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What Is Oolong Tea?

Browsing the tea aisle in the grocery store is a daunting task. There are so many options, and tea really is something that can become very personal. Maybe you’re tired of drinking plain old green tea, and you are ready to go looking for something new. Oolong tea stands out; it sounds enticing. But, before you dive head-first into a cup of it, you might want to know what oolong tea really is. 

Oolong tea is a type of traditional Chinese tea. It’s not quite a green or black tea, though they offer some of the same benefits. Some things that set oolong tea apart from other types is its oxidation time, how to enjoy it, and some of the vitamins it has to offer. 

In this article, you’ll learn about what oolong tea is, where it came from, and how to prepare it. In addition, you’ll learn why oolong tea is a good choice and some of the different uses for it outside of the traditional beverage form. Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating tea.

Oolong Tea Has a Long History

Oolong tea originated in China. However, as with most things in history, the exact details are unknown. There are a few theories about oolong tea and how it came about. These theories have little to do with the actual product, though, and more to do with the name, with several claims about where it was discovered. 

Regardless of naming discrepancies, the beverage gained much of its traction during the Qing Dynasty, when the emperor took a liking to it. Word quickly spread that this newer, uniquely flavored tea was his favorite, and its popularity skyrocketed amongst citizens. Several other teas, like English breakfast tea, have similar stories. 

One thing to note about the history of oolong tea is that it has historically been served in special pots so as not to mix flavors. Some people today still believe in doing this, even though modern teapots don’t necessarily require it since they can be easily cleaned. 

What Does Oolong Tea Look Like?

Oolong tea is unique in flavor, but it’s also unique in the way that it looks. The leaves themselves can be super dark, almost black, or light like green tea leaves. Instead of the flat and pointy leaves you might be used to seeing with green and black teas, oolong tea’s leaves are wirier. You might be surprised to find that most of the leaves inside of your oolong tea bag are either really twisty or wound up in little balls. 

As for what the tea looks like when it’s brewed, there are a few variations. Lighter leaves can produce a lighter tea color. If you’re buying prepackaged oolong tea from the store, there should usually be some indication on the package as to what it should look like when steeped properly. Some of the colors oolong tea can be are:

  • Green
  • Brown/amber
  • Reddish orange
  • Yellow 
oolong tea in a brown stoneware teapot on a bamboo Matt

What Does Oolong Tea Taste Like?

The taste of the tea depends on how it was processed, but there are a few trademark things to look for in your tea. Oolong tea is a little bit floral and slightly fruity. The mouthfeel of this tea is very thick. Depending on the leaves, some oolong teas can taste a little bit like grass, but this is normal. Oolong tea has a very light flavor, so if you feel like it’s very potent, that could be an indicator that something has gone wrong. 

How to Spot Fake Oolong Tea 

Though it may not seem like oolong tea would be anything to lie about, some do. This may be done to cut costs; lying about the ingredients of a product isn’t exactly an uncommon business practice. Usually, if oolong tea is fake, the producers used a mixture of green and black tea together to try and create that middle ground. If your oolong is fake, you may notice:

  • Strange color 
  • Strong taste 
  • Bitter taste 
  • Unusual leaves 

Oolong Tea has Many Benefits 

If you get your hands on real oolong tea, you’ll be glad to know that oolong tea is rewarding in many ways. It’s chocked full of vitamins and minerals, such as:

  • Theanine, which is great for relaxation and makes oolong a beautiful addition to a stressful day.
  • Caffeine, which is excellent for providing a little pick-me-up, especially on the go. 
  • Fluoride, which helps to protect against cavities.
  • Antioxidants, which provide support to your immune system as well as your hair, skin, and nails. 

In addition to the health benefits, oolong tea is also beneficial for hosting. It’s a great choice if you’re having people over since it has a subtle flavor that even novice tea drinkers might find enjoyable. 

How to Serve Oolong Tea 

As mentioned earlier, people used to have special pots for oolong tea so that it would not be contaminated by other flavors. Though we might not go that far for oolong anymore, it is strongly recommended that you thoroughly wash your pot before steeping oolong tea in it. 

Oolong tea can be served over ice as well as straight out of the pot. Being cold pulls out more of those floral notes, which makes iced oolong tea perfect for a sunny spring day. Regardless of how you plan to serve it, keep in mind that oolong tea needs to be steeped for 5-10 minutes before serving to maximize the flavor. The following go well in a glass of oolong tea:

  • Lemon
  • Sugar 
  • A pinch of salt 

Putting milk in oolong tea won’t break any rules, but it might ruffle some feathers. The flavor of the milk could overpower the taste of the tea, so if you absolutely have to add some, do so very sparingly. 

Oolong tea is good in the morning with breakfast and even at lunch for an afternoon pick-me-up. However, due to this tea’s caffeine content, you might want to avoid having a glass before bed and just stick to a sleepy-time blend. 

In Conclusion: Oolong is Delicious and Different

To make the Oolong story short, oolong tea is a type of tea that is different from a lot of the rest. Its wiry leaves and gentle flavor separate it from the rest of the pack, and the health benefits it has to offer might quickly make it one of your favorites. 

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what is oolong tea graphic with photos of piles of different oolong teas