FREE DOMESTIC SHIPPING ON ORDERS OVER $29

What is
Oolong Tea?

The Most Artisanal Style of Tea.

Highly sought-after by tea connoisseurs, oolong teas offer wonderfully complex aromatic profiles that are best savored slowly over the course of multiple infusions brewed in a traditional vessel such as a porcelain Gaiwan. This style is often referred to as gōngfū chá or “kung-fu tea,” alluding to the mindful attentiveness needed to brew tea this way. This is one reason that Oolong teas are some of the most artisanal teas in the world.

Oolong Tea and Oxidation

Oolong teas are considered “semi-oxidized,” meaning that the extent of oxidation falls somewhere between green and black tea. This is achieved with a tremendous amount of skill and intense focus from the craftsman. The aim is to partially oxidize the leaf using special withering, tossing, bruising, rolling and shaping techniques. Certain oolong teas might also be roasted or baked to develop a nutty, caramelized sweetness. The degree of oxidation and roasting are two of the main characteristics that are evaluated with oolong teas.

The oolong process was developed during the 18th century within the fabled Wuyi Mountains of China’s southeastern Fujian province. Since then, the realm of oolong tea has expanded, but the traditional regions of production include Fujian, Guangdong province and Taiwan.

Taste of Place: Terroir & Oolong

Cultivar, or genetic strain of the tea plant, is a very important factor in oolong tea. The botanical species of tea, Camellia sinensis, has two primary subspecies: the “small-leaf” C. sinensis subsp. sinensis; and the “broad leaf” C. sinensis subsp. assamica. Within each of these subspecies are hundreds of unique strains that are referred to as cultivars. Much like wine, there is an intimate relationship between place and cultivars with Oolong tea. For example, true Champagne can only be made from select grape varietals in the Champagne region of France, so too must oolong teas be made from select tea cultivars in specific locations.

Notable Oolong Tea

As you begin to find your favorite types of Oolong tea, consider the cultivar, level of oxidation and place of origin. We’ve included a few of our favorites below for you to explore.

Iron Goddess of Mercy

Our Iron Goddess of Mercy is hand-crafted twice each year, in spring and winter, by a fourth generation artisan oolong teamaker in Mingjian Village in Taiwan’s central Nantou county. Our Iron Goddess of Mercy is made from Wuyi and Qingxin oolong tea cultivars and is crafted in the traditional style, with medium oxidation and moderate roasting. 

Ruby Oolong

Ruby Oolong is a special type of oolong tea produced in the Doi Mae Salong mountainous region in northern Thailand. This full-bodied oolong tea is deeply oxidized and slowly baked to bring out complex layers of cacao, raisins, and black cherry with a sublime, elegant structure.

Earl Green

Earl Green is our oolong version of the black tea classic Earl Grey. This original blend highlights the alluring lilac fragrance of Bao Zhong oolong tea, which harmonizes gorgeously with citrusy and floral essence of bergamot.

More From Tea 101

What is Matcha?

What is Matcha?

Matcha is a traditional Japanese green tea powder produced by stone-milling a shade-grown green tea called tencha into a fine powder…

What is Green Tea?

What is Green Tea?

Green Tea is the least oxidized of the six tea types. Green teas are crafted with the application of heat in a step called firing. This heat denatures the enzymes that cause tea leaves to change in color…

What is Black Tea?

What is Black Tea?

Black Tea,” as it’s called in the West, is known as “Hong Cha” or “Red Tea” in Asia, due to its dark reddish infusion color and dark colored dried tea leaves covered with reddish-orange pekoe…