Posted by Jeremy @ Arbor Teas on December 06, 2016
There’s a lot of romance to oolong teas, the diverse and complex family of partially-oxidized teas. Oolongs have a wide range of oxidation levels, spanning the wide gap between green tea (zero oxidation) and black teas (full oxidation). This is a big reason for the wide spectrum of flavors and aromas these teas possess, making them a cornerstone of many a tea geek's collection. These are the kind of teas you want to stop time for, to sit, smell and consider.
If you’ve yet to dive into the world of oolong teas, consider this your invitation to explore.
Origins of Oolong Tea
While China is the birthplace of oolong teas (dating back to China's Ming Dynasty like all classic tea varieties), they are now produced in a wide variety of countries, including Taiwan, Vietnam, India, and more. That said, China and Taiwan are the most classic origins of oolong tea, employing cultivars of Camellia sinensis most suited to making these wonderfully complex teas.
Oxidation and Oolong Varieties
As noted above, oxidation is one of the major elements defining the oolong tea category. Oolong teas can range from very minimally-oxidized teas (like our Bao Zhong), to lightly-oxidized (like our Dong Ding), to medium oxidized (like our Ti Kuan Yin), to more fully-oxidized (like our Oriental Beauty). With less oxidation, flavor profiles start from lightly vegetal and floral, shifting to increasingly rich and honeyed notes with more oxidation.
Oolong Manufacturing Techniques
Oolong teas are among the most complex teas to create, involving a variety of intricate processes to achieve the desired outcome. Beyond the oxidation level of the resulting tea, the degree of withering, rolling/shaping, firing, and post-production baking all contribute to the final leaf style (open leaf vs. balled) and flavor/aroma characteristics (sweet, roasted, etc.).
The Possible Health Benefits of Oolong Teas
Oolong teas haven’t been studied quite as much as green, white, or black teas have, but there are a few areas of interest that researchers are looking into. For example, many in China have long believed in the ability of oolong teas to increase metabolism and oxidize fat. These two studies (here and here!) indicate that there is scientific evidence to back this up. Other studies suggest that oolong tea may be effective at minimizing some allergic reactions, particularly skin reactions.
Of course, GABA oolong is specifically designed to have an abundance of GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain and helps the body to relax in times of stress.
Ready to Explore?
Most high-quality oolongs are gift-worthy teas that give back again and again through several infusions. If you’re a tea lover but an oolong novice, consider sampling some of our most popular oolongs. If you have some tea enthusiast friends, you might even want to get together and do a tasting.