Different types of Milk Oolong Tea in paper bags on a wooden table.

What is Milk Oolong Tea?

Milk oolong tea, also known as Jin Xuan or Nai Xiang tea, is a lightly oxidized Taiwanese oolong tea renowned for its rich, creamy, and buttery flavor. This high-quality tea gets its name from its milky, creamy notes that are developed through a unique production process, without containing any actual milk.

Grown in the mountains of Taiwan, the leaves are carefully processed to create an exceptional tea drinking experience bursting with floral aromas, a smooth mouthfeel, and a sweet, creamy flavor.

Where Milk Oolong Tea is Grown

A close up of a green plant with water droplets on it, reminiscent of sipping milk oolong tea.
Fresh tea leaves

Jin Xuan oolong tea originates from the mountains of Taiwan. While oolong tea is also grown and produced in mainland China, the specific cultivar and processing techniques used to make milk oolong tea were developed in Taiwan in the early 1980s.

The main regions where milk oolong is grown in Taiwan include:

  • Nantou County: Home to the famous tea-growing regions of Zhushan and Lugu. The high-altitude growth conditions and cool climate are ideal for producing milk oolong tea.
  • Alishan: A popular high mountain tea-growing area in Chiayi County. Alishan milk oolong tea is highly sought after.
  • Sun Moon Lake: Located in Nantou County, this picturesque lake region also produces exceptional quality milk oolong tea.

The high elevation, abundant rainfall, and fertile volcanic soil found in these Taiwanese tea-growing regions contribute to milk oolong’s distinctive flavor, aroma, and texture. While not as common, milk oolong is also grown in the high mountains of Thailand.

How Milk Oolong Tea is Made

Producing high quality milk oolong tea requires precision and skill during cultivation, harvest, and processing. Here are the key steps:

  • Cultivation: The tea plants are grown without pesticides at high elevations. This stress causes the plants to produce more amino acids and polyphenols, contributing to better flavor.
  • Harvesting: The top leaves and buds are hand-picked during the early spring. Picking only the newest growth ensures the best flavor.
  • Withering: After picking, the leaves are laid out to partially dry and wither, concentrating their flavors.
  • Bruising: The leaves are then tossed and bruised, kickstarting the oxidation process. This gives milk oolong its darker color.
  • Oxidation: The bruised leaves are left to oxidize for the perfect amount of time, developing the signature buttery, creamy notes.
  • Fixing: To stop oxidation, the leaves are pan-fired or steamed. This stabilizes the tea.
  • Rolling: The leaves are then rolled into their final shape, expressed more juices and oils.
  • Drying: A final drying step reduces moisture and prepares the leaves for packaging.

It is the careful bruising and oxidation steps that give milk oolong its unique character and creamy taste. Mastering the timing of these steps takes skill and experience.

How to Brew Milk Oolong Tea

A cup of milk oolong tea

Preparing a good cup of milk oolong tea requires using high quality tea and following the proper brewing steps:

  • Select fresh, loose leaf milk oolong tea rather than bags. This ensures the highest quality and flavor.
  • Use a small teapot or infusing vessel that allows the leaves to open up and infuse properly.
  • Rinse the teaware with hot water first to warm everything up.
  • Add 2-3 grams of milk oolong leaves per 6 oz cup of water. Use more or less depending on taste.
  • Pour hot water (180°F – 200°F) over the leaves and let them infuse for 2-3 minutes.
  • Pour the tea into cups through a strainer, separating the liquid from leaves.
  • Enjoy the tea hot, or chill it briefly in the fridge for iced milk oolong tea.
  • Add any extra flavorings like honey or lemon only after trying the pure tea first.
  • Resteep the same leaves 2-3 more times, adjusting the time to extract more flavor.

Proper water temperature and steeping time is key to getting milk oolong’s signature creamy taste. Following these guidelines will help you make the perfect cup every time.

How to Buy and Store Milk Oolong Tea

When shopping for milk oolong tea, here are a few tips to get the highest quality:

  • Buy Loose Leaf: Choose high quality loose leaf milk oolong rather than pre-bagged tea for a fresher, more flavorful cup.
  • Get Grade 1 Tea: Opt for Grade 1 milk oolong, which comes from the spring harvest of young tea bud leaves.
  • Taiwanese Origin: Look for milk oolong specifically from Taiwan for authentic flavor. Double check the origin.
  • Reputable Seller: Purchase from a reputable seller that properly sources and stores their tea.
  • Harvest Year: Spring harvest milk oolong is best, but fall harvest tea can also be good.
  • Air-Tight Storage: Keep leftover milk oolong in an airtight container away from light, air, moisture, and strong smells.

Stored properly in a cool, dark place, fresh milk oolong tea can last 6 months to a year before losing its delicate flavor. Freezing is not recommended as it compromises the texture and taste. Buying in smaller quantities ensures you always have the freshest tea on hand.

How Much Caffeine is in Milk Oolong Tea?

The caffeine content in milk oolong tea is moderate compared to other teas. Exact amounts can vary based on factors like:

  • Steeping time: The longer milk oolong is steeped, the more caffeine is extracted from the leaves.
  • Leaf grade: Higher grade tea leaves (more buds) tend to be lower in caffeine.
  • Infusions: Second and third infusions will have progressively less caffeine than the first.

But on average, a 6 oz cup of milk oolong tea contains approximately 20-35 mg caffeine.

This compares to 40-70 mg of caffeine in a typical black tea and 35-70 mg for a cup of green tea. So milk oolong provides a moderate stimulating lift without being overly caffeinated.

The combination of calming L-theanine along with a modest amount of caffeine makes milk oolong perfect for an afternoon energy boost without disrupting sleep cycles. Caffeine sensitive tea drinkers can further reduce their intake by adjusting steeping times and quantities.

Delicious Milk Oolong Tea Recipes

Two bowls of milk green tea on a marble table.

Beyond drinking it straight, milk oolong tea also shines when blended into creamy and fruity beverages, baked goods, and desserts. The tea’s aromatic fragrance and smooth mouthfeel pair beautifully with the flavors of vanilla, fruits, and spices.

Some delicious ways to use milk oolong tea include:

Iced Milk Oolong Latte – Combine chilled milk oolong tea, milk, vanilla syrup, and ice for a refreshing summertime latte.

Milk Oolong Panna Cotta – Infuse cream with milk oolong before using it to make a silky panna cotta topped with berries.

Milk Oolong Crepes – Substitute water for milk oolong tea when making the batter for fluffy crepes filled with fruit or chocolate hazelnut spread.

Milk Oolong Macarons – Use milk oolong tea to enhance the flavor of french macaron shells and fillings for a unique tea-infused twist.

Milk Oolong Pudding – Simmer milk oolong with milk or cream and thicken with eggs and starch for a creamy, fragrant pudding.

Milk Oolong Chia Pudding – Soak chia seeds in milk oolong tea instead of regular milk to create a flavor-packed chia seed pudding.

Milk Oolong Cake – Bake milk oolong directly into sponge cake, genoise, or chiffon cake batter for extra moisture and flavor.

The light sweetness and floral aromas of milk oolong tea pair wonderfully with fruits like mango, lychee, and passionfruit. It also complements spices like vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. Feel free to get creative and experiment with milk oolong tea in your own recipes.

With its characteristic milky, buttery flavor and lush floral aroma, milk oolong is a beloved tea originating from the mountains of Taiwan. Grown at high elevations and processed with special care, milk oolong offers a smooth, creamy mouthfeel and sweet finish. Sip it straight up or blended into delicious baked goods and beverages. Just be sure to source fresh, high grade loose leaf tea and brew it properly to get the full experience of this exceptional oolong tea.

Photo of author
A self-proclaimed tea explorer, Jess began her journey with tea as a hobby and it quickly blossomed into an enchanting love affair. From the rich, historical tapestries of traditional Chinese blends, to the modern twists of herbal infusions, there’s no leaf unturned.

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