What Does Oolong Tea Taste Like?

With thousands of varieties of tea available on the market today, it’s impossible to truly know what every single type of tea tastes like. Even tea experts will run into varieties they have never tasted before.

One of the most popular types of tea is oolong. At any respectable tea house, or in A well-stocked tea cabinet, you will likely find a variety of oolong. However, from the name, you may not be able to decipher exactly what it tastes like. So, what does oolong tea taste like?

There are dozens of varieties of oolong tea out there. To describe it in just a few words would not do this diverse tea justice. Some blends are fruity and airy, while others are bold and sharp. Oolong’s breadth of flavors comes from the methods of oxidation and roasting used to process the leaves. 

What Does Oolong Tea Taste Like

Oolong is a traditional semi oxidized Chinese tea. It is produced via a process that withers the plant under strong, direct sunlight. This withering process oxidizes, curls, and twists the leaves.

The finest varieties of oolong teas will include unique tea plant cultivars that are exclusively used for the tea itself. Different types of oolong will have different degrees of oxidation. Typically, that range is anywhere from 8 to 85%.

Oolong actually refers to a variety of different teas. When sorting through the tea menu, you may find several different ones that sport this name. 


Because there are so many different types of oolong tea they run a full gamut of flavor. Some are light and floral, while others are dark and chocolatey. How oxidized the leaves are will determine that final, characteristic taste. Roasting the tea leaves will also add considerable flavor, aroma, and body to an oolong. 

Green Oolong 

Light, or jade, oolong will often resemble green tea. The leaves, however, are slightly darker than green tea leaves and rolled into little balls. Like green tea, jade oolong is fresh, bright, and slightly vegetal.  

Due to the oxidization, green oolong has a bit more of a floral underbody to it, and a slight rich, butteriness that will linger on the tongue. Finally, it ends with a rounded, airy feel.

The most popular producer of green oolongs at the moment is Taiwan. Taiwanese oolong leaves grow at a slow and steady pace, high up on remote mountain tops. This allows for concentrated sweetness, and a flavor reminiscent of the misty air of high altitudes. 

You will find different styles of green oolongs from Taiwan, including fragrant baozhong to creamy jin xuan varieties. For the refined palate, an airy Lishan, Shan Lin Xi, or Da Yu Lung oolong tea will be complex, aromatic, and light. 

Some Chinese brands of light oolong are redefining the traditional tastes of this green variety. Tieguanyin is a green oolong that has gone without roasting, at most undergoing a light bake. The floral aroma is reminiscent of a bouquet of flowers, especially orchids. That bright garden flavor rides alongside the nutty twist that toasted glutinous rice brings to the table.

Medium Roast Oolong 

As the oxidation ramps up, and a controlled roast is brought into the mix, the jade style of oolong tea becomes fresh and aromatic. 

These teas are more heavily processed, allowing them to develop a warm, spicy note. The body of this tea is deeper, and much more mellow, with accents of honey, toasted grain, and sesame. Expect a woodsy character, something much different than the traditional red wine fruitiness of black tea.

Taiwanese dong ding oolong is nutty, with rich sesame flavors brought out by controlled roasting. A similar type, referred to as concubine oolong, uses nearly the same processing method, but with a twist. This variety of oolong allows the leaves to get bitten by a tiny insect, which drives the tea bush to adapt. In that adaptation, it develops extra fruity and honeyed flavors.

Hong Shui methods of creating medium roast oolong allow for even greater oxidation. However, that oxidation is balanced out with long, low temperature roasts that mellow out the brew. The final flavor is sweet, with roasted nut and dark fruit tones. When compared to a traditional black tea, the body is smooth and thick.

You may notice that these more oxidized varieties of oolong tea will last for more infusions than their green compatriots. Around the fourth or fifth run through of steeping, green oolongs will start to take on a grassy hue. Moderately oxidized too long, especially ones that have been subjected to extra roasting, we’ll be able to steep twice as much.

Deep Roasted Oolong

Finally, the most powerful oolong teas are made when moderately oxidized oolongs are heavily roasted. The final result is a dark leaf that can Brew up as thick and intense as a cup of coffee. For fans of coffee who are looking to make the switched tea, as long as a great place to begin your journey. In the Wuyi mountains of China, this tea is grown on steep cliffs. These cliff teas developed a distinct minerality, garnered from their rocky growing conditions. Some have compared this mineral taste to scotch. With a heavy roast layered on top of that, the end result is robust, layered, and powerful. You may find intense flavors of chocolate, nuts, and charcoal. 

In the Guangdong province of China, on Phoenix Mountain, local farmers produce an oolong tea with long, dark, twisted leaves. It shares the same powerful roasted character, however the flavor is in a league of its own. While Wuyi oolong has a mineral peat, dancong oolong resonates with stone fruit and floral aromas. Some say these are even more fragrant than green oolongs.

The Iron Goddess of Mercy breed of Oolong tea gets a new twist from the Muzha area of Taiwan and some smaller areas of China. A good cup of this blend has an intensity that is almost ferrous. That intensity is balanced out by rich caramel, orchid, and layers of baked grain and heather.


Oolong tea is complex and sometimes difficult to pin down. With so many different varieties, summing up what oolong tea tastes like in just a few words is nearly impossible.

In general, you will find that oolong can be sweet and airy, or rich and nutty. How long it has been allowed to oxidize, and if it has been roasted, will determine the final taste. Where you get your tea and how long you steep it will make all the difference.