For ages, tea has been the beverage people turn to for health problems, stress, and all manner of ailments. As an herbal remedy, it is perhaps one of the most widely used and broadly successful. Tea can help you relax, it can give you energy when you're flagging, and it can settle your nerves.
Almost all forms of tea come from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis plant. Only some forms of tea, like Rooibos and herbal teas, don't come from this plant. Even the relatively new purple tea is just a crossbreed of the same tea plant, with slightly different properties due to where and how it is grown.
Despite being the same plant, different kinds of tea have different nutrient profiles. White tea, the least processed, is higher in vitamins and nutrients. Black tea, the more heavily processed variety, sacrifices some of those nutrients in exchange for higher levels of caffeine.
Oolong, too, is the same plant, processed in a slightly different way. So how does your typical green tea compare to oolong, and which of them is better for your goal of losing weight?
Differences in Processing
Green tea and oolong tea are the same plant, processed in different ways. At the same time, green tea can be processed in many different ways and still be considered green tea, so it's kind of a broad topic.
Green tea is generally grown in carefully controlled environments, in sunlight or in shade, which can produce different qualities of tea with different levels of chlorophyll. Matcha, for example, is typically grown in the shade. Tea is harvested three or four times throughout the year, which gives different batches different characteristics.
Processing, as well, is widely variable. Sometimes the tea is air-dried, sometimes it's dried with charcoal firing or pan firing, and sometimes it's steamed. It can be ground up or hand-rolled, blended, or stored for future processing.
Oolong, meanwhile, is a specific kind of processing of the green tea leaves. Specifically, it's a Chinese tea process, where the tea leaves are withered under a strong sunlight source and allowed to partially oxidize. It's somewhere between green tea and black tea in terms of oxidation, leaning more on the side of black.
Modern oolong tea is actually a specific cultivar, or variant, of the Camellia sinensis plant, used exclusively for the production of oolong tea. The unique variant of the plant, combined with the oxidation, gives the resulting tea a more distinct set of flavors. Oolong, as well, has a number of variants, mostly depending on how completely it is allowed to oxidize. Lightly oxidized oolong tends to be fruity and sweet, while more heavily oxidized oolong is woody and almost roasted in scent.
Nutrients Available in Green and Oolong Teas
When it comes right down to it, you may be disappointed to learn that the range of available vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and polyphenols in tea are pretty much the same no matter what kind of tea you get.
Because all of these teas come from the same plant, they all have the same baseline level of nutrients. Tea contains zero fat and zero calories, because the beverage you're consuming is basically just nutrients in water. Meanwhile, tea contains some Omega-3 fatty acids, folate, choline, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, manganese, and fluoride, though the fluoride might come from the water and not the plant itself, it can be hard to say.
Exactly how much of each of these you get in your tea, well, that can vary a lot. The range of available nutrients depends on where the tea is grown, which harvest of the year the tea is from, the grade of the tea, and the level of processing it undergoes. Both green and oolong teas have a wide range of possible treatments during processing, which means they can vary so widely it's nonsense to try to pin them down.
Some people consider green tea to have more healthy antioxidants than other kinds of teas, because it is the least processed variant of the tea. However, there are definitely some more heavily processed green teas, and there are very lightly processed oolong variants. You can potentially find oolongs that have more antioxidants than greens, and it will vary based on blend and batch.
How Tea Helps Weight Loss
Before we can determine whether green tea or oolong tea is better for weight loss, we should first investigate how, specifically, tea can help you lose weight in the first place.
First of all, tea is a satiating beverage. When you're drinking tea, you're getting flavor, which satisfies some kinds of cravings. If you crave something sweet to drink, or if you just want to consume something, drinking a cup of tea is a good way to do it. Since tea at its baseline has zero calories, it's a good way to suppress hunger and satiate cravings without actually consuming something with calories in it.
Tea is also likely going to replace something worse in your diet. If you drink a cup of tea in the morning rather than a Starbucks latte full of cream and sugar, you're by default cutting a few hundred calories from your diet. This alone is enough to start shedding some weight, though it's probably slow, at a rate of around a single pound per 7-14 days with no other exercise or dietary changes.
Any time you choose to drink tea instead of eat a snack, drinking a soda, or drinking anything full of sugar, you're going to come out ahead on that equation. Of course, if you choose to add a bunch of milk and sugar to your tea, you're destroying any weight loss benefits it may have.
Third, tea contains some level of caffeine. As we know by now, caffeine boosts your passive fat burning, because it stimulates your body to produce energy. An 8-ounce cup of green tea contains around 30-50 mg of caffeine, while oolong tends to have a bit more caffeine, around 50-75 mg per 8-ounce cup. Compare this to a cup of black coffee, which has closer to 95 mg of caffeine, and you can see where it stands up.
The catechins present in tea – a type of flavonoid – can help boost your metabolism as well. Like caffeine, this stimulates your body to burn some fat. Catechins are a kind of antioxidant as well, so they provide some benefits to all manner of potential ailments, including cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's disease.
Some double-blind studies have shown that the catechins alone can account for some additional weight loss on top of what the caffeine already gives you.
Which is Better for Weight Loss?
Now let's talk determinations. If you have the choice between oolong tea and green tea as your beverage while you're trying to lose weight, which one is going to help you more?
If you think about the different ways in which tea helps you lose weight, only one of them varies between the two kinds of tea. Tea being satiating isn't variable. Tea replacing other, less healthy consumption isn't variable. The catechins in tea are roughly the same between different varieties. Therefore, the only tangible different – as far as weight loss is concerned – is the amount of caffeine present in your tea.
If this is your sole determining factor, the answer becomes "neither." It's generally thought that oolong teas are higher in caffeine than green teas, but the amount of caffeine is lower than that of a simple black coffee, and much lower than what you would get in a fat burner. We're talking about 15 milligrams of caffeine at most; a quarter of a cup of coffee's worth of difference, or less than a tenth of what's in a typical caffeine pill.
Add to that the variability of different kinds of tea production, and you can see why this gets confusing fast. Some green teas have more caffeine than others, and some oolongs have less. Some oolongs have less caffeine than some greens! It all comes down to the specific product you're consuming, from what brand, with what processing method, and so on.
So which kind of tea should you pick to help you lose weight? Here's our recommendation: whichever one you enjoy drinking the most. You can rotate between different flavors and different herbal blends. You can pick up different varieties of oolong and try them out from day to day. You can even drink different blends of tea throughout the day.
The key is to enjoy your tea. If you don't enjoy it at least as much as you enjoy a daily soda or latte, you aren't going to stick with it. Tea needs to be a long-term change in diet, and it needs to be something you want and look forward to drinking. If that's not the case, sticking to any meaningful change is going to be difficult at best.
How to Get the Most Weight Loss from Tea
So if teas are generally the same as far as weight loss is concerned, how can you optimize them and make sure you're getting the most out of your beverages? Here are our top tips.
First, make sure you aren't adding a bunch of stuff to your teas. Sure, sometimes a bubble tea sounds great, and a London fog tastes great, but if you're adding a bunch of cream, sugar, and syrups to your tea, you're destroying the benefits the tea has on your diet. The resulting beverage isn't really that much better than drinking a soft drink, in terms of calories and sugar. Tea is only really healthy when it's just the tea and water, nothing else.
Second, make sure to cut back on other sources of calories when drinking tea. If you're drinking tea in addition to your usual morning latte and a soda in the middle of the day, it's going to struggle to counteract those additional calories. The benefits of tea – that it satiates your cravings and makes you less likely to snack – are only benefits if you proceed to avoid snacks.
Third, don't set yourself up to fail with unrealistic expectations. Tea alone isn't going to melt off the pounds. The caffeine and catechins in the beverage only help you passively burn a dozen or so calories a day, though of course the exact amount varies from person to person and depends on the amount of tea you drink. Give than a single pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories, that's a lot of tea you'd have to drink to even lose one pound.
Tea's benefits come from cutting calories in other places and from exercise. So, fourth, make sure you're exercising regularly. Caffeine, catechins, the hydrating properties of tea, and the nutrients tea gives you are all valuable for times when you're trying to lose weight through exercise. You need to make sure you're giving it your all, not just trying to drink a magic potion that cures your obesity.
Tell Us Your Story
Have you used tea as part of a successful weight loss journey? We'd love it if you would tell us your story below.
How much did you lose, and how long did it take? What did you do, in terms of drinking tea alongside your routine? What was your favorite blend of tea? Let us know in the comments.