Oolong: The Health Drink of Taiwan

The tea industry in Taiwan started in the 1660s. (Image:  pixabay /  CC0 1.0)
The tea industry in Taiwan started in the 1660s. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Living a healthy lifestyle is one of the secrets to a happier and fulfilling life. Thanks to globalization, healthy food has been shared across nations and regions. Superfoods such as Mangosteen found mainly in Southeast Asia, olive oil in the Mediterranean, and others are introduced to the market for the benefit of everyone. In this regard, Taiwan also has something to offer, the Oolong. A traditional health drink that has been around since time immemorial in China. So how significant is it in Taiwan? Let’s take a sip of its refreshing history.

History of Oolong

The tea industry in Taiwan started in the 1660s. In 1663, a surge of mainland Chinese migrated from Fujian Province to Taiwan. They brought seeds and some were tea trees. A thriving tea trade boomed in the 18th century. A man named Linfeng Chi soon catapulted Taiwan’s tea conquest when he brought, from the Mountains of Wuyi, small oolong trees to Dong Ding, in Lugu, Taiwan. The climate was right, and so Dong Ding oolong came to fame.

With the influence of British traders in later years, these products that were initially shipped to Fuzhou or Anxi to be completed could now be processed in Taiwan at the time, thus an originally-made Taiwanese oolong tea. The Japanese carried forward what British traders started in 1895. Soon, the relationship between China and Taiwan bolstered focus on oolong. Today, oolong tea has traveled far beyond the borders of Taiwan, allowing different nationalities to reap its wonders.

Health benefits

Besides the fact that it is a sure-fire refresher, oolong tea is beneficial to the body, thanks to its nutritional values like fluoride, sodium, manganese, and potassium that help fight off various ailments and keep the body strong.

Oolong tea is beneficial to the body. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

A study in 2014 showed that half of the obese Chinese adult participants who drank oolong four times a day in 6 weeks lost more than 1 kilogram of weight.

Though evidence that links drinking oolong to cancer reduction is still scarce, some researches associate drinking tea with cancer risk reduction. According to a study in Taiwan, there is a 4 percent decrease in head and neck cancer for each cup of oolong tea consumed. Research on Chinese women also includes a relation between reduced ovarian cancer and drinking black, green, or oolong tea.

Reduced risk in diabetes is also observed when drinking oolong regularly according to researchers, though specific effects are not as well-researched, compared to black and green teas. A review inferred at the end of the study that people who drink 24 ounces of oolong tea daily had lower blood sugar levels by 30 percent. A similar finding was also concluded in another study, which found that consuming 1 liter of oolong every day had 3.3 percent average blood sugar levels.

How is it made?

So how is this magnificent tea prepared? The tea is derived from Camellia sinensis leaves, which is what the black and green tea is made from as well. However, the secret of oolong tea’s uniqueness is in the way it’s processed.

The tea is derived from the leaves of Camellia sinensis. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The enzymes present in all tea leaves create a chemical reaction called oxidation that turns the tea leaves into a black color. Oolong tea is partially oxidized, which is in-between the color given off by green tea and black tea. This gives oolong a unique color and flavor.

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