Posts Tagged ‘wu long’

Green Tea or Wu Long Tea? What is the Difference?

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

It is very easy to become confused when hearing about the different teas available. There is green tea, herbal tea, wu long (or oolong) tea, black tea, white tea and organic tea to name but a few. Tea comes from China, Taiwan, India and Sri Lanka, as well as other countries.  It is powdered, sold in teabags, or sold as loose leaf. How are you supposed to know what you should buy or what is best for you?

Do not worry if you are new to the world of tea, it really is not as difficult as it first seems. The first distinction to understand is between the tea types. All tea, except for herbal teas, comes from the same plant, “Camelia Sinensis”, and yes, it is a relative of the garden Camelia!  That also includes chinese tea’s as well.  Tea grows best in tropical or sub-tropical climates, as opposed to colder climates, and it also is best when grown at higher altitudes–thus many of the best tea is harvested at an elevation of up to 1,500 meters.

So, what is green tea?  How is it different from black tea? The main difference between the types of tea available depends on the processing it undergoes. Once the tea leaves are picked they quickly begin to wilt and oxidize. The only way to stop the oxidation is to dry the tea leaves by heating them. Following is a brief summary of the main different types of tea and their level of oxidation.

  • White Tea: Unoxidized. The leaves are processed soon after they are picked, though they are allowed to wilt first.
  • Green Tea: Unoxidized. This tea is processed as soon as it is harvested, and before the leaves begin to wilt.
  • Wu Long Oolong Tea: Partially oxidized. As these leaves are left longer before processing they naturally have wilted somewhat.
  • Black Tea: Fully oxidized. These leave are also wilted, and crushed.

Traditionally, black teas are the more commonly imbibed teas in Western and Indian cultures. Oftentimes these are brewed using teabags, or loose powdered tea.  Green and Oolong teas are popular in China, Taiwan and Japan. They are also becoming increasingly more popular in Western countries. This is in part due to claims made regarding certain health benefits they have such as being beneficial for those wanting to lose weight and containing antioxidants.  Really though, when it comes to debating the health properties of green tea vs black tea there are probably more similarities than differences.

My favourite tea is Wu Long, often simply called wu tea, although I also like to drink Green tea as well. There are many misconceptions regarding wu long tea side effects and wu long tea benefits. In reality, I know of no side effects from drinking wulong tea. Chinese drink it many times a day, from morning to night, with no apparent side effects other than many Chinese are quite slim and trim.  While it does have some caffeine, the amounts are small. If you are particularly sensitive to caffeine you should probably not drink it late in the afternoon. One point to mention with properly brewed wulong tea is that the leaves (or pyramid shaped teabags) are used over and again. All of the caffeine comes out with the first batch, subsequent batches from the same leaves have little to no caffeine.

You can buy wu long team in stores, in supermarkets and just about anywhere a decent selection of tea is sold. If you are wondering where to buy wu long tea, and whether the generic supermarket tea is fine, I would have to recommend you look elsewhere. Often tea specialty shops carry better varieties of tea, including organic wu long tea which is often sold in nice tea canisters or a small decorative tea chest . These are better for you health-wise and as important, they are also usually much better tasting, providing you brew them properly.

There is another benefit from Asian teas that is not as well known, but that is potentially as inviting as the health properties. In Chinese culture, tea plays an important role as being an aid to enlightenment, clearing the mind and enhancing thought patterns. While some may scoff at this, there is no doubt in my mind that an afternoon spent sampling teas definitely does have an effect on those who partake in it.

As an aside, in Taiwan and China tea and the ‘tea culture’ or ‘the way of tea’ as it is often referred to as is often closely linked to the arts. This perhaps give credence to claims that does indeed play a part in enlightening and enhancing innate abilities, and fostering creativity in all of its forms.

When I was first introduced to the ‘tea culture’ I scoffed. To me it was a ritual, cloaked in tradition and meaningless in today’s world. Tea ceremonies were a desperate attempt by some to keep alive the ancient rituals and traditions of the past–and what need is there for that, anyway? Today, with more years of exposure to this fascinating culture and more insight into the fascinating “Cha Dao” or “the way of tea“, I am starting to believe that there is more to it than initially meets the eye.

If nothing else, it drowns you in the rich, deep Chinese culture which is far older than the culture of many Western lands. There is much we can learn from this, and I believe to embrace it is wiser than to ignore the truths and simple wisdom that it has to offer.