I is for Iron Goddess of Mercy


Tie Guan Yin is Chinese for Iron Goddess of Mercy, Iron Buddha or Tea of the Iron Bodhisattva. There are numerous spellings – Ti Kuan Yin or Ti Kwan Yin.

This legendary oolong is one of China’s most beloved and popular teas. Tie Guan Yin is a sweet and floral oolong that reminds you of wonderful orchids from the moment you first smell it. This delicate oolong tea comes from Anxi county in the Fujian province in China. Oolongs differ from green, black and white teas for instance, because of the method by which they are processed (well over a dozen distinct steps). They also are the most labor -intensive tea to produce. Each type of oolong varies in the percentage of oxidation and the method in which it is processed – some are twisted, tippy leaves, some are cut, and some are rolled into small balls.  Tie Guan Yin uses only leaves, not buds, and the picking standard for Tie Guan Yin is medium to large “opening,” which are the more mature leaves.

Fujian province…

Is located on the southeast coast of China and is one of the most important regions in the world both in total tea output, production of high-quality artisan teas, development of different styles of tea and methods of tea production. A tremendous diversity of types of tea originate here. The climate is well suited for growing tea. It has a subtropical climate, with some rainfall year-round, but with a drier winter and wetter summer. An overwhelming majority of the province is mountainous. This mountainous terrain provides the perfect mixture of high altitude, moisture and rich soil to grow this tea.

Famous for its oolongs…

Fujian province is particularly important, as many styles of oolong come from there. The two major oolong regions of Fujian; are Anxi county, in the south, and the Wuyi Mountains in the north of the province. There is a large amount of variability in Tie Guan Yin. The tea varies based on the time of year in which the leaves are harvested, the amount of oxidation of the tea, and perhaps most importantly, the level of roast and method of roasting. The amount of roasting also varies widely, from almost none to a very dark roast. Note however, that good quality Tie Guan Yin will often have an orchid- like aroma, with the flavor profile being smooth and mild along with the characteristic “sweet aftertaste” or houyun – (“throat charm”, a highly pleasurable flavor and sensation in the throat). This lingering throat sensation – houyun is highly sought after.  In the end, a good Tie Guan Yin will leave a pleasant aftertaste in the back of your throat.

Legend has it…

That long ago in Anxi county there was an abandoned temple. Inside the dilapidated temple, was an iron statue of the Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. Every day, Wei a lowly and poor farmer, passed by the temple to get to his fields. Noticing the temple’s neglected and abandoned state, he felt a need to honor the Goddess.  Even though he did not have the means to restore the temple to its former glory, he cleared away the debris and began to lite incense in her honor. One night the Goddess of Mercy appeared to Wei in a dream and said, “The key to your future is just outside the temple. Nourish it with tenderness; it will support you and yours for generations to come.” She then told him about a hidden cave located behind the temple where a treasure was hidden.  The next day, Wei discovered the cave and found a tea shoot which he planted and nurtured. He soon realized that when the leaves were mixed with hot water, they made a delicious tea.   One day, while experimenting further with the tea, Wei dried the leaves until they turned a charcoal black.  He found this reminiscent of his Iron Goddess.  The experiment paid off because it created an even finer tea than he had ever tasted.  He called this concoction Ti Kuan Yin, the tea of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. The tree of legend still exists and is considered a national treasure and located near the tree, carved into the cliff is the name of the farmer who, according to legend, found the original tree.



Next… Iron Goddess of Mercy in my cup

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