Oolong milk tea is a popular drink, not just in Asia where it originates from, but also in Europe and the Americas. We observe that this beverage is rising in popularity and new variants of milk tea are created every day.
If you want to learn more about this drink’s variants, and recipes, read on!
What is Oolong Tea
Oolong tea is a traditional Chinese drink. Camellia sinensis leaves are used to prepare it. We would like to make note that this plant is the same plant that produces green and black tea. However, the method of processing the leaves is different for each variety.
Oolong milk tea gets its characteristic taste and scent from a chemical process known as oxidation. Hence, the level of oxidation of the leaves is what decides the flavour profile of the beverage.
Green tea is completely unoxidized black tea is completely oxidized, and oolong tea is in between.
For medicinal purposes, we find that it is often served simply steeped in water. However, most people prefer to consume oolong tea with dairy and a sweetener.
History of Oolong Tea
While the origins of the more modern oolong milk tea are well documented, the past has unfortunately forgotten the origin of the black tea.
We found that there are three common legends used to explain the origin of oolong tea, but none can be definitively claimed as fact, or be disputed.
1. The Tribute Theory
Oolong tea directly originates from an old variety known as “Dragon-Phoenix” tea. The loose-leaf style of this tea looks like dragon tails.
Therefore, it acquired the name “black dragon” or “oo long” (烏龍) tea.
2. The Wuyi theory
Oolong tea was first grown and created in the Wuyi Mountains. This idea originates from old Qing Dynasty poems.
The name “oolong” refers to the area where people grew the ingredient.
3. The Anxi Theory
It was first discovered by a tea picker who worked with Anxi tea plants. His name was Wu Liang, which later was rendered to “oolong”.
We read that the drink was seen as exotic and mainly consumed as medicine, owing in part to its unknown origins.
Meanwhile, oolong milk tea is an attempt to commodify and diversify this Chinese cultural staple for those with less discerning palates.
Different Types of Oolong Tea
Oolong tea has different flavour profiles depending on the method of cultivation and production.
It can taste sweet and fruity with honey aromas, or woody and thick with roasted aromas. The taste and aroma depend on the horticulture and processing of the plant.
We note that different types of this ingredient are used in the production of oolong milk tea.
The two broad categories of leaves are broad, rolled leaves and long ribbon leaves. However, the teas also differ in their roast levels and oxidation.
Oolong tea has an oxidation level between 20% and 60%. The oxidation level of the leaves decides how dark and strong the taste of the beverage will be.
We note that some lightly oxidized oolong varieties are Ruan Zhi and Bai Jiguan. On the other end of the spectrum is Shui Xian, one of the darkest teas.
Oolong tea is mostly unroasted. Hence, they have a fuller body and a stronger aroma which is similar to coffee.
For this reason, we observe that roasted variants like Black Oolong are often the preferred variety at Oolong Milk Tea outlets in Western countries, where coffee is more common and socially known.
How to Improve the Flavour of Oolong Milk Tea
To make the best milk tea, you need to make the best tea. Therefore, we emphasise that the best way to enhance the flavour is by brewing it correctly.
We need to make sure to steep white, grey, and light blue leaf varieties accordingly. In addition, we should ensure that the steeping process should take no longer than three minutes. The temperature of the water used should not exceed more than 200 degrees celsius.
However, these are general guides. Be sure to find the instructions for the specific variety of oolong you are using.
Oolong milk tea requires a heatproof container to make, but do not actually add milk to the brewing vessel! These should remain as clean as possible in order to avoid contaminating the leaves.
If you follow the instructions, you can brew the perfect cup every time, even as a complete novice.
Varieties of Milk Tea
There are different preparations for milk tea. Combined with the vast variety of leaves available in the global market today, the flavour and texture possibilities for this beverage are endless.
Even better, most of these preparations are easy to make at home and require no specialized equipment! However, we would like to note that some variants may require esoteric ingredients.
We list out below some popular varieties of oolong milk tea today:
1. Pokka Milk Tea
This is a precombined mixture of brewed tea, sugar, and milk. Originating from Singapore, it is available on the market mostly in Southeast Asian countries. We read that the base mixture is used to create more complex preparations of other beverages.
2. Koi Milk Tea
This is a type of bubble (boba) tea. These drinks contain small globes of tapioca pearls, providing a delightfully chewy counterpoint to the tea flavour. Most boba beverages also contain large amounts of sugar, so avoid them if you are looking to lose weight. The speciality of Koi tea is the gold colour of the boba pearls which come from the lesser-known golden brown sugar.
3. Gong Cha Oolong Milk Tea
Gong Cha is a Chinese chain of boba outlets. They use their own variety of oolong which they import themselves. They provide a large number of boba beverages containing boba pearls, grass jelly, and even Oreo crumbs!
Chatime and Kung Fu Tea are also some of the other leaders in the boba industry.
We see that the possibilities with oolong tea are endless!
This is because the tea-loving community does not gatekeep the extent to which the raw tea can be altered or the creative ways it can be utilized.
Oolong Milk Tea vs Milk Tea
The former is simply is a specific sub-type of milk tea. It is a hyper-specific preparation using only one type of leaf, unlike other milk teas like chai or matcha.
You can opt for an unsweetened variant especially if you are looking to lose weight. This is because raw oolong is said to boost weight loss.
The average large cup (with full dairy milk) contains only 200 calories.
So, take advantage of this oolong milk tea benefit whenever you can!
We would like to highlight that oolong milk tea can be made easily using a bare-bones framework instead of a rigid recipe.
Hence, just like how there is no recipe to prepare a cup of coffee, we will provide only a list of suggestions or tips on how to make the beverage.
We will even add some exciting extras, including how to make a cafe-style boba drink!
Oolong Milk Tea Recipe
- 2 – 5 tbsp loose-leaf oolong tea leaves No matter what variety you use, the general consensus is that loose-leaf teas are the best option. Cloth tea bags can interfere with the delicate flavours of oolong.
- 1 cup water This is the standard one large cup serving.
- ⅓ cup whole milk The ratio of water to milk is usually 3:1. If you enjoy a creamier tea, feel free to use more milk.
- Sweetener White sugar is the most commonly available choice, but if you want restaurant-like tea, use brown sugar (dark or light) instead. Agave or honey are less common, albeit perfectly serviceable options as well.
- Toppings or mix-ins Jasmine tea leaves go well as oolong milk tea mix, as do spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. Ginger is also commonly added. A pinch of salt can help balance the taste of more sugary drinks.
- Follow the instructions provided earlier in the article, as well as those on the package. If you have jasmine tea, brew it in the same container as the oolong.
- You can heat it while the tea is brewing, or afterwards. Make sure it doesn’t boil or scald. Heat it gently.
- Add a sweetener and/or spices to the milk: This is a great way to incorporate things like cocoa powder which only dissolve in very hot liquids.
- Strain the tea into a cup and add your milk mixture.
You may also refer to this video made by Gourmet Cuisine to view how they made oolong milk tea at home. By brewing a larger amount of tea, you can store for multiple use in the future.
How to Make Into A Boba Drink
- Prepare the base drink as described above, and add 4 tablespoons of brown sugar to the milk as a sweetener. Optionally add a pinch of salt.
- Add ice cubes to a tall glass. You can adjust the amount of ice to your preference, but try not to exceed half a cup of ice cubes.
- Add boiled tapioca pearls.
- Pour in the tea, top with a sprinkle of more sugar, and enjoy!
You can remix the recipe above depending on the type of oolong milk tea taste and flavour that you’re craving for. To sweeten the drink, you may want to mix it with honey or brown sugar for that extra zing.
We hope you enjoy this in-depth guide to oolong tea, and we hope you learn to love the history and culture behind the drink as we do!