Anyone can easily distinguish black tea from green tea based on color. But the same cannot be said for black tea and oolong tea. To add to the confusion, we recently received an email from a person who was just starting with tea: "Is oolong tea black or green?" Another tea drinker asked, "Is there black tea in oolong? "Oolong tea is a category in itself, with differences in production method, appearance, and taste.
Black tea is the most familiar tea in the West because it was the earliest type introduced to the West hundreds of years ago. Dutchman Jan Huygen van Linschoten was the first to successfully bring tea to Portugal. Then, green tea became popular about 20 years ago due to the frequent mention of its health benefits in the media.
In contrast, oolong tea is a relatively new type of tea that has become popular in recent years. So it's no surprise that many people can't tell the difference between the two. Let's look at the differences between these tea types in the discussion below.
What is oolong tea made of?
Many people think that black oolong tea is a type of black tea. This is not true. Like all teas, oolong tea is made from the Camellia sinensis tree. However, each tea is processed differently. The processing method used for black tea produces fully oxidized leaves.
Green tea is least oxidized, maintaining its green color. After the leaves are picked, they are dried in the shade and roasted directly in the pan to prevent oxidation.
The oxidation level of oolong tea is between green tea and black tea. Therefore, they are also called "semi-oxidized" teas.
However, the term "semi-oxidized" may not be entirely correct. Since different oolong teas may have different levels of oxidation, the term "partially oxidized" is more appropriate as it takes into account the different levels of oxidation.
From a raw material standpoint, black tea consisting of small buds is generally considered to be of higher quality. Teas like Lapsang Souchong or Keemun are made up of small leaves or buds. Black tea is more expensive if it is composed of many golden buds, as is the case with teas like Yunnan Jin or Jin Junmei. Also for green tea, younger and more tender buds are preferred.
In contrast, oolong tea involves fewer small buds and leaves. They usually consist of larger leaves that are better suited to the intensive processing steps they undergo. Oolong tea brushes off the edges of the leaves as it is rolled, resulting in a complex aroma. Especially Tieguanyin.
Besides the size of the leaves, oolong tea comes in a variety of colors. In the case of Tieguanyin, it has a very low degree of oxidation and therefore remains green. So, it is not surprising that many people mistake Tieguanyin for green tea.
is oolong tea green tea tieguanyin
Other oolong teas such as Dancong and Dahongpao are darker in color. The oxidation levels of these dark oolongs are closer to those of black teas, although they still fall into the oolong category.
It is oolong tea black tea Dahongpao
The wide range of colors is because oolong tea can have different levels of oxidation, resulting in a wider range of flavor possibilities.
difference in taste
While black oolong tea and black oolong tea may look similar in color, they taste quite different. Black teas often have honey, caramel, or smoky flavors. Some of these notes may also appear in black oolong tea. However, dark oolong teas like Dahongpao have a rock and mineral foundation that black tea does not have.
Then there are light oolong teas such as Tieguanyin, which tend to taste more like green tea with floral aromas. However, green tea is generally more vegetal and grassy, while light oolong tea has a smoother and rounder taste due to oxidation. For first-time tea drinkers, light oolong teas are often more readily available in taste than herbal green teas.
When to drink oolong tea?
The time to drink oolong tea is not much different from black tea. The most suitable time is around 30 minutes after breakfast and lunch. It can help you avoid feeling low after a meal and aid in digestion. For more information, you can also read: When to drink oolong tea
Caffeine in tea is a very complex topic and depends on the brewing method, the tea set used, the steeping time and temperature, and the ratio of tea to water applied. Therefore, it is impossible to simply tell you exactly how much caffeine is in a cup of black and oolong tea. To learn more about the factors behind caffeine levels, you can read our tea caffeine guide.
To sum up, black tea and oolong tea are indeed different types of tea. Different processing methods lead to different degrees of oxidation. Good black tea usually uses small leaves, which are not important for oolong tea. Differences in processing and choice of ingredients result in different flavors.