Oolong Tea 101: How Does it Differ From Black or Green Tea?

     Selecting a tea can be overwhelming. There are so many teas with so many names; what is the difference? There are tisanes, herbals, black, green, white teas, and I'm going to add one more to the list, Oolong. When I first heard of Oolong, I had no idea what it was. It looked like black tea to me, so I summed it up as black tea and didn't give it a second thought. But, when I looked closer, I could see and taste the difference. While oolong tea may come from the same leaves as black tea, the difference comes with how it's processed. Oolong can have a range of oxidization which allows for a lot of variety in flavor and color. You can have an oolong tea close to green tea or close to black tea and everything in between. It's like the best of both green and black tea worlds.

What is Oxidation?

     Oxidation is when tea leaves are exposed to oxygen to dry and darken the leaves. This process contributes to the flavor, aroma, and strength of different teas. Like other fruits and plants that brown when exposed to oxygen, harvested tea leaves go through a similar process. The level of oxidation often determines the kind of tea it becomes. 

Oolong Tea Processing

     Oolong has the fragrance of green tea but the smoothness of black tea because it's oxidized between green and black. Green tea isn't oxidized at all, and black is fully oxidized. Oolong tea is in the middle. Oolong tea can range from 15% oxidation to 80% oxidation. If you like green tea, you may find that you like Oolong with a lower oxidation level. If you like black tea, you may like Oolong with a higher level of oxidation.

Caffeine Level

     The oxidation level may also determine caffeine strength. For example, oolong tea has approximately 15% more caffeine than green tea and 20% less than black tea.

Oolong Varieties

Oolong varieties are grouped based on oxidation.

  • Pouchong Oolong - 15% oxidation
  • Dong Ding Oolong- 30% oxidation
  • Oriental Beauty Oolong - 80% oxidation

Brewing Instructions

     Since oxidation levels may vary, follow the brewing instructions on our website or the tea packaging for steep time and water temperature. Oolongs are also great for re-steeping. At Hackberry, we are have a variety of Oolong offerings with flavors ranging from creamy vanilla to citrus to berries. 

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