(Updated December 8th, 2021)
There are so many enchanting varieties of oolong tea it can seem overwhelming to figure out where to begin. Luckily, we’ve rounded up four varieties of the best oolong tea to get you started. You’ll discover everything from sweet and creamy Milk Oolong to rich, complex Darjeeling Oolong. High quality oolong tea is naturally sweet and won’t need milk or sugar. The subtle smoothness and floral aroma of oolong has captivated tea drinkers for centuries. Brew a cup of the best oolong tea and discover an entirely new tea drinking experience.
What is Oolong Tea?
Oolong tea is defined as being a semi-oxidized tea from the Camellia sinensis plant. It is the same plant that produces black tea and green tea, but black tea is fully oxidized and green tea is usually unoxidized. Oxidation is the process of leaving tea leaves exposed to air to darken the color and change the taste. The flavor of oolong tea is sometimes described as ‘in between green and black tea’. But unlike other types of teas, oolong can be very floral and sweet or even creamy in taste. Oolong tea is less bitter than other varieties of tea and generally lower in caffeine. It has continued to grow in popularity throughout the world for its many health benefits and intriguing flavor. Despite being a recent trend, oolong tea has been enjoyed for hundreds of years.
Origins and History of Oolong Tea
During the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1912) in China, the first oolong tea was invented in the Wu Yi mountains. The processed tea leaves were long, twisted, and black, giving them the nickname “Wu Long” which means “Black Dragon”. Western traders shortened the name “Wu Long” to “Oolong”, resulting in the common name we know today. The Wu Yi mountains were known for lush biological diversity and mineral-rich soil, which gave the tea a complex flavor profile. These black oolong teas were deeper in flavor than many of the green-colored oolongs developed later. When the greener, less oxidized oolongs grew in popularity, the world became familiar with more floral and sweet varieties like Ti Kwan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy).
The Best Oolong Tea
We’ve picked our top 4 favorites out of all the best oolong tea. This array of delightful oolongs will introduce you to the wide variety of flavor profiles oolong has to offer. You’ll discover the unique buttery taste of Milk Oolong, the richness of Darjeeling Oolong, the spice of Orange Ginger Oolong, and floral elegance of Iron Goddess of Mercy. With each sip, your taste buds will light up with new and complex flavors. The best part is that you’ll be supporting your health along the way with antioxidants and nutrients for full-body wellbeing.
1. Milk Oolong
Flavor profile: Creamy, sweet, floral.
Caffeine Level: Low.
If we had to pick one oolong tea that everyone should try it would be Milk Oolong. No other tea has quite the same buttery flavor and natural sweetness. The tea leaves are processed in a humid but cool environment that locks in its natural creamy flavor. When you are craving something indulgent but don’t want to add sugar or cream, it makes an excellent dessert tea. Without any added dairy it has a smooth, milky taste.
2. Darjeeling Oolong
Flavor profile: Rich, fruity, toasty.
Caffeine Level: Medium.
This famous tea is from Darjeeling, India. Cozied up next to the majestic Himalayas, it grows in crisp mountain air. Darjeeling Oolong is less astringent than black tea but stronger than most oolongs. There are notes of dried fruit as well as rich, earthy flavors. Then you’ll notice the toasty notes that add warmth. Darjeeling Oolong is a sophisticated choice to start your morning off right.
3. Orange Ginger Oolong
Flavor profile: Spicy, citrus, sweet.
Caffeine Level: Low.
Ginger and orange peel spice up this oolong tea. If you can’t decide between oolong or herbal, why not have both? The ginger will stimulate your senses and invigorate you. The citrus notes are uplifting and bring a sense of calm. The oolong tea base softens the flavors with a sweet and floral finish. Together Orange Ginger Oolong balances perfectly for tea that can be sipped every day.
4. Iron Goddess Of Mercy Oolong
Flavor profile: Fresh and floral.
Caffeine Level: Low.
Also known as Ti Kuan Yin or Tie Guan Yin, a taste of this tea is sure to bring a smile to your face. It’s delicate flavor eases the mind of all worries. This tea is grown in China up in the mountains where the air is fresh. Sweet scents of orchids and honeycomb waft up from the tea as it brews. According to legend, an iron statue of a merciful Bodhisattva came alive and blessed a poor farmer with a magical tea plant. Iron Goddess of Mercy Oolong is a must-try tea steeped in culture and history.
How to Brew The Best Oolong Tea:
Oolong tea leaves can be steeped multiple times, with each infusion providing a subtly different flavor profile. Remember to check the brewing instructions on the label for each type of tea, since different oolong teas require different water temperatures.
- Heat water to 200 degrees F. for lighter oolongs like Milk Oolong, and 212 degrees F. for darker oolongs like Darjeeling.
- Use 1 teaspoon of loose leaf oolong tea per 8oz. cup.
- Put tea leaves in an infuser in a mug or teapot.
- Fill mug or teapot with the hot water.
- Steep for 3-5 minutes.