Ah oolong! The perfect anytime tea with a rich, versatile flavor that is a great compliment to just about any meal or as a stand-alone beverage. Most people have tried oolong tea once or twice in their lives because it is commonly served in Chinese restaurants. But oolong, like so many other teas, has a long and rich history, and not to mention a fabulous lineage of different tea varieties and grades that range in flavor, cost, and processing method.
Oolong is Robust, Full-Bodied Tea from China
Oolong tea comes from the same camellia sinesis plant that gives us white, green, black, and pu’erh teas. It charts a middle-ground somewhere between green and black teas—less sweet than black tea and less grassy than green teas. Oolong teas are sometimes roasted and are either allowed to dry naturally, which results in curly leaves, or are rolled into tiny balls. Both the processing method and the roasting have a significant effect on the way a particular oolong tea tastes.
The oolong pictured on top is a Goddess of Mercy Oolong Tea from China. The leaves are dried naturally and undergo a two-stage roasting process. The result is a robust, full-bodied tea with a woody and nutty flavor that has a slightly sweet aftertaste.
Health Benefits of Oolong Tea
The biggest reported health benefits of oolong tea are its effects on fat metabolism and controlling obesity. Specifically, the polyphenols in oolong tea activate the enzyme that dissolves triglycerides (fat) in our cells. This effect makes oolong popular among dieters and those of us who just want to keep an eye on our waistline—naturally. Incorporating oolong tea into your daily diet is a great way to boost your metabolism without the use of chemical weight-loss supplements. It’s also a good way to complement a workout regimen, such as strength training, where the end-goal is to build lean muscle mass.
Go Gong-fu Style!
One of the best ways to experience the full bouquet and taste of oolong tea is to try the traditional “Gong-fu Cha” style of brewing. This is a table-top tea ceremony best enjoyed at a tea house on your first try.
Traditional earthenware pots are used to brew the oolong tea and only the cleanest filtered water is used. The tea is quickly poured into specially designed cups for experiencing the smell and then is subsequently transferred into the drinking cups. The glasses are small and the brewing process is continual, but it really makes you appreciate the full character of the particular tea you are drinking. A high-grade oolong tea typically yields 5-6 brews with the 3rd and 4th brews offering the best flavor and aroma.
*Please note the type of Gong-fu Cha brewing I have described is the style with which I am most familiar. There are many different particularities of Gong-fu brewing that vary among tea masters and enthusiasts across the globe.
Jocelyn Eide is a writer-researcher from Montana, USA, and writes on a variety of insightful topics, including natural health. When she is not working, she is likely doing Yoga.