Tie Luo Han Oolong
Tie Luo Han, or Tieluohan, is called Iron Arhat or Iron Monk in America. It is one of the Four Great Oolongs. It is of historical interest, existing since ancient times and is believed to be the earliest Wu Yi Teas, with history records dating back to the Song Dynasty. The tea bush was first found in a cave (Gui Dong or Ghost Cave) in Hui Yuan Yan, one of the ninety-nine cliffs of Mount Wu Yi. Tie Luo Han, all but unknown abroad, is the cultivar responsible for one of the four most famous yan cha, the great “rock teas” grown on cliffs in the Wuyi Shan area of Northern Fujian, the Chinese province on the southeastern coast facing Taiwan, which is renowned for producing some of the best oolong teas in the world.
The Legend behind Tie Luo Han…
Tie Luo Han is a fanciful translation for Iron Warrior Monk or better yet Iron Arhat or Iron Buddha. While “Tie” stands for “iron”, referring to the appearance of the tea leaves, “Luo Han”, stands for “arhat” that comes from the legend behind the origin of this tea. It is said that this tea was first created by a powerful warrior monk with skin that was golden-bronze. The tea was found in a cave near the temple of the Buddhist monks. “Arhat” also stands for the state of enlightenment that Buddhist monks reach. The monks would drink this tea after their spiritual practice. Historical records of this tea date it back to the Song Dynasty in China when this tea was given as a tribute tea, offered as highly honored gift.
From in the Wuyi Mountain Scenic Preserve of far north Fujian Province (bordering Jiangxi Province) of south eastern China, is where the most desirable rock oolong teas are produced. The picturesque mountain cliffs, fertile Nine-Bend River, and mineral-rich rocky terrain are the most critical contributions to the character of these teas. These oolongs owe their names to the natural haven these plants thrive in. Nestled in and around the mountain cliffs, rock oolongs enjoy a very unique terrior consisting of mineral rich soil, limestone cliffs, bamboo forests and many rivers. The prestige of these teas are simply something every tea drinker should experience.
Due to this unique terrior, they are famous for their floral and “rock, bone, stone” signature minerality taste and mouth feel. The leaves are usually heavily roasted to produce the renown aroma. Like all historically famous teas in China, the specifics of the growing locations are meticulously detailed, for quality, rarity, and price. Unlike many other tea-producing areas in China, the tea trees here are not cultivated in the plantation style. They are allowed to grow naturally wild in spacious groves (making them more difficult to pick), ranging in age from a few years old to well more than 100 years old, and elevations around 1000-1700 feet. Although not necessarily certified organic, this area is strictly protected by the government, so absolutely no chemicals or pesticides are used.
After hand picking, the tea undergoes a labor- intensive process of rolling and slowly drying; a series of roasts, taking place over a period of several months or years requires great skill and patience by producers. The resulting large, wiry leaves unfurl over many infusions.
Next… Tie Luo Han in my cup