The “Iron Goddess” of teas is known by several names: Tie Guan Yin, Ti Kuan Yin, “Compassion,” and yes “Iron Goddess (of Mercy).” They all refer to one thing: a particular style of Oolong tea. In this article, I’ll stick to “Tie Guan Yin” to refer to this wondrous tea. The name comes from a Buddhist priestess named Guan-Yin and the word for iron (“tie”) due to its dark green color.
This type of Oolong tea comes from China and Taiwan and, more recently, from India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. The Taiwanese version is fairly flowery tasting versus the Chinese version from the Fujian Province which has a darker, roasty flavor. The versions from the other countries tend to be less developed in flavor, since it can take years for the plants and processing to be fully developed.
Processing Oolongs is fairly involved, with the Tie Guan Yin style Oolongs undergoing a slightly different processing from most other Oolongs. After being partially dried, they are shaped into balls by wrapping them tightly in a cloth ball and then rolling 3 of those cloth balls at a time in a machine (previously done by human feet). The leaf balls are then removed from the cloth and tumbled in a drying machine on low heat; this separates the individual leaf balls which are clumped together. This can go on over an 8-hour period, about 4 times per hour. Wrap – roll – unwrap – tumble. Wrap – roll – unwrap – tumble. Can get a bit old rather quickly. Something to think about when you’re contemplating the price of these Oolongs.
I’ve had a chance to try several versions and see similarities:
- Dry leaf appearance and aroma — Generally larger full leaves that unfold in the hot water, rolled in balls as described above but sometimes a bit open; usually a rich dark green color.
- Steeped liquid (“in the cup”) appearance, aroma, flavor — Usually pale greenish yellow color, aroma and flavor ranging from straight planty/grassy to quite fruity and even a bit smoky
- Price per cup — Every version I have tried produced several infusions, so of course the price per cup is quite reasonable, usually around 25 to 30 cents per cup.
Some versions of this delightful tea you might want to try:
- Ti Kuan Yin Slimming Oolong — a orchid-like fragrant tea that is light, sweet, and has the reputation for helping you lose weight.
- Ti Kuan Yin Iron Goddess Oolong — a tea that is pale green-yellow with a flavor that’s a little bitter at first, but turns sweet and then has a fragrance that your tongue just can’t forget. Like a lot of teas, this one changes flavor as it cools. Sip it while it’s hot for the best taste. [My review]
Some foods to try with these teas:
- Crème Brûlée/Caramel
- Desserts With Apples, Bananas, Strawberries
- Fruit Compote
- Fruit Tart
Now, all you have to do is select a tea and a food and invite family and friends (or keep it all to yourself)!