Best Oolong Teas to Buy in 2023

Choosing the best oolong tea to suit your taste is easy, with such a range of styles and flavour.

Whilst one oolong tea variety is not necessarily better than another (just different in flavour profile and characteristics), we wanted to share some stand-outs from the 2023 harvests.

How to Choose an Oolong Tea

Because oolong lies artfully between green tea and black tea, you want to first decide whether you are looking for an oolong that is lighter and greener in flavour or darker and richer. The more oxidised the darker it will be.

Best Oolong Teas for 2023

Light Oolong Tea

Our Pick: Golden Lily Milk Oolong

Region: Taitung, Taiwan

Why we love it:
- A wonderfully fragrant tea with soft floral notes
- It is sweet and grassy with a smooth, creamy texture - a characteristic of the rare variety of cultivar it is crafted from.
- The legend behind this oolong's milky aromas is a beautiful (if a little melancholy) story...

Dark Oolong Tea

Our Pick: Da Hong Pao

Region: Wuyishan (UNESCO world heritage site), Fujian Province, China

Why we love it:
- A deep and complex tea with notes of nutty chocolate.
- A great deal of skill is involved with crafting this tea. It is gently roasted in baskets buried in ash over charcoal - imparting a toasty, biscuity aroma.
- Low in tannin - a smooth infusion with little bitterness.

What are some of the most popular oolong teas?

Our Tie Guan Yin Oolong (Iron Goddess of Mercy) is one of the first teas that Henrietta sourced and so has been popular amongst our customers for many years. This is a great choice if you are new to oolong tea. You can infuse the leaf many times to reveal different subtleties of flavour - from succulent sweetness to more green, floral notes.

Whilst Chinese oolongs might be the most famous, we have types of oolong from all over the world - not just the famed Wuyi mountains of China, but also Taiwan and to the misty gardens of New Zealand.

How to store oolong tea

Like all tea, we recommend storing your oolong in an airtight container and away from direct light and heat. Our storage tins are perfect for this and you can buy them here.

Brewing oolong tea

Please never brew oolong in a tea bag. Oolongs, particularly rolled varieties, need space for the leaves to open up and allow the hot water to extract every drop of flavour. Rolled oolongs also benefit from a "wash" to soften the leaves before infusing. Using just an inch of boiling water, you can rinse the leaf for a few seconds before discarding the water.

You can infuse your oolong in a regular teapot, but to get the best out of your leaves, we recommend making many quick extractions using lots of leaf and just a small amount of water in the pot. This is easiest to do in a Gaiwan teapot where you have a little more control over each infusion. Whatever vessel you use, make sure you get as many infusions from your leaf as possible - we recommend at least 6 for rolled oolongs.

To see this method in action please watch this film.

For specific instructions for a particular oolong, including water temperature and timing, please visit the individual product pages.

The benefits of oolong tea

Tea (including oolong) is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which is naturally rich with polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) - and all the associated health benefits. But at Rare Tea we are tea experts, not scientists or doctors, so whilst there are many benefits to drinking oolong tea - we cannot claim drinking it will help with weight loss or cure an ailment, but it will bring you great pleasure.

Most importantly, all of our oolongs are grown without chemical pesticides or herbicides. They not only taste better, but are good for the environment and good for you.

Pairing oolong tea with food

A cup of tea goes with more than just biscuits. And oolong is one of the best teas to pair with food. The fruity and mineral notes found in lighter oolongs compliment savoury treats such as sandwiches and hard cheeses perfectly, whilst darker oolongs lend themselves to richer dishes or something a little sweeter like venison, wild mushrooms or pretty much any kind of cake.

Oolong tea ceremonies

An oolong tea ceremony does not need to be as slow and graceful as a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, but is every bit as enjoyable. Learning to use a gaiwan for an oolong ceremony is easy with the help of a short video here.

What is the difference between green tea and oolong tea?

The difference between green and oolong tea is oxidation - with oolong being partly oxidised and green tea being not oxidised at all. The oxidation brings greater depth to the flavour of the leaf, whilst additional processes such as roasting building even greater complexity.

All the best,

Image Henrietta Lovell
Rare Tea Lady
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Since 2000 Henrietta has been travelling the world, working directly with independent tea gardens, from the Shire Highlands of Malawi to the foothills of the Himalayas. Lovell is at the forefront of the tea revolution. She founded Rare Tea Company in 2004 to champion responsible and ethical relationships direct with farmers. In 2016 she founded Rare Charity pledging a direct percentage of Rare Tea revenue to their partner farms, supporting tertiary education scholarships. In 2019 Faber & Faber published her first book – "Infused - Adventures in Tea", named the New York Times book of the year and was awarded the prestigious Fortnum & Mason award. She is currently working on a documentary series.