Oolong Tea vs. Green Tea: Is One Healthier Than the Other?
Tea is a healthy and delicious concoction that can make everything from quiet mornings to busy afternoons a little more pleasurable. Two of the most popular teas worldwide are green tea and oolong tea. Both are considered true teas and are recognized in traditional medicine and increasingly among researchers as agents of good health.
Both oolong tea and green tea are famous among tea drinkers, the former for its flavors that range from fruity to nutty and the latter for its well-documented health benefits. As an avid tea drinker or a novice experimenter, you may be wondering which one is better for you. Here we'll break down the differences between oolong and green teas and show you how to decide which works best for you.
What Is Oolong Tea?
Oolong tea is a true tea, meaning it's made from leaves using the Camellia sinensis plant, also known as the tea plant. It is one of the most popular types of tea in Asia. This type of tea — true teas — also includes green tea, white tea, black tea, and pu-erh tea. It's most popularly cultivated in Taiwan and the Fujian province of China—where it is known as wulong tea or “black dragon tea.” The tea leaves are dried under the hot sun, oxidized and then twisted and curled into their distinctive shape of long, curly spindles or into small beads.
Oxidation levels of oolong tea leaves range from 8 percent to 85 percent, which alters the flavor profile significantly. Some oolong teas such as Se Chung taste fruity and sweet and effuse a honey aroma, while others feature an earthy, woodsy flavor and emit a roasted scent. Oolong leaves contain naturally occurring caffeine although levels in tea can vary depending on where the tea is cultivated and how it is processed. A cup of oolong tea tends to have a higher amount of caffeine than most green teas. That means that people with caffeine sensitivity may suffer more side effects when dinking oolong tea compared to green tea.
Brewing oolong tea is a great way to immerse yourself into Chinese tea culture thanks to ancient brewing methods that include striking clay yixing pots and gaiwans. One of the classic true teas, oolong tea is a traditional tea that exemplifies the finer points of tea making and tea consumption. Popular varieties include Wuyi Mountain oolong teas, Tieguanyin, and Da Hong Pao.
What Is Green Tea?
Green tea is made using the leaves of the same Camellia sinensis tea plant that are used in other true teas including oolong tea, white tea and black tea. Like oolong tea, green tea is native to China. Today, green tea is widely cultivated across India and Asia although China still produces 80% of the world's green tea. Green tea is made using leaves that are either grown under the sun or under the shade and are harvested three times per year.
There are several different types of green tea, which vary widely among the countries which produce them. For Chinese green teas, the most popular include Chun Mee and Gunpowder tea. Popular Japanese green teas include genmaicha, sencha and matcha. The caffeine content of green tea is similar to oolong tea except in the case of matcha green tea, which contains the most caffeine content out of all the true teas.
So What's the Difference?
Aside from the obvious difference in color — green tea is vibrant green whereas oolong tea is generally a light brown — oolong and green tea feature different flavor profiles and manufacturing methods that make each a unique blend. While oolong and green tea are both made from the Camellia sinensis plant, their differences arise in the way they are processed.
Oolong tea is slightly fermented while green tea is not fermented at all. This means that all oolong teas go through the process of oxidation where tea leaves are dried over a period of several weeks. The leaves are exposed to oxygen, which results in a darker brown color than green teas, which are not oxidized.
Green tea, on the other hand, is dried immediately after harvesting using artisanal methods such as sun-drying or charcoal-firing methods. Oven drying and steaming are also popular modern methods that allow for increased production.
As mentioned, oolong teas can be fruity and nutty or earthy and woodsy. Oolong tea features the most diverse flavor profiles of all the true tea types. This tea does not offer an astringent taste and instead is more smooth and intense.
Green tea is much more vegetal when is comes to flavor. Often described as grassy, it features a bitter undertone that lends a sharp edge to its flavor that is loved by strong tea drinkers. Most casual tea drinkers tend to prefer oolong tea when it comes to taste since there is a wider variety of flavors that can suit different palates. Green tea is more of an acquired taste with strong compounds that are preferred by regular tea drinkers.
Oolong Tea Vs Green Tea: Which One Is Healthier?
Oolong and green tea both offer a wide array of health benefits, making them both a great addition to your morning routine. The health benefits of oolong tea and green tea are in fact very similar. General true tea benefits include a potential reduction of high blood pressure and lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The fight for the most health benefits between oolong tea vs. green tea boils down to their chemical composition.
While all true teas and herbal teas contain polyphenols and catechins such as EGCG that deliver robust health benefits, green tea has more concentrated amounts of these compounds than oolong tea. That means that green tea contains more antioxidant properties than oolong tea, which are responsible for health benefits such as increased mental focus and decreased risk of heart disease. Antioxidants have also been shown to eliminate free radicals which can cause oxidative stress. These antioxidants may also help lower blood sugar levels and are associated with a lower risk of serious disease.
While green tea is known for its health benefits that include the ability to accelerate weight loss, that doesn't mean it's the only true tea to do this. In fact, in a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, scientists found that regular consumption of oolong tea resulted in increased metabolism and a 12 percent increase in fat oxidation, which allows the body to burn fat more efficiently (1).
Essentially, these two teas offer similar health benefits in varying degrees and you don't have to choose one or the other. If you want to boost bone health or lower blood pressure, drink oolong tea for these health benefits. If you are looking to prevent tooth decay, decrease your body weight and prevent neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's, drinking green tea is a delicious way to achieve these goals. Drinking tea helps to increase relaxation and may promote better health.
Get Acquainted With Classic True Teas
Drinking oolong tea and green tea is a great way to support your overall health. Known for its fat-burning power, green tea is an ideal addition to your life if you want to boost your energy expenditure power and protect mental acuity. Oolong tea offers stronger bones and fewer bouts of insomnia, making this the perfect beverage at the end of each day.
Drinking too much oolong tea or green tea may result in side effects including irregular heartbeat, and a decrease in bone mineral density. Stick to 4-5 cups of either tea to avoid side effects. Oolong tea and matcha green tea may have too much caffeine for individuals who are sensitive to the compound. Limit consumption or stop use and talk to a health care professional if caffeine causes side effects for you.
Just like the argument between loose leaf tea and tea bags, it's really all about personal preference. When it comes down to it, drinking tea should be a pleasurable experience. Whether you prefer the mild, varied flavors of oolong or the sharper, more full-bodied flavor of green tea, you should love what you drink. Make sure to choose high-quality teas to get the most out of the flavor and health benefits of these two teas.
Pour yourself a few cups of oolong tea and green tea to find what you prefer. Stick to whatever you like best or feel free to mix it up with different teas. In the end, you'll still get an amazing array of health benefits that will help you live a long life.