Mmm, oolongs! I love all types of tea, but oolongs have a special place in my heart. The art and craft of semi-oxidization creates some amazing flavors that other types of tea just don’t have. While I love both dark and green oolongs, it is Ti Kuan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy) that is my favorite oolong and, in fact, my favorite tea. If I got sent off to a prison on a desert island for the rest of my life, and could only choose one tea to bring with me, Ti Kuan Yin would be it.
Ti Kuan Yin a relatively green, medium-to-heavy bodied oolong that often boasts a lovely floral nose and flavor. (Some of my favorite Ti Kuan Yins taste of lilacs.) What can make Ti Kuan Yin even more interesting is the different degrees to which a Ti Kuan Yin can be baked or roasted: More heavily roasted Ti Kuan Yin can take on some lovely nutty or “baked grain” notes that serve as an interesting contrast to the tea’s floral flavors. Many tea retailers sell several different grades of Ti Kuan Yin and some offer teas that are more heavily roasted than others. You should always ask a tea merchant about his or her Ti Kuan Yin and how it is prepared.
High quality Ti Kuan Yin is pretty forgiving stuff: It can steep for a long time without getting bitter, making it a great option for drinking in tea travel mugs (you don’t have to worry about the leaf remaining in contact with the water). Iced Ti Kuan Yin (whether cold or traditionally brewed) is divine: It’s flavor is a nifty change from black tea, but it doesn’t get the grassy flavors that characterize some green teas. Even better, iced Ti Kuan Yin goes well with many foods, so don’t be afraid to serve it during this season’s last picnics and outdoor parties.
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