What is Tieguanyin? Tieguanyin is a type of oolong tea. It’s sometimes also written as Te Kwan Yin, Tie Guanyin, Tie Guan Yin, Tin Kuan Yin, Ti Kuan Yin or referenced to, by the acronym TGY. This special kind of tea is commonly sourced from the coastal province Fujian in the Southeast of China.
Tieguanyin production and quality types
Tieguanyin is exclusively produced as oolong tea. This is achieved by stopping the fermentation of the hand-rolled tea leafs through kilning in an oast house in roasting pans. The fully dried Tieguanyin leafs are now ready for steeping and are traded in various quality classes.
One of the easily distinguishable traits of an at least medium quality Tieguanyin tea is the significantly contorted and rather large leafs. If the leafs seem blackish dark, they are likely a roasted Tieguanyin from Taiwan. If the leafs appear in a fresh green, they are likely from their Chinese home in Anxi, Quanzhou.
When the leafs are rolled and processed carefully, you can sometimes see the fold from which oxidated juices left the plant and brown spots from where the leafs touches the hot surface of the roasting pan. The leaf surface of a high quality of Tieguanyin tea appears to looks similar to the pattern in a walnut kernel.
In normal weather conditions Tieguanyin tea can be harvested four times a year, once per season. Unlike other teas the most popular season for Tieguanyin tea is not the harvest in Spring but in Fall. At that time the flavor appears to be the strongest and that has an impact on the demand and therewith equally the price of the tea.
Also the location of the tea farm is a factor for the pricing. Even in the Tieguanyin home of Anxi in Quanzhou, for example, teas from the villages Xiping and Gande are among the more popular and pricier ones. Some of the highest quality Tieguanyin teas are traded with up to 500 USD per kg, based on data from 2006. If you want to learn more, make sure to also check the blog post “Buyer’s Guide to Tieguanyin and Anxi Oolong” by Lily Duckler from the Verdant Tea team.
How to prepare Tieguanyin tea
Tieguanyin has a very soft and yet rich taste, but it only truly unfolds entirely when prepared right. However, the preparation of Tieguanyin is not that complicated. The water should be as pure as possible. Filter it or get bottled water if you can’t get good quality water from the tap. If you don’t do that, there might be changes in the taste that would negatively impact the taste. Boil the water and let it cool to about 80 to 90 ° C. Then pour the hot water over the rolled tea leafs. Let it steep a while, smell the aroma unfold and watch how the tea leafs slowly unroll and grow into their former shape.
The leafs should have enough room to unfold as they steep. Putting them in a tea bag or a different type of tea strainer will have an impact on the taste and prevent it from achieving a full and complex aroma. Because Tieguanyin does taste possibly a bit too pale when using colder water, it might not be a good choice for a cold brew tea.
Just like most oolong teas, Tieguanyin can be infused several times. The taste changes throughout each infusion and it might take some patience to explore the whole complexity of it. Use good water, use good tea, give the leafs space to grow, and bring some time. Then you will be able to fully enjoy the taste of Tieguanyin tea. Teawares for Tieguanyin tea should be made of thin material like porcelain.
Tieguanyin tea name explanation
The name of the Tieguanyin tea is derived from the Chinese term 铁 (tiě) for iron and the term 观音 (guān yīn) which is the name of female bodhisattva with a focus on compassion.
Video for the preparation of Tieguanyin
YouTube: How to brew Tie Guan Yin | Oolong Tea Brewing | Gaiwan & Teapot (Zhen Lu)
Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Markus Kniebes.