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What's your name?

Some say oolong, some say wu long. Actually, both are accurate and refer to the same type of tea. The name it's called depends upon which translation system was used to convert the Mandarin Dialect to English.

China adopted the Pinyin system, which gives them "oolong", while Taiwan's Wade Giles system gives the term "wu long". Since China and Taiwan are the major producers of the teas, both names are accepted throughout the industry, however typically the term oolong is used throughout the United States.

Oolong tea leaves and three cups near kettle
Oolongs are the bridge between green teas and black teas.

Where are you from?

Oolong teas are categorized by their amount of oxidation and processing. If you'll recall from our blog Did You Know Your Cup of Tea is Full of Science, oolongs are the bridge between green teas and black teas.

  • Pouchongs are the greenest of oolongs. In the United States, these are classified as oolong teas because of the processing; however, quite often outside the US, you will see them classified as green tea due to the low oxidation level.

    • Baozhong

  • Jade Oolongs have a little more oxidation but are still rather green.

    • Tung Ting and Green Dragon

  • Amber Oolongs are still further oxidized and may also undergo an additional step of baking after the final firing.

    • Tie Kuan Yin, Wu Yi Rock, and Phoenix Mountain

  • Champagne Oolongs have the highest level of oxidation and typically have multicolored leaves.

    • Oriental Beauty, Bai Hao, and Silvertip

  • Aged Oolongs make up the final category, these include teas that have been carefully stored over the years and may have been gently baked to maintain low moisture, which further heightens the flavors.

rolled oolong ball leaves

And the taste?

Oolongs are very complex in aromatics and flavors and can hold up to multiple steepings. As a general rule, the lower oxidized oolongs have more floral and vine fruit characteristics, while the mid-oxidized oolongs have more stone fruit and nut characteristics. The higher oxidized oolongs tend to provide more nut, honey, and woody characteristics.

To create such complex characteristics, great care is used in making oolong teas. It is more art than science. Production processes can be straight forward or intense and complex.

  • Low Oxidation = Plucking » Withering » Rolling » Final Firing

  • Mid Oxidation = Plucking » Withering » Ball Rolling » Partial Drying (repeat as needed) » Final Firing » Baking (optional)

  • High Oxidation = Plucking » Withering » Rolling » Optional Softening » Optional (optional) » Re-Rolling » Final Firing

oolong tea in white porcelain cup and saucer

What's the history of Oolong Tea in China?

Oolong teas were produced during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) as tribute teas only. It wasn’t until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) when tea preparation changed to tea preparing including brewing in teapots and sipping from cups, plus the creation of Yixing teapots, that oolongs become more mainstream. It is said that Yixing teapots are the only suitable vessel for preparing oolong teas. Oolongs were first cultivated in the Fujian Province and then spread to the Guangdong Province.

Fujian Province oolongs are produced in two main areas – Wu Yi Mountain Region and Anxi County.

  • Wu Yi Mountain oolongs are often referred to as Wuyi Rock Oolongs because they grow among the rocky and mineral-rich soil of the area. Tea grows in three main areas within the mountain range: the rarest comes from the “heart of the mountain” (which is now a national park), the terraced slopes of the central mountains, and the lower gardens surrounding the area. The main varieties coming from this area include

    • Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe)

    • Bai Ji Guan (3 White Cockscomb)

    • Tie Luo Han (Iron Warrior Monk)

    • Shui Jin Gui (Golden Water Turtle)

  • Anxi County, in southern Fujian, is considered the birthplace of Tie Kuan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy). It is here that other oolongs are produced alongside Tie Kuan Yin, including Rou Gui (Cassia) and Shui Xian (Water Sprite) oolongs.

Guangdong Province, which is situated to the northeast of Fujian Province is known for its Feng Huang Shan (Phoenix Mountain) Oolong. Here, wild tea trees flourish in the remote areas of the Phoenix Mountain range.

tea field in the Fujian Province, China

What's the history of Oolong Tea in Taiwan?

Taiwan has five major growing areas.

  • Northern Taiwan is known for their Baozhong and Tie Kuan Yin oolongs.

  • Tao-Chu-Miao Area, on the northwest coast, is known for its Peng Feng or White Tip Oolong.

  • Southcentral Taiwan is known for its Tung Ting oolongs.

  • Eastern Taiwan produces mostly black teas used in pearl milk tea, which we know as bubble or bobba tea.

  • The high-mountain region produces an array of oolongs mostly processed in the semi-balled shape. Because of the stress that the altitude causes the plant, more complex flavors and aromatics are produced.

tea field Wu Yi Mountain, Taiwan

Thirsty for more?

When cupping Oolongs, try to note the slight differences in these variations based on their growing region. What do you like about your favorite Oolong and are there other teas you enjoy that are also grown in that area? Share your favorite brands or region of oolongs with us or ask us a question about what's in your cup. Reach out on your favorite social media! #hulaconsulting

The #teaexperts at Hula Consulting can help with #oolong teas and ingredients for your tea line as well as tea education courses to give you and your team the tools to be a better cupper, blender, and purchaser of teas and tea ingredients. Email to or call 561.600.7025 to get started today.


First Image Shown - photo credit: Green photo created by jcomp -</a>

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