Oolong tea has a normally mellow flavor and medium caffeine content. This may sound like a great tea to drink to avoid the crash that sometimes happens after eating a meal, but can it do more harm than good?
Should I Drink Oolong Tea Before or After Meals?
When it comes to drinking oolong tea, we would not recommend drinking tea before meals. Additionally, if you want to drink oolong tea after a meal, we suggest waiting at least 30 minutes once your meal is complete.
Throughout this article, we’ll dive into a few of the reasonings for when to drink oolong tea and the effects it can have on your body.
Drinking Oolong Tea Before Meals
Drinking tea on an empty stomach is not a good idea. Without the buffer of calories and carbohydrates, the chemicals in tea can affect the body very quickly and in extremely strong ways
Caffeine content can affect both the body and mind, possibly causing jittery feelings, nausea, or anxiety. On the other hand, some people enjoy the effects of teas with a high caffeine content. They will drink strong oolong or other tea with little to no food in their stomachs to try and attain the level of balance between caffeine energy and L-Theanine mellowness.
This is also known as being “tea drunk.”
For those who do not drink strong tea on a regular basis, this feeling may be unwelcome. It is very easy to go too far on the caffeine side, making them feel dizzy, shaky, and slightly sick.
Other issues with drinking tea on an empty stomach may include reduced appetite, a change in flavor receptors, and the possibility of increased stomach acid.
If your stomach is not empty and you are in between meals, drinking tea at least a half hour before a meal is fine.
Drinking Oolong Tea Directly After Meals
As a post-meal beverage, oolong tea’s midrange flavor and caffeine content go well with many desserts, or simply as a post-meal pickup, but is it good for you this way?
For those who struggle in getting enough protein in their diets, drinking tea directly after a meal is not recommended. There are many studies that show foods with high tannin concentration will lower protein absorption. The tannins bind with protein molecules, limiting uptake.
Oolong tea, especially oolong leaves that have been heavily oxidized, can have a large amount of tannins. It is easy to tell by the amount of astringency that comes out in the tea – that dry feeling at the end of a sip that can almost make your mouth pucker.
Tea in the stomach can also limit iron absorption, which has been proven in numerous scientific tests. The amount is offset by those eating foods already high in iron or ascorbic acid such as meat or fish, but for vegetarians and vegans whose diets consist of plant-based protein this could become a problem over the long term.
Our Recommendation: Drink oolong tea at least 30 minutes after a meal
30 minutes is about the minimum amount of time that will let the food you’ve eaten for your meal settle in your stomach, and iron and protein to start making their way into your system. This will also provide you something to look forward to after you clean up the kitchen, drive back to work, or respond to any messages you may have missed while eating.
Other Theories of Oolong Tea With Meals
There are many other ideas floating about the interaction between oolong tea and food in blogs, local news stories, and social media. Some of these have a scientific basis in fact but are hard to prove without thorough scientific study.
- Theory: Drinking oolong tea before meals can help you lose weight
Because of the nature of the tannins in oolong tea binding with proteins, many have taken this as a sign that fewer calories will be digested when eating a meal with oolong tea already in the stomach. While that sounds plausible, the level at which this may reduce caloric intake would not be enough to make any difference.
The caffeine content in oolong tea may increase metabolism for a short time which can aid in weight loss. However, we believe the possible side effects of drinking oolong tea on an empty stomach are bad enough that simply waiting until at least 30 minutes after a meal would give the same effect.
- Theory: Drinking oolong tea before consuming carbohydrates can help lower a rise in insulin
This theory does have some basis in fact, specifically a study measuring the effect of black tea on reducing glucose response. Darker oolong tea will have most of the same properties as black tea, and as such could produce the same effect.
There is also a statistical study relating black tea consumption and lower diabetes levels in different regions of the world. This is only a statistical study and correlation does not necessarily equal causation, so take it with a grain of salt.
Taking these studies into account, we believe these claims to be true, but the downsides of drinking tea on an empty stomach are still too strong for us to recommend using this method in your daily life.
The decision on whether to drink oolong tea before or after a meal is entirely up to you, but with our research and personal experiences, we would recommend waiting at least 30 minutes after eating. At the very least, avoid drinking oolong tea on an empty stomach, as strong side effects are a real possibility.
Scott is the founder of TeaMinded. He enjoys tasting and discovering teas from across the globe, with green teas and ceremonial matcha from Japan being among his favorites. He’s grateful to be immersed in the tea community, always learning and sharing along the journey.