Today’s tea is one of many names: Iron Goddess Oolong, Iron Bodhisattva, Monkey-Picked Oolong, Tie Kwan Yin (Taiwanese)… They’re all part of the pool known as Tie Guan Yin, which is Chinese for “Iron Goddess of Mercy.” This renowned oolong tea is available at most tea shops and online retailers, including our friends at Yezi Tea, who were kind enough to send us samples. (Justin also wrote about Yezi’s Tie Guan Yin High Grade Oolong Tea here.)
Yezi’s brand of Tie Guan Yin High Grade Oolong hails from the mountains of Anxi County in the southern Fujian province of China. Since the early days of the Qing Dynasty, this tea has been famous for its heavy body and surprisingly sweet flavor. So, how does Tie Guan Yin measure up to other oolongs we’ve tasted for Tea Time? Read on to find out!
Yezi Tea’s Description: “[Tie Guan Yin High Grade Oolong] has a heavy body with notes of camphor balanced by a strong orchid scent. The tea is famed for its dark notes of caramel and refreshing aftertaste of honey. With its robust amber body and surprising palette of flavors, the Iron Bodhisattva loose-leaf tea is the perfect beverage to rejuvenate both your body and spirit in the sometimes sapping hours of the afternoon.”
Ingredients: Tie Guan Yin oolong leaves
Steeping Instructions: Use 1 to 2 teaspoons per 8 oz of water. Heat water to just below boiling (194 to 203 degrees Fahrenheit / 90 to 95 degrees Celsius) and steep for 45 seconds. Add 15 seconds for each subsequent brew.
Multiple Brews?: Yes, about 6 or 7 times
Bagged or Loose Leaf?: Loose leaf
Caffeine Level: Medium
The moment I open my sample packet of High Grade Tie Guan Yin, I feel like I’ve got a winner on my hands. Floral notes of orchid intertwine with the heady, pungent scent of camphor, marrying for a distinct and intoxicating fragrance. This bouquet is what I’ve come to expect from a Tie Guan Yin – and one of my favorite tea aromas period – so I’m already pleased with what’s here.
As for appearance, the dry leaves of High Grade Tie Guan Yin are gorgeous. Crinkled, dark green nuggets with vibrant lighter green streaks give it a healthy, lively color. These nuggets are also slightly larger and less compact than most oolongs. Which could mean that the leaves might be huge after they unfurl!
Following Yezi’s directions, I steep 2 teaspoons of High Grade Tie Guan Yin for 45 seconds. Out comes a pale green liquid that carries the rich aroma of camphor and orchids. And what I taste matches what I smell. Each sip waltzes with contradictions: light yet strong, floral yet mineral. The characteristic buttery texture is also starting to seep through. This is a wonderfully refreshing first cup, and it’s not long before I’m off to make a second.
Steep #2 sits for 1 minute and evolves a little bit, as a good oolong should. The liquid takes on a shade of yellow-green and gives off a more hypnotic aroma, with hints of butter mingling with the orchid and camphor. The flavors are still indicative of the fragrance: robust, floral, and slightly sweet, with an increasingly creamy mouthfeel. Ohhh, I enjoyed this cup even more than the first one!
I’m able to get six steeps out of High Grade Tie Guan Yin, increasing each brew time by about 15 seconds. The tea’s personality doesn’t change much between Steeps #2 through #5, which surprises me. Not in a bad way, since the tea is still delectable, but I’m used to detecting tiny differences between each brew of an oolong. Finally, at Steep #6 (2 minutes), I notice a slightly drier finish than the previous steeps. There are still traces of camphor and orchid, and a pleasant roasted overtone begins to creep through. A decent last cup, I’d say, and I probably could have squeezed out another steep or two if I had more time.
Oh, and remember my comment about leaf size? WOW! Once these babies fully opened, most were about the size of my thumb! They nearly filled my infuser and remained a vivid dark green for the first couple brews. These minor details made the experience with Yezi’s High Grade Tie Guan Yin all the more delightful.
It’s pretty darn difficult to not love Yezi’s High Grade Tie Guan Yin Oolong. This classic beauty features everything I’ve come to expect from its kind: contrasting orchid and camphor aromas and flavors, a luxurious buttery texture, and a fresh, mesmerizing ambiance. I didn’t find the amber color or caramel and honey nuances that were mentioned in Yezi’s description… But every tea drinker experiences the same tea differently, so I’m not going to hold it against this Chinese tea legend. Highly recommended!
Grade: 9.5 / 10
- Tea Drinkers Who: Like oolong teas
- Time of Day and Year: Late mornings and early afternoons year-round
- Possible Book Pairings: Yezi’s High Grade Tie Guan Yin pairs well with dark, elegant speculative fiction such as Tina Connolly’s Ironskin. This steampunk fantasy spin on Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre combines the classic love story of a governess and her employer with mystery, fey magic, and a woman struggling with the effects of a 5-year-old curse.
You can purchase Tie Guan Yin High Grade Oolong directly from Yezi Tea here.
It’s worth noting that Yezi also sells a Master Grade version of Tie Guan Yin. Based on the description, it has a different flavor profile than the High Grade Tie Guan Yin, so make sure you purchase the correct grade if you’re interested in this tea.
* * *
In addition to being a tea enthusiast, Sara Letourneau is an avid reader and a writer who… well, enjoys writing! Currently she’s working on a novel, and she writes book reviews and articles on the craft of writing. She’s also a published poet with works available in various print and online publications. Visit Sara at her personal blog, Facebook, or Twitter.
If you’re a tea seller and would like to have one of your products reviewed here, please visit the Contributors page for contact information.