Oolong: Tea'd Between The Lines
Have you ever tried oolong tea? The leaves have a high amino acid content that creates a smooth and velvety mouthfeel. The leaves are partially oxidized, creating a brew somewhere between a green tea and black tea. The resulting flavor is uniquely oolong.
Though it makes up a modest 2% of global tea production, oolong deserves praise. Not only are the flavors phenomenal, but the brew has some unique benefits for your digestive and nervous system.
Tea drinkers who enjoy tea for taste or benefit should add oolong to their selection!
What Makes an Oolong an Oolong?
Oolong comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, like any proper tea. But what characteristics make oolong unique? Once picked, the tea leaves are partially oxidized -- somewhere between a fresh green tea leaf and a fully oxidized black tea leaf. Oolong has aspects of both varieties.
Tea oxidation is when the leaves are rolled, breaking the cell walls. Once broken, the cells release juices which coat the leaves and react to air exposure. Oxygen transforms the chemical compounds present in the leaves, transforming the flavor and benefits.
Artisan tea developers have employed intricate changes to the process, crafting incredible variations in taste and oolong for every palate!
All Sweetness and Light
A green (or "light") oolong is closer to green tea on the flavor spectrum. Oxidized between 6% and 35%, the color and characteristics of green tea remain. But, the process creates a richness and full body.
One example is Milk Oolong, which acquires its flavor from drastic temperature changes during the plant's growth. It was initially named "milk" due to its deep buttery and creamy taste. The tea has a velvety mouthfeel and rich umami tones. The tightly rolled leaves have a rich, savory aroma and reveal an incredibly complex flavor profile when steeped.
Another delicious option, Bao Zhong Supreme has a light and delicate flavor. It has the vegetal notes of a green tea. But, a rich creaminess brings it to life. The leaves of Bao Zhong are flat and vary in color from lighter greens to darker browns and purples.
A Happy Medium
Oolongs roasted between 35% and 70% are considered medium. These flavors vary substantially, ranging from sweet to bold. Most oolongs come from Taiwan, where they have perfected the craft of delicately manipulating the leaves to tease out flavors.
Oriental Beauty is a intricate oolong tea from Taiwan. It has just a light toasty undertone but is very naturally sweet. The leaves are loose, slightly curled, and unrolled. The leaves are a soothing tone of purple, brown, and green.
Oriental Beauty is grown without pesticides so that nature can employ little helpers to munch on the leaves. These helpers are Greenleaf Hoppers! The little bugs spark the plant's natural defenses, and the tea produces monoterpene diol and hotrienol. These compounds are responsible for the honey sweetness of the brew and have antibacterial properties as well!
A Shot in the Dark
Oolong teas oxidized between 70% and 99% are considered dark oolongs and are closer on the spectrum to a black tea leaf. Full-bodied and smoky, the liquor is brown. Blue Mountain Oolong has a rich, smooth texture and toasted oak flavor. Dark oolongs have complex tones, like a fine barrel-aged whiskey. Tastes of intense balsam, earthiness, and pepper linger on the palate.
Live Oolong and Prosper!
No matter which oolong variety suits your palette, your cup will be full of beneficial compounds that heal the body and soothe the mind. Drinking oolong regularly may facilitate weight loss! Oolong tea increases resting metabolic rate, increasing calorie burn and fat oxidation.
It has no side effects other than mild caffeine and may benefit individuals suffering from obesity, diabetes, or high cholesterol. Other studies suggest a melange of positive benefits for the skin, bones, and mind.
Oolong tea has been enjoyed in China and Taiwan since the 14th century. With an evolving tea culture, it is becoming increasingly popular elsewhere! What a treat! We get to enjoy all the subtle tones and incredible layers of flavor present in these handcrafted tea varieties.
Along with flavor, oolong tea promotes good health for the mind and body. While our bodies enjoy the compounds, our senses enjoy the delicacy of the artisans' handiwork.