We’ve got a pair of teas that might throw you for a loop trying to distinguish how they are different. What’s the difference between oolong milk tea and milk oolong tea? This guide will explain.
What Is Oolong Milk Tea?
Oolong milk tea is what’s better known as “bubble tea.” This Taiwanese drink took off back in the 1980s after a tea shop in Taiwan invented it. “Milk” and “bubble tea” are terms used to typically describe a milk tea.
What Is Oolong?
Oolong tea (also known as wulong/black dragon tea) is one of five true teas that are made from Camellia sinensis (the tea plant). Tea farms dotting the sides of mountains in Asia is where you’ll find tea growers cultivating this special tea.
So, what sets oolong apart from the other four true teas? The difference lies in how it’s grown and processed. To better understand what oolong is, let’s go back in time to take a look at its historical significance.
The History Of Oolong Tea
Tea growing in China is more than an industry — it’s an ancient tradition handed down from ancestors. The Wu Yi Shan region (where oolong got its start) has been home to tea farms for over a thousand years.
During the Ming Dynasty in 1392, the traditional form of tea (which was tea cakes) was ruled prohibited. The enforcement of this prohibition was to gain control over corruption within the tea industry. Cakes of tea were in such high demand before the prohibition. The tea cake black market was running rampant. This time of no tea was known as the “dark age of tea,” which lasted 150 years.
Tea growers began to produce loose-leaf tea as a solution to tea cakes being banned. This shift is where oolong tea came into existence. Buddhist monks took the loose-leaf tea and began roasting it over charcoal fires. Little did they know they were the catalyst for “Yan Cha” (oolong or rock tea.)
Today, oolong is widely cultivated in the Fujian Province of China in the Wu Yi Mountains and also in Taiwan. Each region produces a specific type of oolong.
What Kinds Of Oolong Are There?
There are four basic kinds of oolong tea. The way they are cultivated and processed is what sets them apart from one another and from other teas. We have also included a beverage made with oolong tea to help clear any confusion about milk oolong and oolong milk tea.
Chinese Oolong Tea (Dan Chong/Dan Cong)
- Oxidation: medium to heavy
- Roast: medium to heavy
- Color: orange to amber
- Taste: floral, fruity, spicy, hints of ginger and grapefruit
- Shape: rolled lengthwise
Chinese oolong is known as “Dan Cong” (means “single bush”) and is mainly produced in the Guangdong Province in China. You may hear this tea referred to as “Phoenix tea.” There is one dedicated tea tree that tea leaves are harvested from. Phoenix oolong tea tree is a cultivar that produces tea leaves that have a unique flavor.
Wu Yi Oolong (Da Hong Pao)
- Oxidation: heavy
- Roast: heavy
- Color: orange
- Taste: smoky, caramel, butter, toasty
- Shape: rolled lengthwise
Wu Yi oolong is known as “Da Hong Pao” or “Red Robe Tea.” This oolong is on the furthest end of the oxidation and roast spectrum for oolongs. Tea leaves harvested come from tea plants that are over one thousand years old, and because of how ancient the tea plants are, you can expect to pay a high dollar for it. A meager one kilogram (about the size of a pineapple) costs $1 million.
Taiwan Oolong (Gaoshan)
- Oxidation: none to light
- Roast: very light to light
- Color: pale yellow to vibrant yellow
- Taste: floral, buttery, piney, crisp
- Shape: rolled into balls
This oolong (known as “Gaoshan”) grows in the highest elevations of the mountains in Taiwan. These elevations are above 3,000 feet. Different varieties of Taiwan oolong with their own unique flavors are either harvested in spring or autumn.
Milk Oolong (Jin Xuan)
- Oxidation: very light
- Roast: very light
- Color: almost a clear yellow
- Taste: milky, creamy, floral
- Shape: rolled into balls
This is a very unique tea that offers the flavor of tea with milk added. However, milk oolong tea doesn’t have milk yet; it tastes like it does. If there were ever a tea that perplexed the palette, this would be one of them.
Oolong Milk Tea (Bubble Tea)
This tea often gets confused with milk oolong tea. We have laid the two out side-by-side to show you how they differ. So, if you’re wondering, “What is oolong milk tea made of?” you are about to find out!
Oolong Milk Tea Vs Milk Oolong Tea
|Milk Oolong Tea|
|Nothing more than unadulterated Jin Xuan oolong tea|
|Oolong Milk Tea|
|Bubble tea that contains oolong tea.|
Processing Of Oolong
Oolong typically goes through four basic steps in processing that begin with harvesting the tea leaves. The harvested tea leaves are then taken to the processing area, where the leaves are laid out in the sun to wither for a certain amount of time. The leaves are then moved indoors, where they are placed on bamboo trays to oxidize. Oxidation plays a vital role in how an oolong will taste and look in a teacup.
Oolong teas such as Taiwan and milk oolongs undergo shorter oxidation times. These oolongs are traditionally rolled into balls and go on to be tumbled in hot air dryers to stop oxidation. This light oxidation produces lighter, more delicate tasting tea. The finished loose-leaf tea is green-colored balls.
Oolongs such as Wu Yi or Chinese go through a longer oxidation time to produce a stronger, darker oolong tea. These oolongs are rolled lengthwise and go on to be tumbled in the hot air dryer to stop oxidation. The finished loose-leaf tea is almost black in color and has a twig-like appearance.
What Does Oolong Milk Tea Taste Like?
The different oolongs have different tastes. Oolong tea as a whole will be milder compared to other teas such as black teas. Oolongs tend to be more sweet, fruity, and woody, with hints of honey and a roasty undertone.
Oolong milk tea (bubble tea) will have a very sweet, creamy flavor. By adding oolong tea to the milk base, a very mild infusion of that particular oolong tea adds an additional layer of flavor. Remember, oolong milk tea is not the same as milk oolong tea.
How Much Caffeine Is In Oolong Milk Tea?
Oolong milk tea (bubble tea) caffeine levels will vary because tea shops have different amounts of oolong tea they add to the milk tea. A six-ounce cup of oolong tea can have up to 40 mg of caffeine.
Milk oolong tea (an unadulterated oolong tea) may have about the same amount of caffeine (up to 40 mg per six-ounce serving.)
Can I Drink Oolong Tea Every Day?
Unfortunately, we don’t have the medical expertise to tell you whether or not any tea is safe to consume. There are a few things to consider when consuming tea or tisanes (herbal tea,) especially if any of the following apply to you. Such as if you:
- Hve any medical conditions.
- Are taking medication or undergoing radiation or chemotherapy.
- Are sensitive to caffeine.
- Have allergies.
Teas may worsen medical conditions, interact with certain medications/chemotherapy/radiation, cause side effects, or cause adverse reactions. Talking to your doctor before drinking tea or tisanes is recommended.
Milk Oolong Tea Benefits
Milk oolong tea has numerous health benefits. However, oolong milk tea (bubble tea) lacks any health benefits because bubble teas are carb/sugar dense and nothing more than a sweet dessert served up in a cup and called a tea.
What Is Milk Oolong Tea Good For?
According to the research article, “Chemistry and Health Beneficial Effects of Oolong Tea and Theasinensins,” oolong tea has a lot to offer in the way of health benefits. Oolong tea acts as an antioxidant, anti-obesity, anti-diabetic, anti-hypertensive, antibacterial, and anti-allergenic.
Regular consumption of oolong helps to reduce heart disease and chronic disease. The article goes on to mention more benefits such as anti-hyperglycemic, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic.
Is Oolong Tea Good For Sleep?
Oolong tea is a caffeinated tea, and consuming it in the evening may make it difficult to get to sleep. This tea does not have any sedative effect.
Why Is Oolong Milk Tea Bad For You?
Bubble teas (which include oolong milk tea) are loaded with carbs. The uniqueness of bubble tea with tapioca pearls and a combination of sweet ingredients attract many to partake in what’s perceived as healthy just because it has real tea in it.
To give you an idea of just how unhealthy bubble tea is, researchers found that a typical twelve-ounce cup of oolong milk tea calories tips the scale at about 330 calories and 38 grams of carbohydrates. These figures don’t include the extra toppings or additives that make the drink even more tempting.
A Healthier Oolong Milk Tea Recipe
If you’d rather bypass the sugary oolong milk tea, milk oolong tea is the perfect alternative. Guess what? It comes without massive amounts of sugar, calories, and carbs.
- 3 teaspoons of loose-leaf milk oolong tea
- 1 cup of water
- 2 cubes of beet sugar
- 1 cup of milk (you can also substitute your favorite dairy such as soy, oat, almond, etc.)
- ½ cup of ice
- Bring 1 cup of water to a boil.
- Remove from the heat.
- Place the loose-leaf tea in a tea infuser.
- Drop the tea infuser into the hot water.
- Cover and allow to steep for 5 minutes.
- Remove the cover.
- Drop the beet sugar into the tea.
- Allow the tea to cool to room temperature.
- Fill a glass with ice.
- Stir the tea to mix the beet sugar in well.
- Pour the tea over the ice in the glass.
- Pour the milk in gently.
- Add a straw and enjoy!
Milk Oolong Is “Oh So Good!”
Now you know the differences between oolong milk tea and milk oolong tea. Having a good understanding of the various oolong teas helps you to appreciate how unique and different each are!