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Oolong Tea

Wikipedia: Oolong | Teaviews: oolong-tea 
Last Updated: Mar. 12, 2014 

About Oolong Tea

This oolong from TeaVivre is very green, reflecting low oxidation and roast. Photo © Alex Zorach, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Oolong tea(乌龙/烏龍), sometimes written wulong, wu long or even wooloong, is a type of tea, originating in China, that has been partially oxidized and then roasted. The name translates as black dragon tea. Oolongs are occasionally called blue tea.

The production process for oolongs is somewhat more involved than for black or green teas. The level of oxidation varies widely, with subjective estimates of the level of oxidation ranging from 10% to 75%. The level of roast also varies widely, independently of the level of oxidation. Oolong can be dark in color either due to greater oxidation, or greater roast.

Not all semi-oxidized teas are oolongs, see oolong-like teas below.

Oolong producing regions

Most oolong tea is made in China and Taiwan, although smaller amounts are produced in other countries, including India and Thailand. Oolong tea is widely consumed in China and Taiwan, and it is often served in Chinese restaurants in the United States.

Map of Fujian in ChinaFujian is a key province in oolong production.
In China, there are three primary regions known for producing oolong. One is the Wuyi mountains in northern Fujian province, known for producing darker oolongs, often called "Wuyi rock tea", reflecting the rocky substrates on which many of the tea plants are grown. Traditionally, most Wuyi oolongs are darker, and have a twisted shape. Anxi county in southern Fujian province is best-known for being the origin of Tie Guan Yin, and also produces numerous other types of oolong. Anxi oolongs tend to have their leaves tightly rolled into round pellets. Surrounding regions near Anxi also produce similar types of oolong. The Phoenix mountain area of Guangdong province in southern China is also important for oolongs, being the origin of dancong (single-trunk) oolong.

Small amounts of oolongs are produced in many other provinces of China.

Caffeine content of oolong tea

A cup of oolong tea with a golden color, and used tea leaves on the left
In spite of the darker color of the leaf, this Tie Guan Yin oolong produced a light-colored infusion. Photo by Laubrau, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.
The caffeine content of oolong tea varies widely. Some oolongs have very low caffeine content among teas. In general, tippy oolongs, like oriental beauty tend to be higher in caffeine, whereas oolongs made of larger leaves tend to have less caffeine. The cultivar also influences the caffeine content, so different oolongs produced by similar methods can have different caffeine levels. See caffeine content of tea for a full explanation of the factors influencing the amount of caffeine in a cup of tea.

Character of oolongs: color, flavor, aroma, etc.

Oolong teas are very diverse and range from light, floral and vegetal greenish oolongs to richer, darker oolongs more similar to black tea, with all sorts of styles in between as well. Although it is difficult to generalize, oolong teas tend to have a more mellow flavor as compared to either green or black teas. Pouchong or bao zhong is usually considered to be the lightest (least oxidized) oolong. There are numerous darker oolongs.

Level of roast: dark roast vs light roast

Loose-Leaf of Misty Rock (Wuyi Oolong) from Simply Good Tea, © Alex Zorach, CC BY-SA 4.0.
The level of roast in oolongs varies considerably, from very dark-roast oolongs, to oolongs with an almost imperceptible level of roast. Greener oolongs are characterized by both a low level of oxidation, and a low level of roast. The lowest level of roast is in the "modern style" greener oolongs, which are very popular in China and Southeast Asia but less widely available in the West, which has historically preferred darker-roast and more-oxidized oolongs. Many of the modern greener oolongs have either an almost imperceptible level of roast, and may even be unroasted.

It is possible for both low-oxidation and high-oxidation oolongs to have either low or high levels of roast. This variability in production process leads to a tremendous amount of diversity in the flavor, aroma, and appearance of different oolong teas. Roasted oolongs tend to have toasty or burnt flavors, often with more woody qualities, and diminished floral qualities in the aroma.

Oolong-like teas: black, white, and Pu-erh teas resembling oolong

Some other teas are partially oxidized but are not classified as oolongs due to a fundamentally different production process. Teas with oolong-like characteristics include darker white teas like shou mei or darker white peony tea, and lighter black teas, especially, lighter Darjeeling first flush. Yellow tea also has a slight oxidation, but it does not closely resemble oolong in flavor or aroma. Some fully-oxidized black teas, especially Chinese black teas produced from cultivars of the tea plant usually used to make oolong, can closely resemble darker oolongs.

Some Pu-erh tea, particularly some aged sheng (raw) Pu-erh can resemble oolong in certain ways, reflecting the fact that the aging process produces a different type of oxidation, and a darkening of the tea leaf and mellowing of flavor.

Recent Oolong Reviews — RSS rss icon

79 / 100
Picture of Lao Cong Mi Lan Xiang (Honey Orchid) Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong

The name is accurate: it does smell like honey and flowers. Like Teavivre's Ya Shi Xiang and Da Wu Ye, it has a creamy mouthfeel and sweet, fruity taste. However, I'm not sure it's worth the price considering the cheaper Da Wu Ye from Teavivre or the cheaper and likely better Mi Lan Xiang from both Yunnan Sourcing and ...

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80 / 100

Bright floral aroma, creamy mouthfeel. Later infusions have a note of peach with a mildly spicy finish. Pretty much a stereotypical Dancong. I'd recommend this to someone who has never tried one before. If you have, there's nothing new here, but I don't think there's really anything bad about it either unless you're us...

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78 / 100
Picture of Ya Shi Xiang Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong Tea

I like floral teas, but this was a little too floral for me. Great creamy mouthfeel, though.

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80 / 100

The dark chocolaty, floral aroma of the dry leaves is honestly the best thing about this tea. I spent a lot of time trying to get it to taste like it smells. I can get close with a lower temperature and the right brewing time, but it's never exact. Most of the time, the taste is slightly fruity and a little less roasty...

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77 / 100

This is a very basic Wuyi oolong, with the deep, roasty flavor you'd expect. There's a caramel sweetness and the aroma has a bit of tobacco. I compared this to Teavivre's Da Hong Pao, and while the Teavivre DHP had a slight fruity note that was lacking here, I thought this compared pretty well otherwise. For $2, it's n...

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Most-Rated Oolong

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Monkey Picked Oolong Tea

Brand:Teavana
Style:Tie Guan Yin
Region:?????
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Loose
67
9 Ratings
Picture of Nonpareil Taiwan Li Shan Oolong Tea

Nonpareil Taiwan Li Shan Oolong Tea

Brand:TeaVivre
Style:Oolong Tea
Region:Taichung, Taiwan
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Loose
92
6 Ratings
Picture of Taiwan Jin Xuan Milk Oolong Tea

Taiwan Jin Xuan Milk Oolong Tea

Brand:TeaVivre
Style:Milky Oolong
Region:Taiwan / Formosa
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Loose
51
6 Ratings
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Chinese Oolong

Brand:Bigelow Tea
Style:Oolong Tea
Region:China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Teabag
30
6 Ratings
Picture of Superfine Taiwan Moderately-Roasted Dong Ding Oolong Tea

Superfine Taiwan Moderately-Roasted Dong Ding Oolong Tea

Brand:TeaVivre
Style:Oolong Tea
Region:Nantou, Taiwan
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Loose
93
5 Ratings

Top-Rated Oolong

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Bao Zhong Oolong Tea

Brand:Rishi Tea
Style:Pouchong Tea
Region:Taiwan / Formosa
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Loose
99
3 Ratings
Picture of Wuyi Mountain Big Red Robe

Wuyi Mountain Big Red Robe

Brand:Verdant Tea
Style:Da Hong Pao
Region:Wuyi, Fujian, China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Loose
99
3 Ratings
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Formosa Amber Oolong Select

Brand:Upton Tea Imports
Style:Amber Oolong
Region:Taiwan / Formosa
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Loose
98
3 Ratings
Picture of Bio Pao Chung Pouchong

Bio Pao Chung Pouchong

Brand:Teehaus Bachfischer
Style:Pouchong Tea
Region:Taiwan / Formosa
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Loose
97
3 Ratings
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Superfine Anxi Qing Xiang TieGuanYin Oolong Tea

Brand:TeaVivre
Style:Tie Guan Yin
Region:Anxi, Fujian, China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Loose
97
3 Ratings

Varieties, Kinds, or Types of Oolong Tea

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