excellent taste might surprise you.
- Delicious taste
3. Hampstead Organic
The Oolong used in this product is grown at Makaibari, the first biodynamic tea estate in the world, situated 3000-4000 ft high up in the Himalayas. Hampstead’s Oolong is very affordable considering it is both organic and fair trade. A well deserved 3rd place on our best Oolong tea list!
- Contains no GMOs
- No additives
- No pesticides
- The packaging is biodegradable
- May not suit everyone's taste
4. Uncle Lee’s Tea
- Sweet floral aroma
- High quality tea
5. The Tao of Tea Green Dragon
When you consider that this tea is loose leaf, it’s actually quite affordable. Green Dragon tea is grown in the mountains of Anxi county in the Fujian province. Green Dragon (the Ben Shan varietal) is a young varietal grown primarily near the village of Raoyang in Anxi; it has strong, heavy branches and brightly colored, distinct, oval leaves.
To brew this Oolong tea, brew one teaspoon of leaves in 12 ounces of pure spring or filtered water at 185 degrees Fahrenheit for 4 minutes. You can steep this tea at least twice.
- Golden infusion with grassy, toasty, and light floral notes
- High quality
- Large portion size
- Somewhat expensive
6. Bigelow Classic
- Popular in Chinese restaurants
- Distinctive mellow taste
- Drink it how it cold
- This tea may not suit everyone's taste
7. Irwin Naturals
Irwin Naturals can also be trusted to provide you the purest and most potent product, as they employ compliance testing to ensure high quality. If you’re not much of a tea drinker, try taking these pills as a daily supplement to a healthy diet.
- Kickstarts your metabolism
- Promotes a healthier lifestyle
- Powerful detox
- Those who have a sensitive stomach should use with caution
8. Harney & Sons Iced Tea
- Perfect for Ice tea lovers
- Tangy pomegranate scent
- Very affordable
- Needs steeping for 15 minutes
9. Rishi Iron Goddess
- Fruity notes of apricot
- Delicious full taste
- Warm hint of toffee
- Needs re-steeping
10. Twinings 100% Pure
- Citrucy taste
- Tea bags
Why You Should Drink Oolong
In a way, oolongs are the most cheffy teas out there. While good growing conditions certainly matter, the quality of an oolong is largely dependent on the skill of the person processing it. Get something wrong and a batch may reek of grandma’s perfume or taste as charred as a blackened steak. Get it right, though, and you have a tea with marvelous complexity, one that develops and evolves in your cup more than any black or green tea. Some oolongs can be steeped a dozen times or more, and by the time you’re finished, the final steep may feel like it’s from a totally different tea. (Try that with your English breakfast and all you’ll get is brown water.)
Origins of Oolong Tea
Oolong tea is mainly produced in China and Taiwan, but other Asian countries such as Vietnam and Sri Lanka also produce some oolong. Taiwanese tea plantations have high elevations, which result in an ideal climate for producing oolong tea. Most oolong teas can be steeped multiple times, and each steeping produces a unique flavor profile. Some tea drinkers even prefer the taste of the second or third infusions.
Oolong’s predecessor, a traditional type of tea called Beiyuan tea, originated in the Fujian province of China more than a thousand years ago. Beiyuan tea was one of the first known tribute tea produced in that province. A tribute tea was given in tribute to the emperor or his royal family.
It is one of the best known teas produced during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE). The Beiyuan area is located near the Wuyi Mountains in that province and has been producing tea since the earlier Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE).
The Beiyuan tea leaves were compressed into bakery items like cakes. When this style of tea was not trendy anymore with the royalty, Fujian instead began producing a partially oxidized tea leaf in lose from, which became the original Oolong tea. The name comes from the Chinese “wu long,” which means “black dragon tea.” According to a Chinese folktale, the man who accidentally discovered Oolong tea by leaving his tea leaves out in the sun too long was named Wu Long (or “Oolong”).
In the early 1900s, the British ambassador to China dedicated some Oolong tea to the Queen of England. She was impressed by the unique taste and aroma, as well as its distinctive greenish color, and gave it the nickname “Oriental Beauty.”
In the early 1800s, a Fujian merchant of teas brought some tea seeds to Taiwan to see if the plants would take root there. The tea proved successful, so Taiwanese tea production quickly expanded. For a very long time, the majority of the tea that grew was sent back to the original province. In 1868, a British man decided to increase efficiency by hiring tea masters to start processing tea in the capital of Taiwan. This decision was a success, so the following year the British man shipped 127 tons of Oolong (then called “Formosa tea” to the U.S., where it became popular. Since then, this tea has been Taiwan’s most exported variety of tea.
Health Benefits of Oolong
Like all tea, Oolong tea contains strong antioxidants, which help strengthen the immune system. Since green tea is processed the least, however, it contains a little more catechin. The antioxidant content decreases as tea is oxidized, but the levels of certain elements increase.
These two substances, which can help with allergies, reduce inflammation, and possibly reduce the risk of cancer, are found in higher concentrations in black tea and oolong tea for this reason. Some studies suggest theaflavins and thearubigins are as effective as the catechins in other types of tea, but all types of tea have similar types of effects and will provide equivalent health benefits in the end.
Oolong tea helps boost the metabolism, causing it to burn up to four times as many calories. It also contains polyphenols, which trigger the enzymes responsible for reducing excess triglycerides (or fats). As long as you combine drinking Oolong with a healthy diet and regular exercise, you can lose weight by regularly consuming unsweetened Oolong tea. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, consider using a small amount of sugars low on the glycemic index instead of sugar, such as raw honey, maple syrup, stevia, or agave syrup.
If Oolong is a mixture of black and green teas, which have widely different caffeine contents, how much caffeine does a cup of your typical Oolong contain? It’s difficult to estimate exactly because Oolong teas vary so much in oxidation and caffeine content. However, The Journal of Food Science recently tested several varieties of Oolong tea and found that they contained anywhere from 16 to 55 mg of caffeine per cup. That’s still much lower than black teas, but they definitely contain more caffeine than green or white teas.
How to Brew Oolong Tea
To brew loose leaf Oolong tea, heat water to 200 degrees F, or let it boil. Place 1 scooped teaspoon for every 6-ounce cup in the teapot or mug and let the tea steep for 2-3 minutes. Remember, you can steep Oolong tea several times, so feel free to simultaneously increase the water content once you’ve finished the first cup, until the tea flavor is eliminated. To make iced Oolong tea, steep it using the same process listed above, but remove the tea leaves with a strainer and add ice cubes.