When it comes to Oolong tea, you’re always in for a treat. Often referred to as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of the teas, it is surely the most luxurious and most complex. Oolong has a range of different types, undergoes special processing and oxidation, and has layers to its taste, flavor, and aroma. It is often aged for a long time, some varieties even up to 20 years. Oolong is traditionally produced in China and Taiwan, but can also be harvested elsewhere. The tea is also known as the Black Dragon, because of its Chinese pronunciation as ‘wu-long’, which in Chinese means ‘black dragon’.
There is so much you can learn about this tea in order to choose the best one. But, we believe that for starters you should know the following; Oolong leaves are traditionally curled, twisted or come in form of little spheres or balls. The color of good, traditional Oolong usually varies between greenish, or blue-green hues; the brew is usually of a darker color, but with some varieties can be golden, lighter, depending on the oxidation percentage. Good Oolong tea can be re-steeped for about eight times, and because of all the aforementioned characteristics, it can be very pricey. So, now that you know the essentials, it is time to take a look at the best Oolong teas you can buy.
What Is Oolong Tea?
Oolong tea is made by partially oxidizing the tea leaves after they’re picked and withered. Green tea is unoxidized and stays fresh and bright, while black tea is completely oxidized and has a fuller body and richer flavor. Oolong tea can be very slightly oxidized to just 8% or high oxidized to 80%, resulting in a wide range of flavor notes, mouthfeels, textures, sensations and bodies. Once oxidized and dried, the leaves are twisted and curled into beautiful elongated shapes.
The unique processing techniques are from China, where this traditional tea has been consumed for centuries. There are completely unique tea cultivars and varieties that are grown purely for making oolong tea. This creates some very fine-quality, expensive and rare oolong teas that have been perfected over the centuries of growing and processing.
Oolong tea covers every oxidization level between green tea and black tea, so naturally, the flavors fall in between too. A lightly oxidized oolong tea may be grassy, light-bodied and even floral. A darkly oxidized oolong tea may be full-bodied, warm and nutty or toasty.
The color of the tea leaves and liquor can be a good indicator of how the tea will taste. If it’s lighter it may taste more like a green tea, whereas if it’s darker and more golden it may taste more like a black tea.
Best Oolong Tea 2020
1. Harney & Sons Aged Ti Quan Yin Oolong
We don’t usually start these lists by recommending advanced-flavored teas to people who have only begun exploring their options, but we had to open with a banger. The Harney & Sons aged Ti Quan Yin Oolong is a festival for all of your senses. Just the fact that it comes from Harney & Sons speaks volumes about the quality of the tea, but there is more. Ti Quan Yin is a Taiwanese Oolong that is also harvested in Chinese Fujian province as well. It is a premium variety of Oolong and in Chinese tradition and history, it is a legendary beverage, worthy of emperors.
This Oolong has a deep, caramelized flavor, dark color, and a delicious, toasty yet fruity aroma. Its dark brown pellets provide a pale brown liquor during the infusion, which is simply an exceptional color. The aroma could be described as that of grilled stone fruits, and the flavors are definitely that of caramelized peaches and toasted grains. Overall, the brew is light-bodied, and the tea is definitely caffeinated. When it comes to Ti Quan Yin, there is currently a sale at Harney & Sons; therefore, for 2oz tin of loose-leaf Ti Quan Yin Oolong, you will have to pay $ 29.75, which is a great deal as this tea can be rather expensive otherwise.
2. The Republic of Tea Wuyi Full- Leaf Oolong
The Republic of Tea is a well-respected tea company, which always prioritizes the quality of their products. The same applies to their Oolong tea selection, which is exceptional. We’ve picked out the Wuyi Full – Leaf Oolong for this list, and we think you might like it as well. The company describes this tea as ‘the cup of poetry’, and does so for a reason. Wuyi Oolong is one of the most famous teas in China. It has large, silver-tipped leaves and a light, delicate peach flavor. There is also some gentleness and a tingling taste to it, however, without any astringency or bitterness.
This particular Oolong has a flowery taste and aroma as well, which are also a bit more round and fuller than one would expect. Some have compared its flavor to chestnut and peaches. We would also add that its flavor surely resembles the taste of dark chocolate or roasted fruits. Nevertheless, Wuyi Oolong is simply delightful and truly ‘the cup of poetry’. This Oolong is also caffeinated, as usual, and originates from Western Taiwan. For a 1.75oz of full-leaf Wuyi Oolong, you will have to pay $20.75, which amounts to 50-60 cups of this wonderful tea.
3. Tealyra Milk Jin Xuan Supreme Organic Oolong
Tealyra is a tea company that really knows what their customers will like; milk Oolong is probably the closest to having commercial, mainstream creamy and milky flavor and aroma. The Jin Xuan milk Oolong comes from Taiwan and is really an exceptional beverage. The leaves are hand-picked and the processing of the tea is generally quite demanding; the temperature, soil conditions, altitude, and overall preparation require special attention and time.
The tea is characterized by a milky, creamy and buttery flavor, taste and aroma; the milkiness is pervading and affects wonderfully every aspect of this tea. It is, however, important to point out that milk Oolong is not a result of tea leaves being infused with milk; the milky flavor comes from the special type of oxidation. Nevertheless, the Jin Xuan Oolong can be steamed over water and powdered milk to enhance the flavor and aroma. The infusion of this Oolong is quite fragrant, has a wonderful yellowish color and a velvety, smooth taste that lingers on. Tealyre sells this amazing tea for an exceptionally affordable price; for 1.76oz, or 50g of loose-leaf Jin Xuan Supreme milk Oolong you will pay $8.00; you can, of course, order larger quantities, up to 400g for $56.00.
4. Bigelow Classic Oolong Tea
Bigelow is an American company that excels in providing outstanding teas in tea bags. That is why we had to include them on the list, as Oolong tea doesn’t usually come in teabags. Now, this Oolong is probably their best product; it is mellow, dark and smooth; everything a good, classic Oolong should be. The tea is also very rich in color and has a wonderful nutty and earthy flavor, without being astringent or bitter. This Oolong is an excellent substitute for coffee, and you can add to it ingredients like milk, cream, sweeteners without disrupting the original flavor.
Now, what is unique about Bigelow teas is that they come in special tea bags. Their tea bags have the intention of protecting the tea and its wonderful flavor. That is why they are individually wrapped and sealed in foil pouches. This way, the flavor, freshness, and aroma of, for example, this wonderful Oolong will be preserved for a long time. The quality of this tea is exceptional, and it is something all newcomers to the Oolong story should try out. For a pack of Bigelow Classic Oolong, containing 20 tea bags you will have to pay around $14.62; bear in mind that the price varies from one store to the other, so make sure to check for lower prices as well.
5. Rishi Iron Goddess of Mercy Loose – Leaf Oolong Tea
Rishi is a tea company that provides high-quality teas and teaware. The selection at their site is outstanding, but we decided to include their Iron Goddess of Mercy Oolong tea on the list. Now, this variety of tea is exceptional, and most definitely, one of the most expensive on the list. The tea is actually a blend of two Oolong varieties; Wuyi and Qingxin. Both teas are cultivated and crafted in the traditional Chinese style, and both originate from Nantou, Taiwan.
When it comes to the blend itself, we can say that the flavor and aroma are amazing; there is the aroma of roasted buckwheat or chestnut, with a subtle note of dried apricot and an overall sweet and fruity aftertaste. It is important to mention that the more you steep, or re-steep the tea, the more prominent the aroma and flavor gets, especially when it comes to the aroma of dried apricot. Overall, the taste is splendid and we are pretty sure the Iron Goddess of Mercy might become your favorite Oolong tea. Now, when It comes to pricing, Rishi offers the option for you to order 50g for $9.00, but they also recommend to order 1lb. for $50.00, which is an excellent deal for such an expensive tea. If you just want to try out the tea, you can also order a sample, or as the company calls it, a teaser for $2.00.
6. Mountain Rose Herbs Formosa Organic Oolong Tea
Mountain Rose Herbs is one of the best providers of all things natural, from herbs, spices and natural home goods to, of course, exceptional tea. Their Formosa Oolong tea is one of the bestsellers and is surely an exceptional Oolong. The origin of the tea in China; however, the tea has been traditionally-prepared according to the Taiwanese style. That is why this Oolong has a darker color than one would expect. However, it still has an amazing, gentle, fruity flavor that makes it very unique.
The taste of the Formosa Oolong is very sweet, and definitely has a hint of astringency present in the earthy and ‘leafy’ aftertaste. The flavor is very profound and permeating. On the other hand, the aroma of the tea is profoundly reminiscent of raisins as well as roasted fruits. The brew itself can be light to dark brown in color, depending on the brewing time. Just like any regular Oolong, this too contains caffeine and can be re-steeped several times. When it comes to pricing, here’s what you need to know; Mountain Rose Herbs offer 4oz of this tea for $18.50. You can also order larger quantities, up to 1lb. which will cost you $53.00.
7. Mahalo Tea High Mountain Oolong Tea
Mahalo is a Hawaiian tea company that focuses on providing affordable high-quality tea. Among their rich Oolong tea selection, the High Mountain Oolong really stands out. The tea is grown and harvested in the high Chinese mountains at the altitude of 4000 feet. This makes the tea especially fresh and crisp, and of course, incredible in aroma and flavor. The High Mountain Oolong also undergoes special processing, as well as curling and twisting of the leaves. The overall production is based on the traditional Chinese tea production.
This Oolong also has a rather invigorating flavor with a bouquet of aromas. It is very creamy, smooth and particularly sweet without any bitterness. It could also be described as luscious and incredibly fragrant. Overall, it can surely be characterized as one of the best Oolongs on the list you might try. Mahalo is not only known for its incredible teas, but also for their affordability. For 2oz of the High Mountain Oolong, you will have to pay $9.75. Because of the price and the quality, the tea quickly sells out, so maybe you should make a quick purchase.
How to Buy The Best Oolong Tea
In a perfect world, everyone could simply walk out of the door and find an oolong tea shop just a few minutes away. You’d be able to examine the freshness, size, shape, and quality of leaf for yourself before buying. But unfortunately, tea shops that stock a wide array of oolongs are few and far between in the western world.
So, to help you with buying your oolong online (which is really the only choice you’re left with) we’ve come up with a few tips.
- Look for reputable sellers. Don’t buy your oolong from weight-loss sites and other generic websites. For high-quality oolong, you need to find genuine, passionate tea sellers and stockists with websites dedicated to quality oolong.
- Buy the whole leaf. Tea bags will contain the poorest quality oolong. For a good oolong, you want loose leaf, often sold in pouches or tins. Look for signs that the loose-leaf is also whole leaf, simply meaning the leaves are whole and not broken for a quicker infusion. Whole, loose leaf oolong is much harder to fake.
- Read the finer details. A good sign of an authentic oolong and oolong seller is in the details. Look for the origin of the tea and the harvest date for a start. You should be able to track back a quality oolong to its origin.
Find a tea site that meets all those criteria and they’re likely a good place to start buying oolong!
More: Best Online Tea Store
Oolong – More Things You Need to Know Before Buying
Without making this article t-Oo-long, there are a few final frequently asked questions about this tea that we’d like to answer. There are all sorts of myths that float around about the miracle health benefits of tea and the actual caffeine levels in a cup of tea. So, here you can find the truth once and for all about oolong tea.
How Do I Make and Brew Oolong Tea?
Brewing oolong tea is just the same as brewing any other loose leaf tea – simple! As oolong teas can vary in oxidation levels, the exact water temperature needed may differ. If there are no instructions with the oolong tea you purchase, start with 80°C water and increase the temperature for future cups if needed.
- Add your tea leaves to your cup, infuser or teapot. Use 2g to 4g of tea leaves per serving – about 1 or 2 teaspoons.
- Boil or heat freshly drawn water, then pour it slowly and steadily over the tea leaves.
- Let the tea leaves infuse for 3 to 5 minutes, or to taste.
- Pour your oolong tea into your cup, straining out the leaves, or simply remove the infuser.
- Sip slowly and enjoy the tea flavor.
Does Oolong Tea Contain Caffeine?
Yes, all oolong teas contain caffeine. In fact, all teas from the camellia sinensis plant contain caffeine even if they’ve been decaffeinated and only a few mg of caffeine remains.
The exact amount of caffeine in your oolong tea varies drastically. The amount of caffeine in the leaf is dictated by the soil the leaf is grown in, the cultivar and variety of tea plants and the size of the leaf.
The processing of the tea leaves, through rolling, oxidizing and withering, dictates how much of that caffeine eventually infuse into your cup of tea.
A lightly processed green oolong may have as little as 20mg of caffeine per 8oz brewed cup. A dark, almost black, oxidized oolong may have as much as 70mg of caffeine per 8oz brewed cup.
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What Are the Health Benefits of Oolong Tea?
Oolong tea has similar health benefits as green tea, white tea, and black tea, as it’s brewed from the same tea leaves just processed in a different way.
Drinking a moderate amount of oolong tea every day (3 cups, for example) can result in the following health benefits.
- The caffeine can help you feel awake and energetic while the L-Theanine amino acid ensures you’re calm, relaxed and focused.
- Provide antioxidants that bind to free radicals. Deactivating free radicals can prevent cancer and prevent cell damage that contributes to the visual signs of aging. It cannot cure cancer, however.
- In heavily oxidized oolong teas, there are high levels of theaflavins (a specific antioxidant) which are excellent for heart health by reducing cholesterol. This also reduces the risks of diabetes and obesity.
- The EGCG antioxidant present in lightly oxidized/green oolongs, can aid weight loss and reduce inflammation internally and on your skin (acne). There’s also evidence that this antioxidant can prevent brain and heart diseases.
- The fluoride levels in tea can also improve dental health.
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What Are the Side Effects of Oolong Tea?
There are very few side effects of oolong tea unless you consume a very large amount. Most of these side effects come from the caffeine levels. Consuming too much caffeine (400mg+) can cause:
- Increased heartbeat
- Increased blood pressure
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Tremors and palpitations
The tannins and polyphenols in tea might also make you feel a little queasy if you drink it on an empty stomach.
Unless you plan on drinking several liters of tea in one sitting, you don’t need to worry about the side effects of drinking oolong tea. At most, you might feel a little tired as the caffeine wears off.
To be able to drink Oolong tea is an amazing experience. This tea is so rich in flavor and aroma, that no other tea can even compare. Of course, if you’re new to Oolong, it might take some time to get used to the richness and the luxury this tea is, but it will most definitely become your favorite. Sure, compared to other teas, Oolong is definitely on the pricier side; however, we believe that it is worthy of every single penny. We hope that this little list has helped you make a decision. And, remember, regardless of which one you choose, you simply can’t go wrong with Oolong. So, make sure to enjoy your cup of this amazing beverage, and don’t forget to share it with friends and family.