What Is Oolong Tea?
A Complete Guide To The Health Benefits
Whether you’re an avid tea drinker or you are looking for a new, healthy tea to try, then Oolong tea comes with not only a fascinating history but some wonderful health benefits too.
If you enjoy tea, you’ve probably heard of oolong tea but you may not know much about its rich historical influence or the many healthy benefits that it may give to your overall wellbeing.
This type of tea is a specific type much like green and black tea and has a rich and interesting history. In fact, oolong teas are considered to be the most complex type of tea, giving the drinker a unique experience. So whether you’re after a healthful, nutritious drink, or just a tea with a layered complexity, Oolong might be the tea you’re looking for.
Read on to find out what Oolong tea is and why you may want to try it.
History of Oolong Tea
Folk Tales Or Historical Recollection?
Oolong teas date back to the 14th century in China. Like black tea, oolong was produced in the Fujian province of China.
This tea was most likely discovered rather than invented. There are multiple stories about how oolong tea came to be and no one really knows what happened.
The Farmer & The Rain
One story says that a farmer picked tea leaves and accidentally left them outside.
The next morning, he came back to collect the fallen leaves and made them into tea, which we know as oolong today.
The Hunter & The Deer
The second story is about a tea farmer who was picking tea when he saw a deer and decided to hunt instead of finishing his job. He left the tea and did not return until the following day. By this time, the leaves had been exposed to the sun and were slightly wilted.
He didn’t want to lose the leaves so he made them into tea quickly and was surprised by the strong, sweet flavor.
The legend says that the farmer’s name was Oolong and that’s why the new tea took on his name. Although we don’t know exactly where the tea originated, both stories are plausible.
Are These Stories True?
There’s no way of knowing, but there’s a possibility that both incidents happened.
Oolong’s Expansion to the World
How This Tea Spread Across The Globe
Eventually, Oolong tea became the popular hot (and cold) drink it is today. While it’s easy to find, purchase and consume now, it was was once a tea of fledgling popularity.
Centuries ago the spread of trade through China out to it’s neighboring countries and beyond, meant that tea became a highly marketable commodity.
The Golden Age Of Oolong Tea
Although Oolong became well-known in China, it wasn’t until the 1800s that the tea began traveling to other areas of the world. In the early 19th century, a tea merchant took some tea leaves to Taiwan to see if the leaves would grow in another country.
The Taiwan Tea Trade Boom
The plant grew well and Taiwan began producing its own tea. In the last half of the 19th century, a British man decided to ship the tea to the United States, where it became very popular.
From that time, Taiwan has been one of the primary exporters of Oolong tea.
What’s The Takeaway Here?
The 19th century was the beginning of Oolong’s widespread enjoyment.
The Health Benefits Of Oolong Tea
All leaf teas possess some health benefits, but oolong packs a more impressive nutritional punch than most.
Vitamins & Minerals
Oolong contains a variety of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, copper, potassium, vitamin A, and folic acid.
Oolong tea also contains caffeine which stimulates the body and may assist in fat burning. Like green tea, many people are starting to try Oolong in higher “doses” by having several cups per day to up the effect of the fat burning potential.
This will not be healthy for everyone, as caffeine can cause overstimulation in a lot of people.
Oolong tea contains various polyphenolic compounds which play an important role in health and wellness.
One of the primary benefits of oolong tea is its rich antioxidant content.
The polyphenolic compounds are potent antioxidants which remove free radicals from the body.
What Does This Mean For An Avid Tea Fan?
Oolong tea might be worth trying if you aren’t already drinking it.
Why Are Antioxidants Like The Ones In Oolong So Good?
Antioxidant Health Benefits
Consuming a variety of antioxidants through your diet plays an important role in preventing several health issues.
Some of the health benefits of the antioxidants found in Oolong tea may sometimes include:
Many people have health issues stemming from inflammation that can cause a lot of distress and discomfort. Antioxidants may help to reduce inflammation which could assist with joint pain, muscle aches, and many other potential inflammatory health problems.
Boosting Brain & Memory Function
There is some evidence that antioxidants may help increase brain function and memory ability. According to some studies, there may be a stimulation of dopamine that could activate more neural activity. (1)
Antioxidants may also work to protect the brain tissue from oxidative damage.
Reducing The Effects Of Aging
Antioxidants such as the ones found in Oolong tea may assist in the prevention of wrinkles and other such effects of the aging process.
By fighting oxidative damage, polyphenolic compounds may work to slow down some of the age creating damage that tissue oxidization can cause.
Helping Hair Vitality
Though Oolong tea does not contain significant amounts of vitamin C, it’s still interesting to note that such antioxidants may help in protecting collagen (which helps skin too) from degradation.
By strengthening hair, someone consuming the right antioxidants may find themselves experiencing less hair breakage and stronger hair.
A lot of the most popular talk about antioxidants revolves around their anticancer properties.
It’s worth noting that a growing amount of evidence is beginning to suggest that antioxidants may indeed help prevent cancer, but may also increase the growth of such cancers as melanoma, once the cancer has taken hold. (2)
More research in this area is clearly needed to make definitive claims.
Benefiting Eye Health
Oolong tea may help to reduce such eye diseases as macular degeneration and glaucoma. the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties discussed above may assist in the possible relief and prevention of several eye health issues.
Better Skin Elasticity
Just like they do for hair, polyphenolic compounds can protect skin collagen, keeping the elastic nature of skin from the oxidative damage of free radicals.
What’s The Bottom Line Here?
Oolong tea has a good antioxidant profile and as can be seen, this has several health benefits.
Oolong Tea Stress Relief
Relaxing With A Cup Of Tea
Oolong tea also may play a role in stress management.
One study shows that Chinese women were given Oolong tea to drink and they were found to have experienced a reduction in stress levels. (3)
In today’s busy world, stress and anxiety are a common problem. Many people extoll the virtues of chamomile tea as being an excellent stress relief product.
The ancient Chinese used to drink tea as a way to relax and re-center themselves.
You might also enjoy some of these benefits by enjoying tea on a regular basis.
What’s The Takeaway Here?
Oolong tea may work similarly to chamomile and help calm and relax you.
How Is Oolong Tea Made?
The Tea Leaf Process
The process of turning tea leaves into oolong is fairly challenging and contains multiple steps.
The First Drying Process
Starting with the tea leaves, farmers spread the leaves out in the sun to wither them and gently bruising the leaves by shaking them in baskets.
This process starts the oxidation of the leaves which adds to the final rich flavor of the tea.
The Roasting Of The Leaves
After this step, the leaves are baked in large pains at high temperatures.
The roasting of the oolong leaves only takes a few minutes. The leaves are then rolled to give them their desired shape.
One Last Warm Through
After this step, the shaped leaves are heated at a lower temperature to remove any excess moisture and allow them to be stored without any bacterial growth.
Finally, the leaves are sorted into specific sizes and shapes and graded before being used.
What Can We Learn From This?
Though tea seems like such a simple product, a lot of work goes into creating it.
The Side Effects Of Oolong Tea
What Are They?
Like many products, too much Oolong may affect a small section of the population.
Oolong tea side effects may include such issues as:
Because this tea contains caffeine, it could be a problem for people who are either caffeine sensitive or who consume large amounts. This can lead to a lack of sleep and restlessness.
Blood Sugar Issues
There is a possibility that caffeine can lead to issues for those people with diabetes. This has to do with the potential effects the caffeine may have on blood sugar which can result in both hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. (4)
For some people, the increase in the heart rate associated with caffeinating the blood could also increase the risk of a heart attack and other cardiovascular related health problems.
In a previous segment, we discussed how the properties of Oolong tea may help to prevent eye complications such as Glaucoma and macular degeneration, but the caffeine in tea can also increase the chance of developing Glaucoma because of its effects on eye pressure. For this reason, it may be wise to drink decaffeinated tea.
What’s The Bottom Line Here?
The caffeine in Oolong tea may cause issues for some people, so drink with caution.
What Is Oolong Tea? A Complete Guide To The Health Benefits
Like many teas, Oolong has a rich history, a loyal consumer base and a rich profile of nutrients.
From weight loss to preventing wrinkles, many of the world’s greatest teas have beneficial health properties that make drinking them a wise decision, though for some individuals it’s just about the taste.
A lot of people have caffeine sensitivities, so there may be a valid reason for many folks to try the decaf variety of Oolong tea, but for others, the normal unfettered product will suit just fine.
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