Chinese Oolong Tea's Long Kept Secret

Chinese Oolong Tea's Long Kept Secret by Julian Tai

July 28, 2008

What is Chinese oolong tea?

Until recently, most of us in the west didn´t even know there were different kinds of tea! We´d drink black tea or herbal infusions, and were unaware of the huge variety of other teas out there. It´s only in recent years that green, white and oolong teas have been readily available on grocery store shelves.

Most of us have probably had oolong tea - it is often served in Chinese restaurants, for example - and not even known it. What is this tea, and how does it differ from the other types of tea?

The secret is in the processing...

As you may know, all tea varieties come from the same plant, the camellia sinensis. Different types are harvested at different times, and may include varying proportions of leaves and buds.

Chinese oolong tea should combine one bud and three leaves. It is picked in the morning, on a clear day. The leaves and buds are first dried in the sun, and then brought inside for processing. Finally, the leaves are rolled to release their aroma and flavor, and then roasted.

Great experience is needed to determine just when the leaves are fermented enough, but not too much. Tea masters must spend many years practicing this combination of art and science to attain the title of "Master".

Not black, not green...

Because it is only slightly fermented, it has a little bit less caffeine than black tea, and a clearer, more delicate flavor. The fermentation process removes some of the strength of the antioxidant properties, but results in a smoother, less grassy tea than green.

Health Benefits

While its health benefits may be slightly less than in white or green teas, they are still profound. All tea contains huge amounts of polyphenol catechins, antioxidant compounds that help lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of many types of cancer, and promote weight loss. A cup of this tea is the best health supplement you could hope for!

Because it accounts for such a small percentage of overall tea sales and consumption, scientists and researchers are just beginning to design and conduct studies to ascertain all of its benefits. If green tea studies are any indication, we will be reading a lot more about this amazing beverage in the near future!

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