The origins of Tieguanyin can be traced back to the years 1725 – 1735 in Anxi County, Fujian Province. It belongs to the Oolong category and because of its excellent quality and unique flavor, is one of China’s Ten Famous Oolong Tea, finding its way to China and the World’s Top Ten Tea list.
In the family tree of Chinese teas, Oolong Tea lies in between un-oxidized Green Tea and oxidized Black Tea thus
making Tieguanyin a semi-oxidized Tea. The four famous Anxi Teas are Tieguanyin, Huangjingui, Benshan and Maoxie. The Tieguanyin Tea tree is a unique bush-type plant with expanded growth, inclined branches and flat, thick leaves that are elliptical in shape and a dark green color. With health benefits ranging from weight-loss, prevention of tooth decay to fighting cancer and diabetes, Tieguanyin is also known for having the effects of anti-ageing, anti-arteriosclerosis, as well as being a great detoxifier. It is truly an exceptional Tea worth knowing!
History and Legend
Tieguanyin in Chinese literally means ‘Iron Goddess of Mercy’ and is named after the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, known as Guan Yin, in Chinese Buddhism. Legend has it that Tieguanyin was born out of a farmer’s devotion to the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin. The story of the Wei Legend tells us that there was a diligent farmer named Wei who lived in Songyan Village in Yaoyang, Anxi during the Qing dynasty around 1725. In the fields where he worked, there was an old abandoned temple with an iron statue of the Goddess, Guan Yin. For years, Wei would keep the rundown temple clean, always hoping he could do more with the little that he had. Every day, he would make offerings and burn incense to the Goddess - at sunrise on his way to the fields and again at sunset on his way back home. One night as he was sleeping, the Goddess Guan Yin appeared to him in a dream. In his dream, Wei came upon a cave where he saw the Goddess. She spoke to Wei and told him to look for the cave behind the temple. There, he would find a treasure in between the rocks that would bring him prosperity. The next day, he found the cave just as in the dream and in between the rocks, there was a single sprig of leaf sprouting out of nowhere. Wei carefully took the shoot home and planted it in his garden. Not long, the plant grew into a large bush and the tea he made from it tasted like nothing he had ever tasted. He shared the tea with the entire village and pretty soon, everyone was talking about this unique tea that he named Tieguanyin. Wei made cuttings, gave it to all the farmers in the village and the region became one of the most prestigious and prosperous tea-growing regions in the world!
Oolong Tea has been the result of a long evolution of Teas throughout the ages starting from the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907) all the way to the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) when Anxi farmers began adapting methods of making traditional Wuyi Tea and improving on the technology to develop their unique style. Tea production in Anxi developed quickly from 1725 introducing new species of trees such as Huangjingui, Benshan, Foshou, Maoxie, Meizhan and Daye Oolong, which elevated Anxi’s Tea industry. The famous monk, Shi Chaoquan in his poetry, mentions “Xi tea intimates the productions of Yan tea, frying first then baking later to make the tea good enough.”
Assortments of Tieguanyin
Anxi Tieguanyin can be divided into two main types according to national standards – Fen Flavor and Strong Flavor. According to the market classification, this further breaks down to Fen flavor, Rhyme flavor, Strong flavor and Stale flavor.
Pure flavor type (Fen flavor)
Daqing and Zhengchao are two types that typify this flavor. The Daqing method starts to make tea from 5am to 6am on the second day after harvesting. The Zhengchao method is to pan fry the tea before midnight also on the second day after harvesting. This flavor is characterized by a full green color, elegant aroma with a mellow taste but also with a slight astringent taste (sweetness and astringency are two elements that can transform mutually but in this case, the sweet with a slight astringent taste is better). Pure taste tea has a green color and pure flavor, and its tea soup is golden with a slightly spicy taste that is its typical character.
Sour flavor type
According to different processing times, this flavor can be classified under the Huiqing and Baqing methods. Huiqing method means to panfry around 5pm on the second day after harvesting. Baqing method is to pan fry at 10pm also on the second day after harvesting. Sour flavor type usually has dark green color with an expanded flavor and its tea soup has a sweet-sour taste with dark golden color.
Strong Flavor type
This type belongs to the traditional semi-fermentation Tieguanyin and is more suitable for senior tea lovers due to its strong taste. From the color, there are usually light-black and slightly yellow leaves after the green leaves which means that it's not the best of color but the taste is the best. Golden yellow tea soup represents this flavor. According to traditional technology, it takes a longer time to ferment to bring it to a darker color in the tea soup with a mellow and refreshing taste. Traditional Strong flavor tea has the effects of warming the stomach, reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and is suitable for people who have many social engagements, bad diets and stomach and intestinal problems. Traditional Tieguanyin can be aged to have better taste and better healthcare functions after re-baking and charcoal baking.
Tieguanyin in today’s world
Chinese tea culture has a long history and a rich connotation. It has played a great role in the progress of social civilization and economic development. Tea culture is also popular and enjoys universal coverage as it affects us all. Tea culture has played an important role in developing traditional virtues, exhibiting cultural arts, self-discipline, cultivating sentiments, and promoting ethnic unity among many other benefits. Spreading tea culture is an organic integration of tea and culture and a combination of tea art and spirit. Based on the extensive and long cultural history, we have to study Fujian tea culture if we want to study Chinese tea culture. Researching Anxi Tieguanyin is an outstanding representation of Chinese tea culture. Anxi Tieguanyin is well known around the world with its special flavor and excellent quality. When we look at the culture and development of Anxi Tieguanyin, we can see the profound and realistic meaning that promotes the progress of social civilization to build a harmonious, healthy life and to maintain the stability and unity of society because at its core, it really only comes down to the inherent connection that binds people to nature and vice versa.
Tea-Adventure offers two types Tieguanyin (both pure flavour types):
- The Orchid Tieguanyin (oxidized till the leaves develop an orchid-like fragrance and taste)
- The Aged Tieguanyin (same style as the Orchid Tieguanyin, but fermented since 2013, therefore more sweet and less flowery)