Tie Guan Yin, also known as Ti Kuan Yin, Tieguanyin, or other variant, is one of the oldest oolongs produced in China. Originating in Anxi in the Fujian province of China in the 1800s, it is named after the Mahayana Buddhist’s Goddess of Mercy, Guanyin. Tie translates into Iron, so the full translation is Iron Goddess of Mercy. Like other Chinese teas, its origin is tied to a myth.
Ti Kuan Yin Myth
A poor farmer named Wei who everyday on this way to the fields walks past a small run down temple to Guanyin. He stops and sweeps out debris from the temple and leaves burning incense each day. One night Guanyin appears in a dream to him and tells him there is a cave behind the temple that holds a treasure and that he is to take the treasure from the cave, plant it and share it with the other farmers in his village. The next morning, the farmer found a tea sprig in the cave, which he took to the fields where he planted and cared for it. When it grew into a bush, he discovered it made a very flavorful tea. He cut off sprigs and gave them to his fellow farmers to plant as well. Everyone in the village began growing tea and named it after Guanyin. The tea provided enough money for the farmers in the village that they restored the temple to Guanyin as a tribute to her sharing the tea with them.
Ti Kuan Yin Oolong Production
The production of Ti Kuan Yin is rather complex, like other oolongs, and can take anywhere from 3-5 days to complete. Like all teas, it is plucked and withered in the sun. Once withering reaches the desired level the leaves are lightly rolled/twisted to damage the leaves to help speed along the oxidation process. The leaves are usually left in bamboo baskets or trays to oxidize between 40-70%. The leaves are not fully dry but are damp. The leaves are then rolled/twisted into their desired form and may be returned to withering if it is determine to be necessary. This process can be repeated multiple times. Once the desired shape and flavor is reached the tea is then baked. It is the baking that creates the nutty flavor of a traditional Ti Kuan Yin.
Types of Ti Kuan Yin
There are a few different types of Ti Kuan Yin. The type is tied to the time of year the leaf is picked and how long the tea is allowed to oxidize. A traditional Ti Kuan Yin is picked in the spring and again in the fall. It is oxidized closer to 70%. A Jade Ti Kuan Yin is a less oxidized Ti Kuan Yin that is more like a green tea than oolong that is picked only in the spring. The Jade Ti Kuan Yin is more flowery in flavor while the traditional is nutty in flavor. In drinking any type of Ti Kuan Yin, allow the boiling water to cool to at least 180° Fahrenheit before putting the tea in the water.
As you explore the world of tea, pay tribute to the Goddess of Mercy and enjoy a cup of Ti Kuan Yin.