Top 4 oolong teas for beginners

Oolong Tea Posted by Simple Loose Leaf Blog

Wulong, oolong or black dragon is probably the most beautiful and fun category of tea. They come in every possible color you could imagine, every possible flavor and scent, and offer proven benefits, experience and the best value for money in terms of re-steeping. 

There are many wonderful types of oolong tea in the world, some being more demanding than others. If you are looking for an easy brew and to understand oolong teas better, we made a list of top 4 oolong teas for beginners. Let’s start with explaining what is oolong tea. 

What is oolong tea

Oolong tea is a partially oxidized tea, falling between unoxidized green and (mostly) fully oxidized black tea. Although the total production counts for less than 5%, it is the most versatile category of teas. Oolongs can be lightly or heavily oxidized. That percentage usually ranges from 10 to 95%.  making it either closer to green or black tea. Production of oolong tea includes many steps, sometimes even over 20, giving a very complex flavor, aroma and experience. With so many steps, producers need a lot of knowledge and skills to create a tasty and complex tea. After investing so much time and effort, it doesn’t surprise that oolong, besides pu’erh, offers the most infusion from same leaves. 

Nowadays, many countries are producing oolong tea, but it’s still very hard for others to keep up with the quality or versatility of Chinese and Taiwanese teas. Oolong teas can be roasted, aged, flavored and scented, creating a wide range of flavors suitable for both green and black tea drinkers.  

Oolong tea benefits and side-effects

Traditionally, oolong tea provides “benefit to human health through relieving dehydration and removing accumulated internal heat, which allows the body to adapt to changes in the natural environment.[1]”  Oolong tea became popular in the West after appearing in media as a weight-loss aid. However, it counts for only 2% of global tea consumption[2].  Chinese have believed for centuries that oolong might help in losing weight. Science says that this might actually be true, and that oolong tea might increase metabolic rate and fat oxidation[3]. A study on mice confirmed that oolong may even “prevent obesity and fatty liver induced by a high-fat diet.[4]” Including a cup of oolong tea per day might be a good contribution to a healthier lifestyle. Oolong, like any other real tea, also contains caffeine. The amount is usually lower than in black tea, but be cautious if you are trying to avoid caffeine. 

Top 4 oolong teas for beginners

If you are looking to enjoy the benefits of oolong tea and include it into your lifestyle, some teas might be more friendly and offer you a better experience than others. They will open the doors to the amazing world of partially oxidized teas and show you the best characteristics of each side of the oxidation scale. 

1. Da Hong Pao

This roasted oolong tea is one of the most popular teas in the world. Da Hong Pao is heavily oxidized with a strong aroma and deep dark red color. Other names include Red Robe, Big Red Robe or Scarlet Robe Oolong. It is produced only in Wuyi Mountains in China. Da Hong Pao has a distinctive fruity, a bit earthly, a bit mineral and a bit sweet flavor. The original first Da Hong Pao tea bushes still exist in China and were used to give cuttings for new plants. They are now protected by government and not harvested to produce tea. This oolong is great as a morning tea and unlike other oolong teas, can even be drank with a bit of milk making it a good choice for black tea drinkers. 

2. Ti Kwan Yin 

Ti Kwan Yin or Tie Guan Yin is a lightly oxidized oolong tea with sweet, floral and light flavor. This famous tea is one of the most famous Chinese teas, and a reason why many tea drinkers fell in love with oolong tea. Ti Kwan Yin originates in Anxi, but Taiwan produces its own popular type as well. It is harvested in all seasons and can be modern and green or traditional and more oxidized. It was the modern green type that brought Ti Kwan Yin back into the spotlight. Unique semi-ball shaped leaves take time to unfurl and offer up to ten infusions, each with different notes. Ti Kwan Yin is one of the rare types that can be brewed by simply placing leaves in the mug and adding hot water. Unfurled, they take up most of the mug and stay on the bottom, allowing easy and carefree sipping without the use of any filter or teapot. 

 Ti Kwan Yin oolong tea

3. Formosa Oolong 

Formosa oolong comes from Taiwan, the country of oolong teas. Following Mainland China, Taiwan is the most important producers of oolong tea. The first tea plant was brought to Taiwan in 18th century, which gave enough time farmers to master the production of oolong teas. Today, Taiwan is producing very little black tea and only a handful of greens. Formosa oolong is more oxidized and darker than Ti Kwan Yin. This tea could be best compared to teas from Wuyi region, but with a different distinctive flavor. Formosa is all about flowers and peaches and a bit of spiciness, while Wuyi is more mineral. Formosa oolong generally has lower caffeine content than green or black tea.[5] 

4. Alishan oolong tea

Another classical tea from Taiwan is a very good introduction into the world of rolled teas grown on high altitudes. High altitudes make a perfect environment for growing tea plants. To deserve to be called high mountain, tea plant has to grow on an altitude of at least 1000 meters. Alishan is one of the most famous Taiwanese mountains for growing tea. This mountain offers a unique terroir that gives tea with a distinctive flavor - a bit creamy, a bit sweet, refreshing and with a very strong sweet aftertaste. In fact, strong long sweet aftertaste is one of the best characteristics of high mountain teas. Alishan oolong will mostly appeal to green tea drinkers. It can be re-steeped even up to 10 times. 

These 4 different tea types will give you a complete insight into the world of oolong teas, covering all important levels of oxidation, roasting and flavor.

Do you drink oolong tea? What is your favorite type? 

 

[1] https://academic.oup.com/chromsci/article/55/5/528/3003293

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213453015000555

[3] https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/131/11/2848/4686734

[4] https://www.nature.com/articles/0800766

[5] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0963996996000385

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