Tie Guan Yin is a premium variety of Chinese oolong tea associated with Anxi in the Fujian province. Named after the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (best known as Guan Yin), it has also been translated as "Iron Goddess of Mercy" after the old translation for Guan Yin's name. Tie Guan Yin produced from different areas of Anxi have different characteristics.
This oolong is typically close to a green tea, with only a little fermentation. Subsequently, it has a very flowery, delicate aroma without the green tea "grassiness" or astringency. The origin of this oolong tea dates to the early 18th century, when the Tie Guan Yin varietal of tea plant was discovered in Anxi county of Fujian province. Legend has it that monkeys were trained by monks to pick the choicest leaves from wild tea trees growing in the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian Province. This monkey-picked tea was presented as tribute to Emperor Qian Long in 1741 and, for many years, was enjoyed exclusively by the Imperial Court. Over time, as the tea became more accessible to the general population, it provided inspiration for poets, artists, scholars and philosophers.
Tie Guan Yin leaves are dark like iron yet the taste is light and ethereal, like the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin. Another Chinese legend says that the Goddess of Mercy appeared in a dream to a local farmer and told him to look in the cave behind her temple. There he found a single tea shoot, which he planted and cultivated. From that time, the tea has been known as Iron Goddess.
The taste is alluring with a fresh orchid aroma, a bold fruity flavor and a sweet, lingering finish. While Tie Guan Yin can be simply brewed in any teapot, we recommend the gongfu method using lots of leaf, multiple infusions and brief steeping times to bring out its full characteristics.
Other spellings and names include Ti Kuan Yin, Tit Kwun Yum, Ti Kwan Yin, Tie Guan Yin, Iron Buddha, Iron Goddess of Mercy, and Tea of the Iron Bodhisattva, which is probably the closest English translation.