Oolong Tea vs. Darjeeling Tea: What’s The Difference?

Considering Oolong Tea vs. Darjeeling Tea? Although grown on the same bush, growth and preparation methods create distinctive flavors and offer health benefits.

Oolong Tea vs. Darjeeling Tea
Oolong Tea vs. Darjeeling Tea

Tea drinkers can choose from many different types of tea, including black tea, Earl Grey, Pu’erh tea, and white tea. If you’re wondering about oolong or Darjeeling, the former is an amber-colored, fermented tea from China. The latter is a stronger tea from India. In this article, we discuss Oolong Tea vs. Darjeeling Tea.

What is Oolong Tea?

A traditional Chinese tea made from the Camellia sinensis leaves, oolong tea, grows in tea gardens. Camellia sinensis is used to make both black tea and green tea, depending on how the leaves are processed.

A chemical reaction called oxidation occurs when enzymes in the tea leaves turn the green leaves to a deep black color. Oolong tea is partially oxidized.

What is Darjeeling Tea?

Darjeeling tea leaves.
Darjeeling is recognized by tea aficionados specifically for its muscatel flavor

This Indian tea is named after its region of origin: Darjeeling. It comes from the Camellia sinensis, however, the variety is different. Teas grown in India are harvested from the Camellia sinensis var. assamica.

To be certified, Darjeeling tea must be grown in the geographic district of the same name at the foothills of the Himalayas. Darjeeling is referred to as “the champagne of teas” because of its high quality and fruity essence.

Darjeeling is recognized by tea aficionados specifically for its muscatel flavor and tastes less astringent than most black teas. The Camellia sinensis grows new leaves and is harvested five times each year. These cycles are called flushes. Major flushes occur:

  • Mid-March to May
  • June to mid-August
  • October to November. 

Minor flushes occur:

  • During the two weeks between the first and the second flushes
  • Between the second and the third flushes during monsoon.

These periods are not fixed and depend on the weather. Excess rainfall earlier than expected may increase the length of the rain flush by a few weeks while reducing the period of the second flush. Different flushes can result in color, aroma, and taste variations. 

The difference in black, oolong and green tea leaves derive from tea fermentation. Flavonols in the tea leaves combine with oxygen during the fermentation process. 

  • Darjeeling green tea is not fermented. 
  • Darjeeling oolongs are semi-fermented. 
  • Darjeeling black tea undergoes full fermentation.

Health Benefits of Oolong Tea

Reports have shown a connection between lower cholesterol levels and drinking oolong tea. After a month’s oolong consumption, patients noticed a significant reduction in the arteries’ narrowing and hardening, and researchers attributed the improvement to the polyphenols and catechins in this tea.

Oolong tea contains amino acids that help prevent the release of caffeine. It also contains catechins and antioxidants that fight toxins and free radicals that can cause oxidative stress and damage healthy cells. You might also be interested in our English Breakfast Tea Vs. Orange Pekoe guide.

Health Benefits of Darjeeling Tea

Darjeeling tea is rich in flavonoids, namely, thearubigins and theaflavins, that help keep arteries free of fat. This tea enables the body to receive and absorb nutrients from the diet.

Regular consumption of Darjeeling tea can help improve heart health Darjeeling tea helps reduce stubborn body fat through polyphenols. The availability of these extensive components helps break down fat and provide energy to the body.

5 Common Types of Oolong Tea

A cup of freshly brewed Oolong tea.
These types of oolongs are dark in color and heavily oxidized

1. Wuyi Oolong Tea

This is also referred to as Da Hong Pao. These types of oolongs are dark in color and heavily oxidized. Their sharp, smoky flavor makes Wuyi unique among oolong teas. It is one of the most expensive and high-quality teas globally and can cost up to $1,000,000 per kilogram.

2. Phoenix Tea 

Produced in China’s Guangdong province, Phoenix tea is also referred to as Dan Chong or Dan Cong, which means “single bush.” Leaves are harvested from one tea plant, and each bush has a different taste. Phoenix teas are popular due to their natural flavors and aromas of fruits and flowers.

3. High Mountain Oolong Tea 

A combination of a variety of seasonal oolongs, these teas are grown in the highest mountains of Taiwan at altitudes higher than 3,350 feet. They include Wu She, Alishan, and Yu-Shan.

4. Milk Oolong Tea 

Milk Oolong tea is also commonly known as Jin Xuan tea, Golden Daylily tea, or Nai Xiang tea. This yellow oolong is named for its creamy color. This tea boasts a creamy flavor and ends with a smooth finish. 

5. Iron Goddess of Mercy 

This loose-leaf tea is the most famous Chinese tea grown in the high mountainous region of the southern Fujian province. Peachy notes deliver nutty undertones.

5 Common Types of Darjeeling Tea

1. Darjeeling First Flush Tea

The first tea harvested after the winter dormancy is called the first flush. This tea is light and clear in color, with tea leaves that give a flowery scent. This is the most expensive flush tea due to its freshness and color.

2. Darjeeling Second flush tea

The second flush delivers a dark, amber color and strong flavor caused by unique weather and plant types. Most people prefer their flavor.

3. Darjeeling Third Flush Tea

This flush is less expensive than the others. If brewed, this flush forms a dark or coppery-colored tea. Autumn Darjeeling leaves are larger compared to other seasons.

4. In-between Flush Tea

This tea has the same characteristics as the first flush, Darjeeling but is slightly lower in quality.

5. Monsoon Flush Tea

This tea is commonly used for masala chai and is rarely exported. It is more oxidized and sold at lower prices.

Final Word on Oolong Tea vs. Darjeeling Tea

Although both Oolong and Darjeeling teas are grown on the same bush, growing in China or India, and preparation methods create distinctive flavors and offer health benefits. Instead of worrying about oolong or Darjeeling tea, why not try them both and see which best suits you?


  • Aisling O'Connor

    Aisling is an Irish food and drinks writer and journalist fueled by coffee and herbal tea. She followed up her journalism degree with nutrition studies. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.