You’ve no doubt heard of green tea and the many benefits it offers, and you are likely familiar with black tea, as well — if for no other reason than because there’s usually a few black tea packets included with your Chinese takeaway order.
But what is oolong tea, and is it healthier than those other types?
We’ve got all the answers for you!
How Is Oolong Different Than Black or Green Tea?
All three are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant; the only difference is their levels of oxidation.
Black tea is fully oxidized as it is processed, resulting in its dark color and deep, complex flavor, whereas green tea is barely oxidized. It retains its grassy color and fresh flavor.
Oolong falls in between those two, with oxidation levels ranging between 10-70%. Its taste, therefore, can be hard to pin down. Some oolongs are fruity and light, while others more closely mimic the malty taste of a black tea.
What Is Oolong Tea Offering As Its Main Health Benefit?
“Antioxidant” has become a bit of a marketing buzzword lately, but not without cause. Whether naturally occurring or man-made, antioxidants are substances that work to delay, prevent, or even reverse cell damage within the body.
And oolong tea is rich in polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant.
Although there have been fewer scientific studies conducted specifically on oolong tea, it is generally accepted that the antioxidant levels and properties found in oolong are similar to those in green and black teas.
Oolong tea also provides folic acid, calcium, manganese, copper, carotin, selenium, and potassium, as well as vitamins A, B, C, E and K.
What Are Some Benefits of Oolong?
Tea polyphenols can regulate blood sugar levels and insulin levels.
- Boosting metabolism and decreasing the amount of dietary fat that your body absorbs are also benefits of polyphenols.
- One study of over 76,000 Japanese adults found that those who drank just 8 oz. of oolong tea each day were 61% less likely to develop heart disease.
- Oolong consumption can boost brain health in several ways: increasing alertness and attention; relieving anxiety; improving memory, cognition, and the speed at which our brains process information.
- The antioxidants found in tea may help prevent cell mutation that can result in certain cancers. Polyphenols may also limit cancerous cell division. Many believe drinking tea, including oolong, is preventative in cases of oral, lung, esophageal, pancreatic, liver and colorectal cancers.
- Oolong tea may promote higher bone mineral density, leading to stronger teeth and bones.
- Antioxidants in oolong can destroy free radicals, thereby slowing the process of aging and contributing to healthier looking skin.
Are There Any Downsides to Drinking Oolong Tea?
The only potential downside to drinking oolong tea is that it tends to have high levels of caffeine, and excess caffeine consumption can make you jittery, lead to insomnia, and interact with some medications.
What is oolong tea providing in terms of its caffeine level? It contains more than green tea, and not as much as black tea. It also has around a third of the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee, if steeped for five minutes. Most people will not steep their oolong that long.
Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to check with your physician before you pick up a daily oolong tea habit, especially if you are pregnant or nursing.
Have you ever been asked what is oolong tea? Share your experience in the comments!