Types of oolong tea
Oolong tea can be classified into two main types which originated in different areas of Fujian Province, China.
The striped type is considered to be the older one of the two and originated in Wuyi Shan in Northern Fujian Province. The tea consists of long, narrow and twisted leaves that have been rolled lenghtwise. Generally, oolongs that are produced this way have undergone medium to high levels of oxidation.
The famous Wuyi Rock teas (Wu Yi Yan Cha) are produced this way.
The balled type is typical for oolongs from Southern Fujian Province and consists of tightly rolled shoots or leaves that remotely resemble miniature fists. Most balled oolongs are low to medium oxidized teas, i.e. closer to green tea. Famous examples of this style include Tie Guan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy) and most high mountain oolongs from Taiwan.
While almost all oolongs can be classified with these two groups, there are a few exceptions where the tea can't be classified as belonging to either one of them. This in-between type is sometimes called semi-balled tea and Pouchong (Bao Zhong) is a great example for this style.
Where to start with oolongs?
Since oolong teas cover an enormous breadth of flavours, anyone can find a tea to suit their palate. Darker oolongs like Wuyi Rock teas are full-bodied, often display a hint of fruity notes and offer an easy start for people used to drinking black tea. Their flavour is more forth-coming with less emphasis on the aftertaste.
Less oxidized oolongs like most of our balled Formosa oolongs are closer to green teas but possess a much stronger floral fragrance and greater complexity. They often produce a lingering aftertaste that sometimes surpasses the initial flavour of the tea. Especially in the case of tightly balled oolongs, the first infusion produces the most intense fragrance while the second and third infusions have the strongest flavour.
How to brew oolongs?
The ideal way to prepare oolong tea is the Kung Fu method (also called gong fu cha).
The tea is prepared in a small tea pot (ideally a YiXing pot) or gaiwan cup (pictured on the right) and infused multiple times with short steepings. An average oolong yields about 4-5 infusions with some high quality teas producing more than 8 infusions.
For a detailed description on brewing oolong tea, visit our page on preparing oolong Kung Fu style.
Oolong - The wonder drug for slimming?
In the recent past, oolong tea has gained a reputation as miraculous slimming aid. While oolong tea has been used in China as a medicine to control obesity for centuries, modern marketing has abused recently published studies that found oolong tea to have positive effects on fat oxidation and increasing metabolism to suggest oolong tea to be a miracle drug for weight loss.
Don't trust dubious claims of unrealistic weight losses and enjoy the flavour of oolong tea with the conscience of the added bonus of its many health benefits!