What is Oolong tea? The name is derived from Chinese for “black dragon.” It is a tea that comes from the plant Camellia sinensis as do other green and black teas. The difference is in how Oolong teas are processed. They are oxidized more than green teas but less than black teas. Then they are smoked over a heat source from charcoal or wood which gives a unique flavor.
Oolong tea originated in Anxi county of the Fujian province in China. This area is in the South East region of the country. The area is mountainous and subtropical with mild winters and heavy rainfall, which is ideal for growing tea. It is now also grown and processed in India, Nepal and Taiwan, but tea connoisseurs profess that the Fujian varieties of Oolong are still the best. They have low astringency which means little to no bitterness.
The flavors of Oolong tea becomes stronger with each re-steeping. This unusual quality makes it different from green and black teas which diminish in flavor. It has been noted that the fourth or fifth steeping is best. Many connoisseurs will also use one teapot for their Oolong to season the teapot and not mix their Oolong with the flavors of other teas. It can be brewed throughout the day but it’s best to discard and start with fresh leaves the next day.
Oolong tea is also thought to have some health benefits. It is said to boost metabolism and reduce stress. It has many antioxidants and so can prevent certain cancers. It may help to maintain normal blood sugar levels which can help prevent diabetes, increase heart health, and help speed up weight loss. It also can affect brain function and mood as well as strengthen teeth and bones.