Oolong tea is an interesting beverage that falls somewhere between black tea and green tea. But is it an actual tea?
The Short Answer:
Yes, Oolong tea is actually a tea.
The Long Answer:
Oolong is a special kind of tea. Some lump it in with black tea, others think it’s more like green tea. The true answer is that it falls somewhere in the middle of the two. It all depends upon the choices made by the tea master who processes the leaves.
One thing that’s for sure though is that Oolong is actually a tea. It is one of the four varieties of what we refer to as “real” tea. Those are black, green, white, and oolong. What makes a tea real, you ask? They come from the leaves of a specific plant, commonly referred to as the tea bush. The differences between them comes from the processing which occurs after harvest. That’s why herbal teas can’t really be called true teas.
Oolong is differentiated from its fellow teas after the leaves have been picked. Black tea is fully oxidized, which is why their leaves turn dark. Green tea receives very little oxidation, so the leaves are allowed to maintain their natural coloring. Oolong, however, is only partially oxidized. It’s the happy medium that exists between two extremes. These levels can vary to anywhere from 8% all the up to 80%. That’s why the flavor of Oolong tea tends to differ based on the individual tea master in charge of their production.
Oolong leaves are also a different shape than other teas. That’s because, traditionally, the leaves are curled into thin strands or tight balls during processing. The rolling process impacts the tea’s aroma and color. The flavor can be drastically altered depending on when the tea master chose to begin the rolling process.
Oolong tea originally comes from China and Taiwan. Oolong tea is almost like wine, in that it can be either light or full-bodied, depending on how it was made. It’s such a versatile product, often flip-flopping between flavors and colors of the leaves.