In the West, it is quite common to see black or green tea served in restaurants and available in grocery stores. Another type of tea is becoming more popular, though! Oolong tea, a delicious bridge between black and green tea, spans a wide range of flavors that are hard to find with other classic leaves.
- Top Oolong Tea Reviews
- Best Oolong Tea Overall: Honey Orchid Oolong Tea
- Best Oolong Tea for the Money: Golden Moon – Organic Oolong Loose Leaf Tea
- Best Cheap Oolong Tea: Prince Of Peace Organic Oolong Tea
- Best Oolong Tea Bags: VAHDAM Himalayan Oolong Tea Bags
- Best Taiwanese Oolong Tea: Handpicked Alishan High Mountain Taiwan Dayuling Loose Tea Leaves
- What is Oolong Tea?
- Varieties of Oolong Tea
- How to Prepare Oolong Tea
- Best Water for Oolong Tea
- Oolong Tea Brewing Styles
- Eastern Brewing Method for Oolong Tea – Gong Fu
- Western Brewing Method for Oolong Tea
Top Oolong Tea Reviews
Also known as black dragon tea, oolong tea is one of the four true tea types. Whether you’re looking for a sweet flavor profile or a full-bodied drink, we’re sharing our reviews of the best oolong tea.
Best Oolong Tea Overall: Honey Orchid Oolong Tea
Honey Orchid Oolong Tea is a double-baked phoenix oolong tea cultivated in the Fenghuang area of China’s Guangdong province. Fenghuang is the “Phoenix Mountain” where this oolong gets its name.
The entire oxidation and drying process takes months from its original harvest through being baked twice. This yields a sweet, vivid oolong tea with a delicious fruity taste reminiscent of lychee and peach.
Valley of Tea takes pride in sourcing and supplying the freshest and finest teas available. They seek out the best artisan team farms in countries like India and China to provide their customers with rare teas that are hard to find.
- Phoenix Oolong is carefully cultivated in Fenghuang - the famed tea producing area of China's Guangdong province. Fenghuang is the Phoenix mountain, which gives this oolong its name.
- Grown and processed using traditional processing, this tea takes months to perfect. Originally harvested and baked in April of 2019, this tea was baked for a second time in early September once its flavour had fully matured and developed.
- These leaves brew a sweet, vivid tea with a delicious fruity taste. Boasting notes of peach and lychee, Phoenix Oolong is a rewarding drink for any connoisseur.
- Grown since the age of the Ming dynasty, Phoenix Oolong tea is a Chinese tea known by many names. Whether you call it Phoenix oolong, dancong, guadong, wulong or wu long, you're certain to enjoy a cup of this fine tea!
- Like every Valley of Tea product, Phoenix Oolong is grown, packaged and transported with the utmost respect and care. That's why we can assure you that this is a tea you're sure to enjoy.
Each tea comes in a resealable vacuum-sealed pouch with brewing information for the specific variety ordered.
- Loose Leaf or Tea Bags: Loose Leaf
- Light or Dark: Light – Medium
- Country of Origin: China
- Packaging: Resealable Pouch
Best Oolong Tea for the Money: Golden Moon – Organic Oolong Loose Leaf Tea
Cultivated on an organic friendly farm in the mountains of the Chinese province of Fujian, Golden Moon’s Organic Oolong Loose Leaf Tea does not have any added chemicals. This Tie Guan Yin oolong is 100% certified USDA Organic, which means an accredited certifying agent has verified that it complies with USDA organic regulations.
The taste of this excellent oolong tea is described as extremely smooth and creamy, with a buttery finish and layers of subtle flavors. It is on the lighter side of the spectrum with a low oxidation level close to green tea.
This oolong tea arrives in a beautiful brushed steel “fresh seal” tin to help your tea stay fresh. The beautiful canister can be reused and would even look good displayed on your counter.
- BUTTERY SMOOTH FLAVOR - Our specially curated Oolong is grown on an organic friendly farm nestled in the mountains of the Fujian Province in China. Oolong teas are known for having a variety of flavors that are specific to the individual farm and region where they're grown. We've specially selected an Oolong that is particularly smooth and creamy with an almost butter like finish. Unlike other Oolongs, ours stands on its own and doesn't need any chemical "enhancers" to make it better.
- PREMIUM FRESH SEAL TIN - Each high quality fresh seal tin helps your tea stay fresh and sensually aromatic for months on end. The beautiful and classy brushed steel texture looks great on your shelf and helps make these a perfect gift for new tea drinkers or established connoisseurs. Many customer's report that they like to include a tin or two as part of high quality gift baskets. You can always reuse the tin once you finish all 40 perfect portions.
- WEIGHT LOSS & DETOX TEA OF CHOICE - All of Golden Moon's premium teas are good for the soul and taste great, but our Oolong loose leaf is also good for your waistline. Oolong's are known to promote weight loss by speeding up your metabolism and helping the fat burning process in your body. Since we don't add artificial sweeteners or flavorings each serving is 0 calorie if you drink it fresh brewed with no milk or sugar...even with milk or sugar it's a low calorie delight in every cup.
- 100% USDA CERTIFIED ORGANIC: Our Black Dragon Oolong teas are USDA organic which means they're free from pesticides, toxins and chemical additives. We independently test all our teas to ensure they pass our rigorous quality standards. Each tin of fresh oolong loose leaf tea is also a gluten free, vegan, and an environmentally friendly product. Enjoy a safe and healthy cup of tea just as nature intended.
- FRESHNESS GUARANTEE: We only pick our teas during their natural growing seasons while they're at peak freshness and taste. Our full leaf harvesting method maintains each leaf's natural essential oils, so they retain their full flavor and fresh picked aromas, even after brewing. We're so confident in our teas freshness that we have a Full 90 Day 100% Money Back Guarantee on every single tea we make...Go ahead and Order Yours Risk Free Today.
Golden Moon is so confident in the freshness of their teas that they provide a freshness guarantee for their organic oolong loose leaf tea and every other tea they make. With this risk free 90-day guarantee you can feel confident that you will receive a Tie Guan Yin oolong tea that lives up to your standards.
- Loose Leaf or Tea Bags: Loose Leaf
- Light or Dark: Light
- Country of Origin: China
- Packaging: Metal Canister
Best Cheap Oolong Tea: Prince Of Peace Organic Oolong Tea
Prince Of Peace Organic Oolong Tea comes in tea bags in a simple box, but don’t let that scare you away. Overall, it is very popular and a great value for people looking to try oolong tea for the first time.
This is a smooth, light tea with very little in the way of bitterness. The aroma is mild with a roasted scent to it and is slightly musty. Many reviewers point out that they use very little or no sweetener.
Prince of Peace is a well respected company specializing in importing and distributing gourmet products from around the world. They have a large collection of different teas available and are considered to be extremely consistent in the quality of their products.
- Loose Leaf or Tea Bags: Tea Bags
- Light or Dark: Light
- Country of Origin: China
- Packaging: Box
Best Oolong Tea Bags: VAHDAM Himalayan Oolong Tea Bags
Though not usually thought of as a major source for oolong tea, India still produces a large amount of Camellia sinensis in the Himalayas near the Chinese border. VAHDAM Himalayan Oolong is picked at high elevation tea estates in the Himalayas, and the leaf quality is very similar to the leaves grown in other mountain regions in China.
Made from second flush leaves, this full bodied oolong tea has a robust flavor profile with fruity notes and a hint of grapefruit. The full leaf pyramid tea bags allow for better infusion, space for the tea leaves to unfurl, and full flavor without having to use a separate infuser.
- INTRODUCING THE BETTER OOLONG TEA BAGS - Discover the superiority of a garden fresh OOLONG TEA LEAVES with the convenience of the VAHDAM Single Serve Pyramid Tea Bags. Each serving is packaged in a pyramid-shaped nylon tea bag, individually enveloped & sealed at source to ensure you get the freshest cup of tea. Truly worthy of tea bags prime pantry and tea bag holder! Brew as hot tea, iced tea or Kombucha tea. Discover a NEW WORLD OF TEA.
- 100 HIMALAYAN OOLONG TEA BAGS - A delicious loose leaf Oolong tea handpicked from high elevation tea estates in the Himalayas. A semi-fermented best Oolong Tea with a fine character. Refreshing, healthy & delectable. Serve without milk, hot or as an iced tea. Preparation - 1 Tea Bag | 180ml | 4-5 mins. Our Oolong tea leaves make for best loose leaf oolong tea. Vahdam Teas Oolong are very different from Rishi Tea Oolong, Dragon Oolong Tea among other oolong tea bags.
- A BRAND WITH A BILLION DREAMS - Established in India by a 26-year-old, 4th generation Tea entrepreneur, Vahdam Teas is an award-winning, vertically integrated tea brand that door delivers the world's freshest tea leaves to over 83 countries, sourced directly from India's choicest tea gardens. The tea industry is one of the largest employers of manual labor in India. A successful home-grown brand helps empower millions of these tea workers in the long run.
- ETHICAL, DIRECT & FAIR-TRADE- TRULY - Our innovative supply chain model ensures you get the freshest cup of tea and our farmers get a better price for their produce. 1% of our revenue is redirected towards the education of our tea growers' children. Our farmers, like any other parent, wish for their progeny to have a better life than them. We at Vahdam Teas with our social initiative, TEAch Me, simply wish to honor this aspiration.
- SATISFACTION GUARANTEED - 100% MONEYBACK GUARANTEE - If you don't like the tea, we will issue a 100% REFUND immediately. No Questions Asked.
Vahdam Teas focuses on direct and fair-trade sourcing, with their supply chain model reaching out directly to farmers instead of having to deal with a middle-man. 1% of their revenue is redirected to the education of the children of tea growers.
- Loose Leaf or Tea Bags: Tea Bags
- Light or Dark: Medium
- Country of Origin: India
- Packaging: Box
Best Taiwanese Oolong Tea: Handpicked Alishan High Mountain Taiwan Dayuling Loose Tea Leaves
On the darker side of the oxidation spectrum, the Taiwanese Alishan High Mountain Dayuling Oolong has a richer, bolder flavor than its Chinese counterparts. The leaves are grown in the Alishan mountain range of Taiwan at an elevation of over 2500 meters, allowing them to produce true High Mountain Tea.
This Taiwanese gaoshan tea is a bit darker with a gold-amber color, but that does not mean it is more bitter than other oolong teas with less oxidation. It has a distinctive earthy flavor highlighted by a rich fragrance that creates a very exquisite character.
- Handpicked Taiwan High Mountain Li (Ali) Shan Oolong Loose Tea Leaves, Da Yu Ling Oolong Tea, 5.3 ounces (150g)
- DETOX AND WEIGHT LOSS BENEFITS: Taiwan High Mountain Tea is great for daily enjoyment, helps your body rid toxins, is rich in antioxidants, and can help with weight loss. The calming effect of oolong also helps you to suppress appetite, improve digestion, aid metabolism,, boosts your energy levels and help burn body fat.
- 100% PURE Oolong Tea from Ali Shan region in Taiwan. No additives, flavors, or essences. All natural and pure. Authentic Taiwan High Mountain Tea is not bitter and very expensive. Other brands claiming to sell any high mountain oolong tea for cheaper prices are not selling authentic tea from the Ali Shan mountainous regions.
- HANDPICKED FOR BREWING Gong Fu style is the preferred way of brewing this prized and rare tea. The tea can be brewed up to 3 times while still retaining its brightness and rich and flagrant, earthy taste.
- DA YU LING EXPERIENCE: This premium grade high mountain oolong tea is from the Ali Shan mountainous regions. The high altitude of over 2500 meters makes it one the highest tea gardens in the world. The tea leaves grow slowly due to the high elevation, absorb the unique altitude, and soil conditions. As a result, the tea develops a distinctive, rich earthy flavor, bright gold-amber color, and exquisite character. You will experience an elegant, smooth, and fragrant taste without the bitterness.
There are no additives or flavorings added to this oolong tea. The recommended way to brew these tea leaves to keep the pure taste is Gong Fu. This method involves quickly rinsing the leaves in hot water, discarding that water, then steeping the tea without a strainer or infuser.
- Loose Leaf or Tea Bags: Loose Leaf
- Light or Dark: Medium – Dark
- Country of Origin: Taiwan
- Packaging: Tin
What is Oolong Tea?
As mentioned above, oolong tea is included in the four true tea types. These also include white tea, green tea, and black tea. All four “true teas” are made from leaves of the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The main difference between these teas is the level of oxidation and fermentation they are put through by the tea master.
The longer the oxidation period, the darker the color and flavor of the final tea will be. Black tea is almost completely (85% to 100%) oxidized, whereas green tea oxidation ends up at around 7% oxidation. Camellia sinensis leaves oxidized anywhere between 8% and 85% (also known as “partially oxidized”) can be considered oolong tea.
A tea leaf begins its oxidation the moment it is plucked, and will continue its journey until it the leaves are heated to fix the aroma and flavor. It can be difficult to create a consistent product when dealing with all these different factors, which is why the best oolong teas are in high demand from those who know the difference.
Tasting Oolong Tea
Because of the vast difference between the ends of the oxidation scale, the taste of oolong tea can range from sweet and bright to toasty and full bodied.
Lighter oolong teas, fermented for a shorter period of time, taste closer to green tea and are generally Chinese varietals.
The taste of Taiwanese oolong teas lean closer to the flavor of black tea. They have a darker appearance and heavier taste due to a longer oxidation period.
Varieties of Oolong Tea
There are a few main varieties of oolong tea:
Chinese Oolong Teas
- Phoenix Tea (Dan Chong or Dan Cong)
- Iron Goddess of Mercy (Ti Kuan Yin or Tie Guan Yin)
- Wuyi Oolong Tea (Da Hong Pao)
Taiwanese Oolong Teas
- High Mountain Oolong Tea (Gaoshan)
- Milk Oolong Tea (Jin Xuan Tea)
Oolong Tea Blends
Many oolong teas have fruity notes in the flavor profile, and as such pair well with other fruits or flavors that tend to match with fruit tones.
How to Prepare Oolong Tea
Because oolong tea can be made with variable levels of oxidation, there is no one right way to brew it. Lighter oolongs should be brewed more like green teas, and darker oolong should use a brewing style closer to black tea.
Below are the basic concepts to use as a middle-ground between the two; after trying them out feel free to modify the different steps to your taste.
Best Water for Oolong Tea
Second only to the quality of leaves used to brew tea, the quality of the water used will have a very important role in the final taste of your tea. But what makes water “good?”
Distilled water can be considered “good” water, and it is the recommended liquid to use in a situation where you want to limit the amount of impurities in the final product, but…it does not work well for brewing tea.
The end result from brewing tea with distilled water is a flat tea with no character. The same effect can be found by pre-boiling water, then heating it again for brewing.
If tap water in your area tastes good and doesn’t have any chlorine, sulfur, or “off” smells or tastes then it would be a good choice for brewing oolong tea. If it does have an odd flavor, opt for filtered or bottled water. Filtered tap water can be a decent choice, as is letting a pot of cold tap water sit uncovered for 24 hours.
Spring water is often recommended, but few people have access to a fresh stream. Another way to get that same flavor is by using bottled spring water to brew tea.
This is obviously a more expensive process when you include the price of the water, but tea drinkers have had good results with the taste and consistency of bottled water.
Heating Water for Oolong Tea
Oolong tea leaves tend to be oxidized in between the levels of green tea and black tea. In general, higher levels of oxidation require higher water temperatures. With a black tea it a full boil is recommended, but green and oolong teas require a lower temperature.
There is no specific water temperature that will work will all oolong teas, the variable oxidation makes sure of that. Note the color of the leaves, as this can tell you a lot about the tea. The lighter colored, more pliable leaves are usually less oxidized. The darker, stiffer leaves can be on the higher sides when it comes to the level of oxidation.
Gong Fu brewing requires a higher temperature just below boiling, whereas Western style brewing, considering the longer brewing time, should be from between 180° to 200° Fahrenheit (88° to 93° Celsius).
To get a handle on these temperatures, the easiest way is to purchase a high quality temperature controlled electric kettle. You will be able to dial in the perfect temperature and hold it for an extended period of time.
Oolong Tea Brewing Styles
There are two main ways to brew oolong tea, which are Eastern and Western styles. There are many variations of each, but they boil down to whether the tea leaves are steeped directly in the water (Eastern style), or using a strainer or infuser (Western style).
Whatever style is used, the water temperature, water and tea leaf quality, and ratio of water to tea leaves will make the biggest differences in the final result.
Eastern Brewing Method for Oolong Tea – Gong Fu
The most popular Eastern method of preparing oolong tea is Gong Fu (also known as Gong Fu Cha, or simply gongfu), one of the many ways to brew the leaves without setting them in a strainer.
The main concept is that a larger amount of leaves are used and a very short time is taken to steep the leaves in multiple brews. This extracts only different flavors from the tea with each brew and works best with whole leaves, whether open or rolled into a ball.
There are many Gong Fu tea sets available, normally consisting of an earthenware teapot and a small cup or cups. They are available in different teapot sizes, so be sure to select the size that will best suit your needs. The more extravagant Gong Fu sets may also include a tea tray, a serving pitcher, tools, and even a tea pet.
Since the Gong Fu brewing method uses multiple brews, the size of each serving may seem very small. However, the end result will be 5-8 brews depending on the quality of the oolong leaves.
The ratios defined below should be considered as only a starting point. After the first experience with this method, have fun experimenting with more or less water and tea leaves, different temperature water, or water from a different source.
Gong Fu Brewing – Water to Tea Ratios for Oolong Tea Per Teacup
- Loose Open Tea Leaves – 2 tablespoons per 2.5oz. / 70ml of water.
- Balled/Compressed Tea Leaves – 1 teaspoon per 2.5oz. / 70ml of water.
When using a teapot to brew for multiple people at a time, a great rule of thumb is to fill about one-third of the volume of the teapot with leaves.
Gong Fu Steep Times for Oolong Tea – First Brew
- Loose Open Tea Leaves – 6 seconds
- Balled/Compressed Tea Leaves – 10-15 seconds
After the first brew, add a few seconds to each consecutive brew to compensate for the tea leaves losing their effectiveness. So for loose tea leaves, assume around 6 – 8 – 10 – 12 seconds, and so on.
Water temperature for Gong Fu brewed oolong tea should be just under the boiling point. Because of the quick extraction you will need a higher temperature than when using the Western method. If using an electric kettle with a variable temperature, aim for around 205° Fahrenheit, or 96° celsius.
Gong Fu Brewing Method for Oolong Tea
- Heat water in a kettle, for oolong tea you want it to be just below the boiling point.
- Use a small amount of hot water to rinse and warm up the teapot and cups.
- Discard the rinsing water.
- Scoop tea leaves into the teapot, for oolong tea about ⅓ of the volume of the teapot.
- Fill the teapot with enough water to cover the leaves.
- Swirl the tea leaves around in the water once, rinsing them.
- Quickly pour out and discard the rinsing water (but not the leaves).
- Pour fresh, hot water over the leaves, filling the pot.
- Let steep for the desired time (see notes above).
- Serve and enjoy!
For the next round of brewing, repeat steps 5-10 with the same leaves that are already in the teapot. You should be able to taste different nuances of the oolong tea leaves with every subsequent brew, and enjoy everything they have to offer.
Western Brewing Method for Oolong Tea
The Western method for brewing oolong tea focuses on keeping all the leaves contained and filtered. Eastern methods sometimes have a tendency to spill tea leaves into the served cups, while the Western method does its best to avoid that.
As far as tools, the main thing you will need for brewing oolong tea in the Western style is a tea infuser, tea ball, or any type of filter or strainer. The tea is placed inside the infuser, and then the tea infuser is either placed in water, or water is poured over it.
A tea bag counts as an infuser, but the quality of oolong tea that arrives in tea bags is usually not on par with loose leaf or balled oolong tea leaves.
In addition you will need a teapot and tea cups or mugs. You may be able to find a teapot with an included infuser.
Western Brewing – Water to Tea Ratios for Oolong Tea Per Teacup
- Loose Open Tea Leaves – 2 tablespoons per 6oz. / 180ml of water.
- Balled/Compressed Tea Leaves – 1 teaspoon per 6oz. / 180ml of water.
- Tea Bags – 1 tea bag per 6oz. / 180ml of water.
For larger amounts of tea brewed in this style, it is a good idea to know how much water the teapot holds. Otherwise, be sure to measure the water in a heat-resistant measuring cup before pouring.
Western Style Steep Times for Oolong Tea
- Loose Open Tea Leaves – 1 to 3 minutes
- Balled/Compressed Tea Leaves – 2 to 5 minutes
- Tea Bags – Follow the directions on the label.
Because Western brewed oolong tea takes a longer period of time, the water temperature should be a bit lower than with the Gong Fu method. 180° to 200° Fahrenheit (88° to 93° Celsius) is the range to aim for. Lighter Chinese oolong teas should stay toward the lower end of the scale, while darker Taiwanese leaves will do well with a higher temperature.
Western Brewing Method for Oolong Tea
- Begin to heat water in a kettle or pot. An electric kettle with a thermostat will help to dial in an exact temperature. For oolong tea we are aiming for a bit below boiling. Without a thermometer, remove from heat and let the water sit for 2 minutes after boiling to approximate the correct temperature.
- While the water is heating, measure around 2 tablespoons of tea leaves per 6-ounce cup into the diffuser.
- Place the diffuser into the teapot or cup.
- When the water is at the correct temperature, pour the water over the oolong leaves and cover the teapot or cup.
- Steep the oolong tea for the desired time (1 to 3 minutes for loose leaves, 2 to 5 minutes for balled leaves).
- Remove the infuser with the leaves, serve, and sip.
It is possible to brew another pot of tea using the same oolong leaves, but the end result will be dependent on the quality of the leaves themselves. It is recommended to extend the brewing time by about half of the original time. For instance, if using a three minute steep on the first brew, the second brew should steep for approximately four and a half minutes.
With several varieties of oolong tea available, take time to try each of them to see what you think the best oolong tea is.