In looking around your site a bit more (now that I’m venturing into green teas), I see you describe oolong leaves as “green” — does this mean that oolong is a green tea?
– Theresa, Maryland”
That is great question, Theresa and the answer is “sort of.” Let’s use the analogy of steak for a moment (sorry to all the vegans out there.) On one side of the spectrum, you have rare steak and on the other side, you have well done steak. However, in between, there is this huge range that people generally like their steak cooked.
Green Tea is like the rare steak
Green Tea is slightly oxidized, just like rare steak is lightly cooked. Green Tea has an oxidation level of 5%, meaning that is just barely oxidized. Teas that fall into this category are Sencha, Dragon Well, Jasmine Pearls and other classic Green Teas.
Black Tea is like the well done steak
Black Tea is fully oxidized, just like well done steak is fully cooked. Therefore, Black Tea has a much different flavor and color than Green Tea, much like well done steak is different than rare steak. Some typical Black Teas include English Breakfast Tea, Ceylon, Assam and Keemun.
Oolong Teas are like Medium Steak
Now this is where the confusion comes in, but just think for a second of the term “medium” when it comes to ordering beef. That term can range from where the meat is really red to the point where it is slightly pink, which is why they have come up with different terms for medium. Medium Rare is more on the red side, Medium Well is closer to slightly pink. But no matter what, the way your steak is cooked is in the “medium” category. The same system can be applied to Oolong Tea, which covers that huge region between Green Tea and Black Tea just like “medium” covers the area between rare and well done. So when we say a “Green Oolong” we are essentially saying the same thing as “medium rare” steak. When we say a “Black Oolong” we are saying medium well steak.
If there is one thing to take away from this it is the fact that tea categories are a sliding scale. On one side of the scale are White and Green Tea and on the other is Black Tea. In the middle is Oolong Tea. Since it is such a big range for Oolong Tea, they can be closer to Green or Black Teas, just like your “medium” steak can be closer to rare or well done.