Oolong Tea VS Green Tea – Everything You Need to Know

oolong vs green tea header

Every variety, flavor, texture, and aroma of tea comes from the same species of plant: Camellia sinensis.

To be exact, there are two variations of Camellia sinesis: Camellia sinensis var. sinensis (which is Chinese tea) and Camellia sinensis var. assamica (Indian tea). If a drink is made out of any plant species that is not Camellia sinesis, then it’s not actually tea. I’m looking at you, herbal tea

herbal tea is not real tea

Oolong Tea VS Green Tea

So if every ‘real’ tea product is made from the same plant species – White, Black, Green, Oolong, Pu-er, Yellow, Matcha – why does their taste, aroma, and physical appearance vary so widely?

Because different teas are made from different cultivation processes. And different cultivation processes ferment teas differently!

For example, Green tea is made from unfermented leaves. The process is pretty simple:

1.) The leaves are harvested.

2.) The leaves are steamed and dried

3.) The leaves are kneaded and pressed into tiny pallets

4.) The leaves are then sold to wholesalers. 

Green tea is, in essence, the ‘most raw’ variety of tea. 

Oolong tea, on the other hand, is partially-fermented. The process is much more complex and really fascinating: 

1.) Farmers (usually in Thailand) harvest Camellia sinesis leaves from May to November. They generally try to pick what is called ‘the flush’ – two young leaves and a bud found at the top of the plant. 

farmers picking fresh tea leaves

2.) Farmers then begin a process called solar-withering – the first part of the fermentation-oxidation method. Enzymes within the tea leaves begin to break down. 

oxidizing tea leaves informative gif 3.) Next, the leaves are transferred onto bamboo-trays for around 8 hours and gently stirred every 2 – 3 hours for further oxidation.

The leaves are further oxidating gif4.) The leaves then enter a rotating, tumbling drum: this process tears down the cell structures within leaves, allowing oxygen to penetrate deep inside, rapidly advancing the fermentation process. 

tea leaves in tumbler for oxidation

5.) Once the leaves reach appropriate oxidation levels (there’s no metric for this, usually a ‘tea-master’ inspects the leaves and decides if they’re oxidized enough or not), they are then put into a gas heated dryer to stop the oxidation process altogether.

This is called fixation. At this point, the leaves are somewhere between 8% – 80% oxidized, depending on the type of Oolong. This process determines the tea’s flavor and aroma. 

the tea leaves stop their oxidation process

The leaves are then kneaded, dried and packaged for wholesalers. 

Oolong VS Green tea leaves

As you can see, the oxidation process darkens the leaves from a brighter green to a harsh copper-brown.

These characteristics are actually reflected in the flavor of the tea; Oolong tastes harsh and brisk, while green tea is lighter, bittersweet and nutty.

It’s worth mentioning that Oolong is less oxidized than classic black tea.

Graph of oolong tea vs green tea oxidation levels

Oolong Tea VS Green Tea Benefits

Oolong Tea and Green Tea Chemical Compound Chart

Aside from flavor, aroma, and aesthetics, Oolong Tea also differs from Green tea medicinally. Remember, the entire chemical structure of tea can be altered through the fermentation and oxidation process. 

Here’s what you need to know:

1.) There are more catechins in Green tea than there are in Oolong tea

Catechin in green tea are powerful antioxidants

2.) Several studies have shown that green tea may reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. This is likely because of the high amounts of polyphenols (powerful antioxidant agents) found in green tea. There are fewer polyphenols in oxidated teas, like Oolong. 

polyphenol powerful antioxidant

3.) A study on rats found that their overall levels of cholesterol and body fat were significantly reduced by feedings of black, Oolong, and green tea.

This suggests that if you’re seeking health benefits and health benefits only, you’re best bet is to stick with green tea. Even though Oolong possesses powerful anti-oxidant chemical compounds, the science overwhelmingly shows that green tea has more.

My recommendation? Drink whichever tastes better! The medicinal differences aren’t so large as to dismiss Oolong altogether. They’re both healthy beverages! 

The Best Oolong Tea

Our Favorite Oolong Tea

$18.99

Aside from their Loose Leaf Tea Sampler, this organic Oolong is the only purchase I’ve made from Golden Moon so far and I’m really impressed. It’s earthy and rich but at the same time smooth and buttery. The tea also arrived in a nice reusable tin that I’ll be making good use of. 

oolong tea in can

Honorable Mentions… 

our favorite tea bag selection

Tea bags are sometimes looked down upon within the tea community. Frankly, that’s understandable. They are certainly, on average, weaker than most loose leaf options.

But Twinings has the science of bags down better than any other company I’ve tried. They’ve been around since 1706, so they have a little bit of practice under their belts.

Stock your office or home pantry with a few boxes of this stuff and you’ll make everyone happy. 

Honorable Tea Bag Mentions… 

Do you drink Oolong? Do you have a specific brand reccomendation? Let us know! 

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