A lot of people ask what does oolong tea taste like, and because oolong tea is such a broad category, there are a few different answers.
In this article, we’re going to dive into the different types of oolong tea, and we’ll attempt to answer the question what does oolong tea taste like in each production style.
Without further ado, let’s get started! 🍃🤤
What does oolong tea taste like?
Oolong tea has a unique and diverse flavor profile that can vary depending on factors such as the specific variety, processing method, and brewing technique.
Generally, oolong tea offers a pleasant balance between the freshness and grassiness of green tea and the richness and depth of black tea.
Here are some common taste characteristics associated with oolong tea:
Oolong tea often exhibits floral notes, which can range from delicate and subtle to more pronounced and fragrant. Floral flavors may resemble orchids, jasmine, or honeysuckle.
Some oolong teas may have fruity undertones, including notes of peach, apricot, plum, or citrus. The intensity of the fruitiness can vary, with some teas having a more prominent fruit flavor.
Oolong teas can possess a nutty quality, with hints of almond, chestnut, or toasted grains. This flavor adds a pleasant richness and depth to the overall profile.
Roasted or Toasted
Certain oolong teas, especially those that undergo a higher level of oxidation or a specific roasting process, may exhibit toasty or roasted flavors. These can range from caramelized and honey-like to deeper, smoky, or woody notes.
Oolong teas often have a natural inherent sweetness, which can be described as a mild, lingering sweetness on the palate. This sweetness may vary based on the specific oolong tea and the brewing parameters.
Earthy or Mineral
Some oolong teas may have earthy or mineral undertones, reminiscent of wet stones or the terroir in which the tea is grown. This can provide a grounding and distinct character to the flavor.
What is Oolong Tea
We should probably start by explaining what oolong tea is and how it differs from more well-known teas like green tea and black tea.
6 major tea types
The first thing to know is that there are 6 major tea types, white tea, yellow tea, green tea, oolong tea, red/black tea and post fermented tea. When it comes to the middle 3 teas, the differentiating factor comes from the oxidation process.
Once the tea leaves are picked, they will begin to oxidize naturally over time. During this process, the enzyme oxidase converts the catechins in the leaf into theaflavins and thearubigans. This changes the color of the tea leaves, as well as the flavor of the tea.
Oolong vs black tea
Black tea is fully oxidized, and that’s why the leaves are brown, and the flavor of the tea is more on the caramel or chocolate side.
Oolong vs green tea
To produce a green tea, the farmer will apply heat to the tea leaves after harvest in order to stop the oxidation process and retain more of the catechins in the leaf.
This is why green teas like sencha retain more of their natural vegetable flavors when compared to black tea.
Oolong is a partially oxidized tea
Oolong tea lies somewhere in between these two, as a partially oxidized tea.
During the production, the oxidation process is accelerated through bruising the tea leaves, and bringing certain enzymes to the surface to be exposed to oxygen.
Then the leaves are heated to stop the oxidation process.
This creates a broad range in oolong tea, with some being almost completely oxidized and some being barely oxidized at all.
What does oolong tea taste like in China and Taiwan
In China and Taiwan, you can see a much richer tradition of oolong tea cultivation and production.
With oolong being more common, there is also a broader range of flavors to describe. For simplicity sake, let’s break it down into green oolong and dark oolong.
These oolong teas are unroasted, and the appearance of the leaves is typically dark green from the older leaves used in the production. They tend to be less oxidized, although this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. The lightest would be a tea like pouchong, which is almost completely unoxidized and has these really soft lilac notes.
On the slightly more full-bodied side, you have a tea like Jin Xuan or milk oolong, which has a creamier consistency with hints of coconut, cinnamon and honeysuckle.
These oolong teas are charcoal roasted, and they have dark brown or black leaves. On the lighter side, you have a tea like Tie Guan Yin (iron goddess) which has more of these cinnamon and toasted pastry notes.
If you go a bit darker into the world of Dancong oolong teas, you will find a lot of this minerality and earthy roasted notes that may be reminiscent of a campfire. These teas pick up their intense minerality from the region they are grown in, which contains rocky, mineral rich soils.
So what does oolong tea taste like in China and Taiwan? That really depends on both the roasting, the region and the oxidation level.
What does Japanese oolong tea taste like?
The flavor leans heavily on these floral profiles, with notes of lilac and honeysuckle. The tea has a tiny bit of this citrusy astringency in the finish, which rounds out the taste nicely. The closest tea to compare it to would be something like a Jin Xuan oolong from Taiwan. So what does oolong tea taste like when it’s produced in Japan? Typically light and flowery.