Today I would like to begin a new series called Kombucha Benefits DiversiTEA – because you can make as many different varieties of kombucha as there are different varieties and health benefits of teas… and beyond.
What is Oolong Tea Benefits
Before we can get into the benefits of oolong, let’s first talk about what oolong tea is…
Oolong tea is a product made from the leaves, buds, and stems of the Camellia sinensis plant. This is the same plant that is also used to make black tea and green tea. The difference is in the processing. Oolong tea is partially fermented, black tea is fully fermented, and green tea is unfermented.
Something to keep in mind when we talk about fermented…
- When speaking about loose tea like oolong, the word fermented really means oxidized. Like when you bite into a juicy apple and then the phone rings and it’s you best friend from high school who you have not spoke to in 2 years. Two amazing hours later of catching up you get back to that apple and you now see it is a bit brown. That is what we mean by fermented when it comes to tea.
- When we talk about fermentation with kombucha, we are talking about an aerobic and aerobic process that converts sugar and nitrogen from the tea into organic acids, digestive flora, probiotics, vitamins and minerals.
Ok, now that we clarified, back to the regular scheduled health benefits oolong program…
Richard Goodness of TeaMuse writes:
The production of oolong requires that the leaves be processed directly after picking. First the leaves are wilted in the sun for a short period of time. They are placed into baskets and shaken, which bruises the leaves. The juices in the leaves are now exposed to the air, which begins the process of oxidation. The leaves are then spread out to dry. After a period of time–less than 2 hours for Chinese oolongs, longer for Taiwanese oolongs, the tea is fired, which stops the fermentation process.
Oolongs are traditionally fired into hot woks and cooked very quickly. After that is done, the leaves may be further fermented, and then fired again. Ultimately we have crisp, dry leaves.
As you can see, a lot of what defines a tea’s characteristics (if not the majority), happens AFTER, it is picked… a good way to look at this is comparing it with grapes when wine making..
Oolong tea is often scented with jasmine flowers. Jasmine flowers are picked, and the tea leaves are steamed in order to hold scent well. (Often, green tea leaves are used for this process, but the process of scenting partially oxidizes the leaves, causing them to be considered oolong.) Jasmine flowers bloom at night; they are picked early in the day and mixed in with the tea at night, when they open and release their scent. The scent is infused into the leaves, and the process is repeated over a couple of nights. So. Now that we’ve gotten that cleared up, let’s take a look at the infamous Wu Long Tea Diet. The pitch, if you’re going on any of several sketchy sites online, is that here is a rare tea imported directly from a special mountain in China that will make you lose so many pounds in so many days. It’ll burn fat and trim your waistline. Only this tea will do, so act now!
Health Benefits of Oolong Tea
Cool, so now that we have an understanding of what we are drinking, let’s delve into why we are drinking it (ahem.. besides its amazing taste!). Below are some of the health benefits of oolong.
My boy Dr. Oz (who I believe is the real deal given the amount of exposure and celebrity he has had the past few years) chimes in with:
Oolong tea boosts metabolism, helping you burn fat faster. Its unique catechin (an antioxidant) and caffeine combination ignites your body’s fat-burning furnace and raises your metabolism for up to 2 hours after drinking it. Oolong tea also contains polyphenols that help block fat-building enzymes. Studies have shown that drinking oolong tea has led to sustained weight loss and a smaller waist size. Be careful not to overload your tea with sugar, which will negate the benefits.
Dr. Weil, who I do respect and enjoy his health books… ahem, though has slammed drinking kombucha and not being to beneficial 🙁 answers a question about the health benefits of ooloong tea with blood sugar.
The effect of oolong tea on blood sugar has been tested in several studies. Investigators with the U.S. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) conducted a pilot study in 2001 with eight volunteers, all with type 2 diabetes. They found that by drinking six cups of oolong daily for eight weeks, the volunteers were able to lower their blood sugar levels by 15 to 20 percent. Another study, from Taiwan, published in Diabetes Care in 2003, seemed to show that drinking oolong tea (while also taking drugs to lower blood sugar) significantly lowered blood sugar when compared to drinking water. The researchers concluded that the combination was more effective than the drugs alone.
Just need to chime in for just one second.. did you get that last sentence????!!!!? I will write it again:
The researchers concluded that the combination was more effective than the drugs alone. Now, keep in mind there were only 20 people in this study.. but goodness gravy, how is this not out there!
Dr. Weil continues..
The possibility that oolong tea can boost fat oxidation comes from an investigation of the long-held Chinese belief that this tea can help control body weight. In 2001, ARS researchers tested four different beverages on 12 male volunteers for three consecutive days (during which the volunteers avoided other sources of caffeine). The drinks provided during the study were full-strength tea, colored water with the caffeine equivalent of full-strength tea, half-strength tea, and plain colored water.
The researchers found that the energy expenditure of the volunteers was higher after drinking full-strength tea or caffeinated colored water and that their subjects burned 67 more calories per day when they drank tea instead of an equal amount of plain water. Also, the volunteers’ fat oxidation was 12 percent higher after they drank tea. The investigators said that their findings should be regarded as tentative. I haven’t seen any more recent research showing that drinking oolong tea increases fat oxidation. Tea is an area of great interest for me, and I’ll post updates as studies continue.
How I Benefit With Oolong Tea With and Without Kombucha
I probably have down played it, b/c I have placed so much focus on spreading the word about kombucha.. but I am a tea junkie!! This goes hand and hand with kombucha, because the better tea you have the better kombucha you will have!
When I drink oolong on its on, I love a straight wu long (side note, wu long, woo lung, etc are the same name as oolong).. when I use oolong to make kombucha I am obsessed with our Passion Fruit Oolong it is crazy good!
I like to use the passion fruit oolong to brew and then I take a piece of ginger and some cut up fresh mango into a blend, cover with kombucha tea (just enough to cover it). Then CAREFULLY (don’t want kombucha going every where)… blend it.
This will create a liquid smoothie texture that I then put 2 ounces per 16 ounce bottle of kombucha to flavor.
If you try it, you’re welcome 🙂
PS: it goes beyond the scope of this post, but oolong tea has a beautiful ceremony on to itself… watching this video is like a meditation!