Oolongs are an interesting breed of tea.
Many tea drinkers have only heard of “Black” tea, “Green” tea, and herbals, as that is simply what is stocked most commonly on the supermarket shelves. But there’s another extremely viable, extremely delicious form of tea that everyone should appreciate at least once in their lives: oolong tea.
Oolong teas are a vibrant in-between of green tea and black tea, offering qualities of both but never reaching either’s extremes. The reasoning for this lies in the process used to create oolong teas.
When the camellia sinensis (tea) leaves are picked off the bush, they are subjected to a process that gradually (or sometimes very rapidly) increases the oxidation levels in the leaves. Green tea is usually described as unoxidised or very lightly oxidised; typically the levels are very low or non-existent. Black tea, on the other hand, has been fully oxidised, which gives it its blackened colour and fuller taste.
So where does this leave oolong tea?
Oolong tea is right in the middle of green tea and black tea on the oxidation chart. It encompasses a wide range of oxidation percentages and can have more characteristics of green tea, or more characteristics of black tea, as a result. Typically, increasing the oxidation level of a tea will lower its catechin count and increase its caffeine levels.
Taiwan and China are especially famous for their oolong teas, and produce a large range for consumers to pick through. Some are among the most highly revered teas in the world.