Oolong tea is a lovely drink that can be enjoyed at any time of the day, but is there a certain time of day that would be the most beneficial, whether in general or for health benefits? Are there certain times of day that drinking oolong tea should be avoided?
The flavor and caffeine content of oolong tea leaves can range anywhere between green tea and black tea. Taking this into consideration, it is hard to give one solid recommendation as to what time is best to drink oolong tea, but there are some options that we will share with you from personal experience.
What Time of Day Should You Drink Oolong Tea?
Oolong is an excellent choice to drink in the morning to help wake you up, or as a replacement for black tea during the afternoon.
There are variable levels of caffeine in oolong tea, so when considering using it to try and help make your mind sharper or increase your metabolism, be sure to select oolong leaves that have a higher level of oxidation.
Lower levels of oxidation normally mean lower levels of caffeine and tannins, while higher oxidation levels generally produce higher levels.
The leaves of stronger oolong tea will normally be a dark brown color edging on black, whereas oolongs with a lower oxidation level will be more toward the green spectrum.
Drinking oolong tea before exercise can also be beneficial, both to provide more energy and also to help you focus. When thinking of oolong as an energy booster, finish drinking it 20-30 minutes before exercise to allow it to begin digesting.
The wonderful thing about oolong tea is that it does not fall into one category. The official definition of oolong tea is any Camellia sinensis leaves oxidized between green tea (0%-7% oxidation) and black tea (oxidation levels 85% and higher).
What this means for oolong tea is that you can select leaves that are closer to either either green tea or even black tea, or somewhere in the middle. For those who do not like the strong caffeine content of black tea but enjoy a stronger flavor than green tea, a light to medium oolong can provide the best of both worlds.
Worst Times of Day to Drink Oolong Tea
Right Before Going to Sleep
It is not recommended to drink oolong tea before bed. While generally containing a lower amount of caffeine than its black tea counterpart, there is still enough caffeine in a cup of oolong to possibly disrupt your sleep cycle. The generous amount of calming L-Theanine in oolong tea will help offset the caffeine, but most of the time not enough to help you fall asleep.
Immediately Before, During, or After Eating
The chemical makeup of oolong tea includes tannins and other chemical properties that can bind with proteins, iron, and other minerals, making it harder to process them. Anyone with an iron deficiency or those who have a hard time maintaining a protein-rich diet may find that oolong tea can make their situation worse.
Meat-heavy diets can help counteract these effects, but in general it is wise to avoid oolong tea right around meal time. 30 minutes before or after your meal is a good general rule to follow, but for some individuals an hour or two may be a safer bet.
On an Empty Stomach
We highly recommend never drinking oolong tea on an empty stomach. Caffeine and other properties of oolong leaves will have a very strong and immediate effect that may cause dizziness, an upset stomach, or even anxiety.
Alternative Recommendations for When to Drink Oolong Tea
Many of the recommendations so far have been based around stronger oolong teas, but mild oolong leaves can be brewed in different circumstances.
When thinking of drinking tea we often imagine situations where we sit with a book, or writing poetry, or other times of contemplation. In these instances the heaviness of a dark oolong may take away from the peacefulness that we are trying to achieve. This is when a lighter oolong tea, closer to green tea but with a slightly stronger flavor and aroma, can be the perfect companion.
Preparing light oolong tea can be a relaxing meditative ritual in itself. Water temperature should be controlled, not boiling. The rolled leaves need to be coaxed open with an initial rinse before steeping. Multiple brews made with the gong fu method can present new flavors that a standard steeping would not allow us to realize.
While it is easy to drink oolong tea at the same time of day as you would a black tea, the large variety of oolong leaves available opens up different options to when you would like to include it in your daily regime.
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.