What is Oolong Tea?
Oolong tea is a traditional Chinese tea made from the leaves, the buds and stems of the Camellia Sinensis plant. It is primarily processed and grown in China and Taiwan. It is neither a green tea or a black tea, rather something in between because it’s partially fermented and partially oxidized, giving it characteristics of both forms of tea. One of the most famous variety comes from the Fujian province of China.
Read about China's tea culture: Chinese tea lore
The process of formation includes slight heating of the leaves to halt the process of oxidation, yielding green tea. Then they are left to oxidize for some time which lets them turn a little dark, yielding characteristics of black tea. The final version is semi-oxidized. The oxidation can range anywhere from 10 to 70 per cent.
The word Oolong means 'black dragon'. Oo (Wu) means Black and Long means Dragon. Oolong Tea is also known in China as "Qing Cha".
The processing of Oolong tea is a complex process involving 7 stages which include withering, tossing, oxidizing, fixing, rolling, drying and firing.
What nutritional value does Oolong Tea contain?
Oolong tea, like all forms of tea, is rich in anti-oxidants but apart from that it is rich in minerals such as calcium, manganese, copper, carotin and potassium. Among vitamins, it is said to be rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Vitamin K. It also has detoxifying elements such as folic acid. It also has caffeine that stimulates the nervous system. Oolong tea contains 50-60 mg caffeine per cup.
What are the health benefits of Oolong Tea?
1. Weight Management
Oolong is tea is good for your metabolism and helps you burn fat faster for up to two hours of drinking it. This is because of a polyphenol compound found in this form of tea. Polyphenol compounds help by activating enzymes that help in using stored fat for energy. Researchers at the USDA Diet and Human Performance Laboratory found that people who drink tea burn an average of 67 more calories a day than those who drink the same amount of water. Hence, the daily consumption of Oolong tea is recommended for reducing overall body weight and fat index. But it must be ensured that it is not loaded with refined sugar or any kind of artificial sweeteners. Instead, it is suggested that honey or maple syrup is used instead of sugar because they are healthier options.
Further reading: How to drink oolong tea for weight loss?
But it must be ensured that it is not loaded with refined sugar or any kind of artificial sweeteners. Instead, it is suggested that honey or maple syrup is used instead of sugar because they are healthier options.
The combination of caffeine and polyphenols in Oolong tea is helpful in weight loss and helps in increasing the number of calories burnt each day. Studies have shown that drinking Oolong tea has led to sustained weight loss and smaller waist size.
2. Improving health of the heart
Oolong tea plays a beneficial role in reducing cholesterol levels due to its semi-oxidised state, it’s able to produce polyphenol radical that is of the perfect size. This polyphenol radical helps in activating enzyme lipase and dissolve body fat. Not only this, but it also plays an important role in regulating blood pressure.
In a Japanese research study, in which about 76000 people were tested for the benefits of Oolong tea, it was identified and concluded that having this form of tea every day, reduces the risk of heart diseases by 61 per cent.
However, there is a caffeine component that is also associated with Oolong tea which must be taken into consideration.
3. Prevention of Diabetes
Oolong tea is used to treat Type-2 diabetic disorders along with the supplementary drugs used to treat the disease. Its role is crucial in regulating the blood sugar level in patients as the dips and spikes in it can be dangerous for diabetic patients.
Along with that, the polyphenol compounds help in reducing blood sugar levels and insulin levels. Studies have revealed that consuming 1 litre of Oolong tea every day for a month, results in a 3.3% dip in blood sugar levels.
A small 2003 study reported in the journal "Diabetes Care" found that participants with Type 2 diabetes who consumed Oolong tea while also taking their diabetes medication as prescribed had better outcomes with regard to blood sugar control than study subjects who used the medication without consuming tea.
4. Improving brain function
The caffeine component in the Oolong tea is attributed to its effects of improving mental performance and alertness.
Apart from that, the polyphenol compounds are known to help in alleviating stress. Theaine, the amino acid in this tea is also known to relieve anxiety. The calming effect is experienced about two hours after intake.
Caffeine triggers the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, the two elements in the brain that are known to benefit overall mood and attention levels. Such regulation of brain function is also beneficial for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
Other beneficial effects on the brain include an increase in memory, information processing speed, and other cognitive skills.
5. Prevention of certain forms of cancer
The antioxidants present in Oolong tea can help in preventing cell mutations that cause cancer. Its anti-cancer properties are attributed to compounds that stifle the activation of carcinogenic cells. They prevent the creation of N-nitroso compounds and also trap genotoxic agents before they can become effective. They are also known to reduce the rate of cell division.
The forms of cancer that it is known to fight are ovarian, lung, oesophagal, pancreatic, liver and colorectal cancers.
6. Tooth and Bone strength
By fighting a certain form of bacteria that releases acid, Oolong tea helps in maintaining dental health and in preventing tooth decay and build-up of plaque. It is also known to deter the formation of cavities.
It also helps in maintaining the strength of the bone by maintaining higher bone density (Bone Mineral Density). Higher bone density reduces the chances of fractures. By maintaining healthy bone structure, it helps in preventing diseases such as osteoporosis.
7. For healthy skin and prevention of skin diseases
Patients of Eczema are known to benefit from drinking three cups of Oolong tea every day. Similarly, the polyphenols in Oolong tea work as anti-allergic compounds to relieve irritation and chronic skin problems. Patients of another skin disease known as atopic dermatitis are also known to benefit from this form of tea.
It is also known to decrease ageing effects on the skin resulting in healthier and more vibrant looking skin.
8. Strengthening the immune system
Oolong tea is known to prevent cellular damage and increase the production of anti-bacterial proteins which result in a stronger immune system. It also helps in fighting certain free radicals that have the potential to cause harm to free-moving cells and lead to diseases such as cancer, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis etc.
Oolong tea contains an abundance of antioxidants, which can help reduce cell damage and protect the body from cancer and other diseases. The most abundant antioxidant compounds in Oolong tea are flavonols and flavanols.
9. Aids indigestion
For those people who are not sensitive to caffeine, Oolong tea can help indigestion. This is because it is capable of creating alkaline effects in the digestive tract. These effects are helpful in digestive problems associated with acid reflux and the formation of ulcers.
Due to its mildly antiseptic properties, it can also help in fighting the bad bacteria from the gut. It causes a soothing effect on the stomach.
10. In keeping healthy hair
The biggest benefits of Oolong tea in promoting healthy hair is the prevention of hair loss and retention of the lustre of hair. This is because it helps in regulating the DHT hormone which is related to hair health. The tea rinse of Oolong tea helps in restoring the shine of hair and retaining their healthy look.
While all these are some of the greatest benefits of Oolong tea, because of the caffeine content, over-consumption of Oolong tea must be avoided. The side effects of consumption of caffeine are anxiousness, headaches, heartburn, difficulty in sleeping and confusion. Hence, it can have positive and/or negative health effects and in varying degrees for different individuals. Too much caffeine can also make existing conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, anxiety, blood pressure much worse.
Oolong tea is an incredibly healthy and tasty addition to your lifestyle. So, having regular cups of Oolong tea is highly beneficial for health, however, its consumption and its effects on overall health must be monitored as the healthy dose might differ from person to person based on his or her conditions.
How to prepare Oolong tea?
- Makes sure that fresh, pure, cold-filtered water is used.
- Depending on the styles of Oolongs, the steeping temperature and timing can vary as well. As a general rule, Oolongs are steeped at a temperature anywhere between 180 and 200 degrees and for a duration of 60 seconds to 3 minutes.
- But in case, you don’t have an electric kettle or electrical appliance which allows temperature control, you must remember that at sea level water simmers at about 190 degrees and boils at about 212 degrees. You can get an idea of temperature by looking at the state of the water.
- Most Oolong teas are designed to steep multiple times. Each steeping step unfurls the rolled or twisted leaves just a little more, revealing, even more, layers of the flavour profile intended by the tea master who created the tea. In fact, it is not uncommon to get 3 to 5 infusions out of a high-quality oolong.
- However, you must ensure that you avoid over-steeping your oolong tea. Many oolongs are designed to taste best with multiple short infusions. Taste your tea after the recommended steeping time and then decide if you’d like it to steep a little longer.
- Some of the Oolong tea comes with specific recommendations for brewing. If yours has any specific recommendations, use those. But using about 2 grams of loose leaf tea per 8 oz. cup of water should be a safe bet.
- Cover your Oolong tea while it steeps to ensure that all the heat is kept restored in the steeping vessel.
- Tea producers spend a lot of time mastering the art of Oolong tea. Hence, to best appreciate the handcrafted flavours of an Oolong tea, try sipping it plain without any additives like milk or sugar.
How does Oolong tea taste and smell?
Oolong tea has a mild taste owing to its partially oxidated state before being heated and dried. Green teas are dried immediately after picking and hence they tend to taste grassier and less complex than Oolong tea. Black teas, on the other hand, go through heavier oxidation hence they tend to be more bold and tannic. The delicate taste of Oolong tea makes it ideal for casual drinking. The caffeine level in Oolong tea is similar to the levels found in green tea.
The finest Oolong teas are said to produce an aroma like that of a ripened peach and many Oolong tea makers strive to achieve this result. In Taiwan, most premium Oolong tea tends to be very fragrant, with characteristics similar to green tea.
Where can I get Oolong tea?
Pure Ceylon Oolong tea is available at teakruthi.
This low grown blend offers a fragrant, gentle experience. Harvested from a single estate in the Galle District in Sri Lanka, teakruthi's Green Oolong tea is certified ‘ozone-friendly’. Like all of their favourite teas, Ceylon Oolong blend is packed with antioxidants, making it good for both the environment and you. The manufacturing process of this tea demands precision and care in every step, as it is semi-fermented. It is fresh and mild in flavour and orange in appearance. It is distinctive for its aroma, leaf, and liquor.
Their Oolong Tea is in unique in that it is one of the few, if not only, produced outside China and Taiwan, and the only to be certified as ‘Ozone friendly’ and ‘100% Pure Ceylon’.
How should Oolong tea be stored?
Since Oolong tea is only mildly processed, its leaves are prone to natural enzymatic oxidation. Hence, it is recommended that it is stored in a cool and dry place in an airtight container. It is even suggested that refrigerating it can improve its taste however once refrigerated it must be stored that way as frequent changes in temperature can degrade its quality.
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