Oolong vs Green Tea: The Differences in Health Benefits & More

Updated on: October 14, 2023
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oolong vs green tea

Are you a tea lover looking to explore new flavors? Or perhaps you are seeking the perfect brew with various health benefits?

Look no further! In this blog post, we will dive into the topic of oolong vs green tea, comparing their origins, flavors, health benefits, and more.

So, let’s embark on this tea journey together and discover the wonders of these two remarkable beverages.

Key Takeaways

  • Oolong and green tea come from the same plant: Camellia Sinensis. However, they have different processing techniques that create unique flavors, aromas, and colors.

  • Oolong tea is partially oxidized whereas green tea is minimally oxidized.

  • Oolong is great for those looking for an earthy and complex flavor profile while green tea offers distinct vegetal notes.

  • Both teas offer antioxidant properties & metabolism-boosting effects to help improve overall wellbeing!

The Origins of Oolong and Green Tea

the origins of oolong and green tea

Both oolong and green tea come from China and have centuries of history and tradition. Their exact origins are a bit nebulous, but here are some quick notes summarizing the origins of these teas.

Let’s start with the origins of oolong tea:

  • The earliest form of oolong tea was first known as beiyun tea. Named after the Beiyuan region in Fujian Province, this tea dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907).

  • Thanks to its desirable qualities, beiyun tea became one of the first tribute teas in 933 AD (1).

  • Subsequently, scholars, monks, and officials visited the Fujian Province including the Wuji Mountains. They were curious to try and learn about the teas from the region which featured partial oxidation and earthy flavor notes. Up to that point, the great majority of tea in China was unoxidized green tea cakes or powdered tea. 

  • In 1391 during the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) period, Emperor Taizu issued a decree banning caked tea due to high corruption and because it was highly labor-intensive.

  • This ban had a high impact on the traditional Chinese tea industry. It favored loose-leaf tea and spurred the development of other tea processing techniques such as charcoal roasting of partially oxidized tea (2). Some of these teas looked like long and dark twisted strips, resembling small black dragons. This is probably where the name “Wu Long” or "Oolong" comes from, which means “Black Dragon”.

  • The earliest written records mentioning oolong tea date from the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) poem written by a monk from the Wuji Mountains (2).

  • Later in the 18th century, oolong tea was introduced to Tawain by Chinese immigrants from Fujian Province (3). Nowadays, Taiwan is an Oolong tea powerhouse.

Now let’s move on to the quick history of green tea:

  • There is the legendary story of the discovery of tea dating all the way back to 2737 BC about one of Emperor Shennong’s servants (also spelled as She Nung). The servant was boiling water under a tree when a gust of wind blew a few leaves into the pot of hot water. Emperor Shennong, being an herbalist, tried the accidental brew and “discovered” tea.

  • However, note this is a legend. The earliest archaeological evidence of green tea was found in the mausoleum of Emperor Jing of Hang dating to the second century BC (4).

  •  The Classic of Tea (Cha Jing), a book written by Lu Yu from 760 to 762 AD in the Tang Dynasty, is one of the earliest documents mentioning green tea. According to this book, drinking tea was already a widespread practice.

  • Green tea was introduced to Japan from China by Buddhist monks Saicho and Kukai around 805 BC (5). It started to become popularized in 1191 AD when another monk called Eisai started promoting the brew for good health (6).

The Camellia Sinensis Plant: A Common Source

oolong and green tea are both made from the camellia sinensis plant

Oolong and green teas both hail from the Camellia sinensis plant, but it is their processing techniques that set them apart.

  • Oolong tea leaves undergo partial oxidation before they are dried.

  • In contrast, green tea is minimally oxidized.

In short, while these two teas share a common origin, their differences lie in how they are processed. This results in unique flavors, aromas, and colors, as well as a variety of health benefits for each type of tea.

Let’s now dive into each of these topics to learn more about how green tea and oolong tea differ.

Processing Techniques: Creating Distinct Teas

Oolong vs Green Tea Processing Techniques

Understanding the processing techniques that shape the characteristics of oolong and green tea is key to appreciating their uniqueness.

Factors such as oxidation levels, fermentation, and drying methods play a significant role in determining the taste, aroma, and health benefits of these two teas. In particular, processing green tea involves careful control of these factors to preserve the distinct qualities of the tea plant’s leaves.

Let’s examine each tea of the two tea's processing techniques in detail, and discuss how they contribute to making oolong and green tea different.

Oxidation Levels

Oxidation takes place when tea leaves are exposed to oxygen, turning them a darker brown color. Oxidation has a great impact on oolong tea flavor.

Most oolongs have an oxidation level that falls somewhere between 20 to 60 percent, although oxidation levels can go as low and high as 8 and 80 percent (7), respectively. In contrast, green tea has very low oxidation levels, resulting in a lighter, more vegetal taste.

The oxidation process not only affects the taste and aroma of the teas but also their appearance and shelf life. A more oxidized tea will have a darker hue when brewed and a longer shelf life. A less oxidized tea will look greener and have a shorter shelf life.

Did you know?

When you forget to clean your unfinished cup of green tea it will turn dark and will look like an oolong or black tea. That’s thanks to oxidation!

Drying Methods

The appearance and taste of oolong and green tea are significantly impacted by the drying methods used. For oolong tea, rolling and drying are usually done concurrently using a rolling machine and drying conveyor machine. Artisanal techniques like sun-drying, pan-firing, and oven-drying are more typically used for green tea.

The unique flavors and health benefits of oolong and green tea can be attributed to these specific drying methods. Whether it’s the complex flavor profile of oolong tea or the fresh, grassy taste of green tea, these drying methods play a vital role in crafting the perfect cup of tea.

Roasting Methods

The roasting process is another key factor that distinguishes oolong tea from green tea.

Oolong teas tend to be roasted. This gives the tea a toasty, nutty flavor that can range from light and creamy to dark and robust, depending on the duration and intensity of the roast. The roasting process also deepens the color of the oolong tea leaves, giving them a rich, dark hue.

Green tea, on the other hand, is typically not roasted. Instead, the tea leaves are usually steamed or pan-fired to prevent oxidation and preserve their natural, vegetal flavor. This results in a lighter, fresher taste compared to the deeper, more complex flavors of roasted oolong tea.

There are exceptions though, such as hojicha, a roasted green tea.

Flavor Profiles: Oolong vs Green Tea

Flavor Profiles Oolong vs Green Tea

Oolong tea offers a diverse range of flavors, including fruity, nutty, earthy, and roasty notes with a light to strong body.

Yes, that covers a lot of flavors! This wide spectrum makes oolong teas extremely fun to try and can often surprise your taste buds. They can resemble green or black teas depending on how much they've been oxidated.

On the other hand, green tea has a more distinct, vegetal, and slightly bitter taste, often described as grassy. Some green teas can be slightly sweet and floral, whereas other high-end green teas feature the all-mighty king of flavors: umami.

In essence, choosing between oolong and green tea depends on your personal taste preferences, and the debate of oolong tea vs green tea is subjective. If you enjoy a more complex and varied flavor profile, oolong tea might be the right choice for you. However, if you prefer a more distinct, vegetal taste balanced with hints of sweetness and astringency, green tea could be your go-to beverage.

Health Benefits: Antioxidants, Metabolism, and More

Oolong vs Green Tea health benefits

Both oolong and green tea offer a plethora of health benefits, thanks to their antioxidant properties, metabolism, and fat oxidation effects, and various additional health advantages.

We’ll examine the benefits of drinking tea to gain a better understanding of how each tea can enhance your overall well-being.

Antioxidant Properties

Generally speaking, green tea contains higher concentrations of antioxidants, such as polyphenols and catechins, compared to oolong tea (8). Antioxidants help protect your body from free radical damage, reduce inflammation, and may even help lower your blood sugar levels.

While oolong tea also contains antioxidants, the higher levels found in green tea make it a more potent choice for those seeking the health benefits of antioxidants. Consuming both teas can still contribute to a healthy lifestyle, but if antioxidant properties are your primary concern, green tea might be the better option.

Metabolism and Fat Oxidation

Both oolong tea and green tea can help increase metabolism and fat oxidation, thanks to their catechins and polyphenols content, which assist in breaking down fats and burning calories.

Incorporating regular consumption of both teas into your lifestyle may help decrease body fat and with weight loss. But simply drinking teas these teas occasionally won’t do much. They need to form part of a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and a proper diet.

In short, both oolong and green tea can contribute to a healthy metabolism and fat oxidation. Simply drink the tea you enjoy the most or feel like at the time.

Pssssst...Looking to lose weight with the help of tea? Then don't miss our post recommending green teas for weight loss.

Additional Health Benefits

Alongside their primary health benefits, oolong and green tea offer various additional advantages. Some of these include:

  • Oolong and green tea drinkers may experience better sleep (9) (10).

  • Drink both teas regularly may help you keep your bones strong and healthy (11).

  • Green tea has been linked to improved dental health (11) (12).

  • Green and oolong tea may help improve brain function and may provide protection against certain neurological diseases (13) (14).

These extra health benefits make both oolong tea and green tea excellent choices for those seeking a delicious, invigorating, and healthy beverage. Depending on your individual needs and health goals, either tea could be a valuable addition to your daily routine.

Caffeine Content: A Comparison

Oolong vs Green Tea caffeine content

Green tea tends to have a lower caffeine content compared to oolong tea (15), which could make it a better choice for those sensitive to stimulants. However, some oolong teas are roasted. If the roasting process involves high temperatures, it can significantly decrease the caffeine content of oolong tea (16).

Further, be aware that matcha green tea caffeine levels are amongst the highest of all teas.

In short, oolong tea is more likely to have a higher caffeine content than green tea. But this is not a rule of thumb and depends on the specific green or oolong tea.

Related Read:

Choosing the Right Tea for You

When deciding between oolong and green tea, personal preference and individual health goals play a significant role. Make sure to take both into account before making a decision. Both teas offer unique flavors and an array of health benefits, making either one a valuable addition to your daily routine.

If you enjoy a complex and diverse flavor profile, oolong tea may be the right choice for you. If you prefer a more distinct, vegetal taste and are seeking higher antioxidant properties, green tea could be your go-to beverage. Ultimately, the choice is yours, and exploring both teas can only enrich your tea-drinking experience.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between oolong and green tea?

Their main difference lies in the oxidation level. Green tea is minimally processed whereas oolong tea is partially oxidised. Oolong tea has a floral taste with earthy and nutty tones, while green tea has a grassy or vegetal flavor.

Is oolong tea stronger than green tea?

Generally speaking, oolong tea has more caffeine than most green teas, so those sensitive to caffeine should take care when consuming it. Oolongs also tend to have a stronger body than most greens.

Does oolong or green tea have more caffeine?

Oolong tea has more caffeine than green tea, typically ranging from 50-75 mg of caffeine per 8 oz. cup. However, this is not always the case. For example, matcha green tea or gyokuro green tea tend to have higher caffeine content than many oolongs.

Which tea has more antioxidants, oolong or green tea?

Green tea contains more antioxidants than oolong tea (8), making it the better choice if you're looking to get more of these beneficial compounds.

Is oolong tea better for metabolism and fat oxidation than green tea?

Both oolong and green tea have been proven to boost metabolism and fat oxidation when incorporated into lifestyle.

the differences between green vs oolong tea

Bottom Line

In conclusion, oolong and green tea are both remarkable beverages with a rich history, unique flavors, and numerous health benefits. They come from the same plant but thanks to different oxidation levels and processing methods developed through centuries of tradition, each kind of tea has diverged into hundreds of different unique teas.

Whether you are a casual or regular tea drinker, exploring these two teas can open up a world of flavors and health-boosting properties.

So, why not embark on this tea journey and discover the wonders of oolong and green tea for yourself?

Felipe is a tea expert with an engineering background! He loves to drink and learn all about tea and coffee. His love for tea was discovered while living in Japan and his favorites are Sencha & Pu'er!

This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace professional medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. Do not consume any type of coffee, tea or herbal infusion if you are allergic to it. The information in this article is not intended to treat serious medical conditions. Please seek professional medical advice before using home remedies.

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  2. History of Oolong Tea – ITMA (teamasters.org)
  3. Taiwan Oolong Tea (puretaiwantea.com)
  4. Earliest tea as evidence for one branch of the Silk Road across the Tibetan Plateau - PMC (nih.gov)
  5. Sen Sōshitsu XV (1998). The Japanese Way of Tea: From Its Origins in China to Sen Rikyū. University of Hawaii Press.
  6. Mair, Victor H.; Hoh, Erling (2009). The True History of Tea. Thames & Hudson.
  7. (PDF) Oolong Tea: A Critical Review of Processing Methods, Chemical Composition, Health Effects and Risk (researchgate.net)
  8. Phenolic Profiles and Antioxidant Activities of 30 Tea Infusions from Green, Black, Oolong, White, Yellow and Dark Teas - PMC (nih.gov)
  9. Reduced Stress and Improved Sleep Quality Caused by Green Tea Are Associated with a Reduced Caffeine Content - PMC (nih.gov)
  10. Ingestion of green tea with lowered caffeine improves sleep quality of the elderly via suppression of stress - PMC (nih.gov)
  11. Epidemiological evidence of increased bone mineral density in habitual tea drinkers - PubMed (nih.gov)
  12. Tea and bone health: steps forward in translational nutrition - PubMed (nih.gov)
  13. Green tea effects on cognition, mood and human brain function: A systematic review - PubMed (nih.gov)
  14. Cognitive function and tea consumption in community dwelling older Chinese in Singapore - PubMed (nih.gov)
  15. (PDF) Determination of Caffeine Content in Tea and Maté Tea by Using Different Methods (researchgate.net)
  16. Effects of Different Roasting Temperature on Flavor and Quality of Oolong Tea (Tong-Tin Type (up.ac.za)
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