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Is Oolong Tea Black Tea?

Apr 08,2024 | TeaTsy Team

No, Oolong tea is not the same as black tea. Oolong tea and black tea both originate from the Camellia sinensis plant, but they are very different in terms of the degree of oxidation, flavor profile, and production method. 

The purpose of this article is to clarify the difference between oolong tea and black tea and to illustrate the unique position of oolong tea in the tea family.

What is Oolong Tea 

Oolong tea is a unique traditional Chinese tea that shares similarities with black and green tea. This classic tea is mainly enjoyed in Asian countries, with very few fans in the Western world. 

Oolong tea comes from the defining camellia Sinensis plant, like green and black tea. However, the oolong tea production process is the differential factor that separates it from the rest. 

The critical difference between oolong tea and black tea has been established to be their oxidation rate. Oolong tea is partially oxidized to about 8% to 85%, giving it a diverse appearance that places it in the dynamics of minimally oxidized green tea and highly oxidized black tea. 

The two-way dimension of oolong tea also affects its taste. Some varieties of oolong tea have light floral notes of green tea, while others are tilted to the side of malty notes of black tea. 

What is Black Tea 

Black Tea

Black tea is the unique and classical tea of the world. It originated in China and was cut across to Darjeeling, Ceylon, Assam, India. 

Like every other tea, black tea is made from the Camilla Sinensis plant and is subjected to an extensive oxidation process, which brings about its distinctive black color. 

The lengthier oxidation process also set the tone for its richer and maltier taste and even brought a chunk of chocolate or smokiness to black tea. 

The extensive black tea varieties have made it a staple in the Western world. It has crept into their morning and afternoon tea rituals. Black tea accounts for over 80% of the tea consumed in the United States. This is a huge number that can be attributed to the health benefits of black tea. 

Studies have established the impact of black tea in the reduction of anxiety and stress-related problems, enhanced heart health, aided digestion, etc. 

Also, it has been documented that a consistent intake of black tea would increase the number of antioxidants in your body. Antioxidants are beneficial in the prevention of free radicals that often cause a lot of life-threatening diseases. 

Is Oolong Tea Black Tea?

tea set

No, now that we have established oolong tea and back tea as a stand-alone entity, you can see that oolong is not black tea. Many things set them apart from what brings them closer. 

However, we must delve into the differences to comprehensively buttress our answer to this question. We can consider many angles to explain our answer that oolong yea is not black tea. We can do that from the angle of their appearance, caffeine level, color, flavor, processing, and others. So, let's get to that. 


Black Tea

Oolong Tea Varieties

Oxidation Level

Full (100%)

Partial (8% - 85%)

Color of Leaves

Dark brown/black

Light greenish to dark brown

Flavor Profile

Bold, malty, can have hints of smokiness or chocolate

Floral, fruity, light and delicate, or richer depending on oxidation

Caffeine Content (mg per 8 oz cup)

40 - 60

30 - 50


Assam, Ceylon, English Breakfast

Tieguanyin (light floral), Da Hong Pao (roasted, malty), Milk Oolong (creamy, sweet), Alishan (high mountain, light and sweet)


Oolong tea consists of a beautiful spectrum of larger buds and leaves that are more suited for the multifaceted processing steps they are subjected to. Oolong tea appearance can be classified based on their level of oxidation. 

Lightly oolong tea has a greenish color or some touches of yellow color, while intense oolong tea is darker or reddish brown. Contrastingly, black tea is the direct opposite of these features. 

Black tea is made of smaller buds and leaves, which explains its broken nature. The smaller leaves and buds aid its oxidation process, which brings about its deep brown and black color. 


Although Black and oolong tea are satisfying beverages, they have different tastes and experiences. The complete oxidation of black tea has resulted in its smokey, honey, or caramel notes. 

While sipping black tea, you might encounter some drying sensation on your tongue. This results from a naturally occurring compound called tannins that also influence its taste. 

On the other hand, oolong tea has a wide range of tastes. Some Oolong teas have a taste similar to that of black and green tea. For example, dark oolong tea, or Da Hang Pao has rocky mineral notes that are similar to black tea, while lightly oxidized oolong tea, like Tie Guan Yin, has the grassy notes of green tea. 

So, no distinctive tastes can be attached to oolong tea because of its two-pronged characteristics with black and green tea. 

Caffeine Level 

Oolong tea has a moderate caffeine level of about 30 to 50 milligrams per 8-ounce cup. At the same time, black tea contains about 40 to 60 milligrams per 8-ounce cup.

 Although many factors come into play in this regard. For example, oolong tea variants that are more oxidized tend to contain higher oxidation than mildly oxidized ones. 

This is also the case with black tea. Also, the number of tea ratio used per cup influences caffeine levels. The more leaves you use, the higher the caffeine content you'll get. Lastly, steeping time. The longer you steep your tea, the more caffeine you extract—Vice versa. 

Related read: Does green tea have caffeine?


Oolong and black tea also feature different varieties. Oolong tea is classified based on its oxidation level, while black tea is categorized based on region. 

Black tea features

  • Assam black tea:  Assam black tea originated in the Assam region of India. This unique blend of black tea is mainly described for its malty-solid flavor. 
  • Lapsang souchong: This is another variant of black tea that comes from the famous Wuyi mountain in Fujian province, China. Lapsang Souchong black tea undergoes a unique drying process over the pinewood fire. This process brought about its intense Smokey or slightly piney flavor with subtle natural sweetness. 
  • Keemun: Keemun black tea has a delicate and complex flavor profile. Originating from Huangshan, China, the tea has a burst of honey, orchid, and stone fruit flavor. 
  • Darjeeling: Darjeeling black tea is an aromatic, well-rounded tea from the Himalayas, a mountain in India. This tea has been regarded as the champagne of black tea because of its fruity taste and its beautiful golden or bronze color.
  • Ceylon black tea: This type of black tea is known for its brisk and bright flavor, making it a standard feature on the English breakfast menu. Originating from Sri Lanka, Ceylon black tea is made from fully fermented Camellia Sinensis leaves, which bring about its citrus and spicy notes. 

Oolong tea features

  • Tieguanyin: The "Iron Goddess of Mercy" originated in Anxi province in China. This is a renowned blend of oolong tea that offers a floral and grassy taste. 
  • Milk oolong: milk oolong tea is not flavored with milk. The tea got its name from floral, creamy tastes that are reminiscent of buttercream. Milk oolong tea is Grown in Taiwan and passed through a processing technique that requires tumbling the leaves in large barrels during their oxidation process. 
  • Dong ding oolong: This is another Taiwanese special with flavors ranging from creamy, sweet, and mildly smoky to toasted nutty flavor. This tea has a light yellow appearance with a refreshing taste. 
  • Pouchong: This is a beautiful choice for those who love their tea to have a floral taste with a blend of honey or stone fruit. 

Oolong Tea vs. Black Tea: Potential Health Benefits 

Both oolong and black tea offer an impressive range of health benefits. This overlap can be attributed to the similarity in the processing steps and, most importantly, their source plant, Camellia Sinensis. 

Various researchers have delved deeper into analyzing the significant components of oolong and black tea. The result established that both oolong and black tea have significant Antioxidants. 

Antioxidants are in different forms and, most times, function differently. For example, oolong tea has a high concentration of polyphenols, catechin, and theanine. These types of antioxidants are essential for improving mental alertness and protection against cellular mutant ions that lead to cardiovascular diseases like cancer and others.

On the other hand, black tea also hosts a considerable amount of functional antioxidants like theaflavin and thearubin. These antioxidants reduce the risk of heart disease, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. 

Furthermore, both oolong and black tea are critical to weight management. Oolong and black tea contain caffeine that can boost your metabolism and aid in fat burning. 

Research also suggested that oolong and black tea contain L-theanine and amino acids. These compounds work synergistically with caffeine in the sense that when caffeine works to boost your metabolism, L-theanine provides your body with calming effects to stabilize the entire process. 

Further studies have suggested that oolong and black tea contribute to a healthy heart. They both contain essential antioxidants that can reduce LDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides, critical contributors to heart diseases. 


Oolong tea is not black tea. Partially oxidized oolongs fall somewhere between green and black teas and have a distinctive taste, unlike fully oxidized black teas, which are known for their smoky, honeyed, or caramelized flavors. On the other hand, oolong tea usually exhibits a distinctive rock-mineral flavor. Although there are obvious similarities, such as the fact that they are both worth using a quality tea set to savor their delicate flavors. However, their oxidization process sets them apart.