This Diamond Grade Tie Guan Yin is a very lightly oxidized Oolong tea grown in the Anxi County of the Fujian Provence in China, and this particular Oolong that I am reviewing was picked in the spring of 2009, and as it is the summer of 2009 as of the time of this writing, these are some very fresh tea leaves indeed!
Norbu Tea describes this tea as:
* Harvest: Spring, 2009
* Growing Region: Anxi County, Fujian
* Roast: Heat dried, no roasting
* Grade: Diamond (AAA)
* Vacuum sealed into 25 gram portions
* 10% off orders of 4 to 9 x 25g bags (100g to 225g), 15% off orders of 10 or more x 25g bags (250g or more): Discount Reflected in displayed price
This is our “Diamond Grade” Spring Harvest 2009 Tie Guan Yin from Anxi county in Fujian province. It is the highest grade of Anxi Tie Guan Yin that we offer on norbutea.com. The concept of different grades of this type of tea is largely Western, but, in general, the grade of this style of oolong is determined by the intensity of the floral aromas in the tea. The more intense the aroma, the higher the grade (and market price of course).
This tea is what the producer refers to as an AAA grade Tie Guan Yin when dealing with me, which I have named “Diamond Grade” to go with the Norbu/Jewel theme of Norbutea.com…Norbu means “precious jewel” in Tibetan language. Are there higher grades of Anxi Tie Guan Yin available? Yes, but not many. I feel that there is a point of diminishing returns on investment once you reach a certain level with these teas, and our Diamond Grade Tie Guan Yin represents a good balance between intensity of aroma/flavor and cost.
Upon opening the package, the intense floral aroma of this tea is almost overwhelming. The dry leaves are dark green and are tightly rolled into the characteristic ball shape of Anxi Oolongs. When steeped, the leaves are an amazing deep green color…almost the color of fresh Swiss Chard or very lightly steamed spinach. The fragrance is intensely floral. To me it is like fresh cut orchids, but one friend and colleague of mine swears that it is just like Lilacs. Either way, it smells fantastic! The liquor has a moderately thick and satisfying feeling in the mouth, and the flavor has the strong floral notes present in the nose especially in the first infusions. The thing that always amazes me about high grade Tie Guan Yin is the lingering bittersweet aftertaste that it leaves in the mouth, and this particular batch certainly is no exception. It is truly a treat to savor on special occasions.
While steeping this tea in the Western manner would be just fine, it is our opinion that enjoying this tea Gong Fu style is the best way to experience its many layers of flavor. See our Steeping Guide section for a general description of the Gong Fu (with skill) method.
This Tie Guan Yin is of the newer Green style and is not roasted beyond the time required to drive out the moisture in the leaves after processing. In order to better preserve the fleeting freshness of this spectacular tea, we had this shipment individually packaged and vacuum sealed at the producer’s facility into 25 gram portions. All orders will consist of multiple 25 gram portions inside one of our resealable stand up pouches.
The story behind the name ‘Tie Guan Yin:’
Tie Guan Yin or ‘Iron Goddess of Mercy’ is named after the Bodhisatva Avalokiteshvara, who in the Chinese context is known as the Goddess of Compassion or Mercy. The name of this tea is associated with a legend: In Anxi County of modern Fujian province there was a rundown temple that housed an iron statue of Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. Every day on the walk to his tea fields, a poor farmer would pass by and reflect on the worsening condition of the temple. He did not have the resources to repair the temple, so instead the farmer brought a broom and some incense from his home. He swept the temple clean and lit the incense as an offering to the deity. Over the months and years to come, the farmer would periodically return to take care of the temple and make offerings. One night, Guan Yin appeared to him in a dream. She told him of a cave behind the temple where a treasure awaited him. He was to take the treasure for himself on the condition that he shared it with other people in his impoverished village. In the cave, the farmer found a single tea plant. He planted it in his field and nurtured it into a large bush, from which the finest tea was produced. He gave cuttings of this rare plant to all his neighbors and began selling the tea under the name Tie Guan Yin, Iron Bodhisattva of Mercy. (Story paraphrased from the Wei version of the legend as presented at en.wikipedia.org)!
It is hard to expand upon the depth of the description presented by Norbu Tea (you can tell they are very dedicated to high quality teas!); however, I would like to agree with the description, when it says that these are intensely aromatic and flavorful teas. While high quality tea such as that certainly deserves to be brewed Gong Fu Style, and will present the best flavor that way, if you do not have the tools necessary to have a Gong Fu tea ceremony, it still tastes absolutely delicious when brewed as you would any other tea.
This tea brews up to a very pale yellow color, and has a natural sweetness about it. The lovely dried leaves unfurl gracefully in the water, leaving cut pieces of tea leaves swirling in the water. The flavor is delicious, with sweet notes of spring rain and a rich buttery undertone.
I loved the small vacuum packed package, covered in Chinese writing, so you know this came direct from China without being repackaged many times. Like I said in the beginning of this review – you would be hard-pressed to find a fresher Oolong! A wonderful teatime treat!