It’s helpful to know that tea, like wine, comes in a hugely varied range of flavors, aromas, and terroirs. Especially in China and the rest of Asia, tea is certainly an art form from the time the plants sprout to the moment they are brewed.
There is tons of nuance, novelty, and subtlety to be found. Nothing illustrates this better than Oolong tea. But what is Oolong tea?
What does Oolong tea taste like? Keep reading to discover the answers to these questions! Hopefully, this piques your interest in trying Oolong, too.
What Is Oolong?
Oolong tea is a type of tea leaf that comes from the camellia sinensis plant. This places it in the true tea family alongside green and black tea. Oolong is allowed to oxidize a bit longer than green tea but less than black tea.
The stories of its origins vary but usually place the beginnings of Oolong in the southern Chinese province of Fujian.
It may have started as a kind of brick tea, but again, stories vary. The name “Oolong” is usually interpreted to mean black or dark dragon tea due to the way the dark leaves look.
Oolong leaves are often twisted or rolled into pellets which enhance the oxidization process and amplify flavors and aromas.
What Does Oolong Tea Taste Like?
We mentioned wine earlier. Thinking of wine when considering Oolong is helpful for understanding just how varied and novel Oolong tea or any tea really, can turn out! For tea of any variety to turn out superb, it needs a few environmental factors.
High altitudes, soil with good drainage (volcanic soil is perfect!), humid climate with tons of rain and cloud coverage, and also high biodiversity helps too!
The main regions for Oolong include all of the above. Oolong is primarily produced in Fujian province but also in Taiwan. Both of these regions possess all the natural features needed to make smashing Oolong.
The results? Some stunning flavor and aroma palettes that can be wildly diverse. Oolong tea’s flavor is also affected by how it is oxidized.
This means how long the leaves are allowed to soak in oxygen which can alter that overall flavor palette. But just what are some of those flavor palettes?
Some Oolong teas can be light, crisp, fresh, floral, and fruity. The Da Hong Pao Oolong has the scent of orchids and is thrillingly sweet for example.
Another great example of something fruity and floral in both aroma and taste include Taiwan’s Alishan. The High altitude Oolong often conjures up fruity aromas like rose, jasmine, and orchid.
The flavor of Alishan is often found to be floral and fruity, often reminiscent of peach.
Other Oolong leaves may have a flavor palette more similar to the vegetal notes of green teas. Others still might be bread-like, nutty, savory, roasty, and malty.
But some, like the Tieguanyin, named after the Buddhist goddess of mercy, Guan Yin, has a truly remarkable and diverse flavor palette.
Tieguanyin can be roasty, creamy, nutty, floral, toasty, vegetal, fresh, honey-like, and has a unique aftertaste that evokes some rock-like minerality to it.
This huge catalog of potential aromas, flavors, and even mouth feels make Oolong a tea to sample and try as much as you can!
From the Fujian varieties to the Taiwanese leaves. Not to mention the Oolong teas that come from Sri Lanka, Nepal, and other more recent Oolong regions!
Oolong Tea Health Benefits
Since Oolong is a true tea like white, green, and black tea, it also boasts some great health benefits. If Oolong didn’t sound enticing enough already, check these out;
- Antioxidants – Slow down signs of aging and protects our bodies and cells from oxidative stress.
- Assists with circulation and promotes better cardiovascular health.
- Protects our organs – our brain, heart, liver, and other organs get some great health boosts from Oolong that promote longevity.
- May help reduce the risks of contracting certain diseases – Oolong may help reduce our chances to develop certain types of cancer as well as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Factors That Affect Taste
Though ideally your Oolong will be perfect with each and every brewing there are some factors that may lead to some less than ideal flavors.
If your brew is too bitter then be sure to strain your leaves or pour out all your tea after about 3 minutes or so. Otherwise the tea leaves will turn your brew more and more bitter!
Oolong can and should be brewed 2-3 times, however, but to do so effectively you should strain the leaves or pour out all of the tea into another cup or carafe. Rebrewing is possible but with new brews each time.
Water quality is another important factor. Coffee and tea should only be prepared with filtered or purified water.
Otherwise you may get some weird flavors in your brews. To ameliorate this, use filtered or purified water instead!
Since Oolong is designed to unfurl and release flavor and aroma, be sure your leaves have enough room. If they cannot expand and unfurl then they are not living up to their full Oolong-y potential. this can be fixed by using a larger brewing vessel.
If those all don’t work, feel free to mix your Oolong with some other ingredients. Milk tea can be made using Oolong and so experimenting with different modes of milk tea will lead to some great brews and great innovation! You can also try;
These extra accoutrements can help to enhance and alter any flavors that may be less than ideal!
Dark Dragon Tea
If you are searching for the “champagne of teas” then Oolong is waiting for you! What does Oolong taste like? It can be fruity, malty, bread-like, sweet, vegetal, roasty, and much more.
The aromas are rich and alive, and the flavors are truly delectable. The best way to discover what variety of Oolong is best for you is to get out there and start brewing!
- “A Beginner’s Guide to Drinking Better Oolong Tea.” Serious Eats, www.seriouseats.com/what-is-oolong-tea-where-to-buy.
- Ngo, Hope. “What Is Oolong Tea and What Does It Taste Like?” Mashed.com, 31 May 2021, www.mashed.com/424594/what-is-oolong-tea-and-what-does-it-taste-like/. Accessed 10 June 2022.
- “What Does Oolong Tea Taste Like? Best Tasting Oolong Teas Available.” Simple Loose Leaf Tea Company, 1 Jan. 2020, simplelooseleaf.com/blog/oolong-tea/best-tasting-oolong-tea/. Accessed 10 June 2022.