A sacred Oolong
You don’t need to attend a Gong Fu tea ceremony to enjoy some excellent Oolong. Though after reading about this spectacular Muzha Tie Guanyin Oolong tea you just might want to! The Muzha Tie Guanyin has a story or two to tell and a flavor catalog that is nearly godlike. Keep reading to discover more about the undeniable and indelible Muzha Tie Guanyin Oolong tea.
The Iron Goddess of Compassion
Stories abound as to how the name "Tie(Iron) Guanyin" was earned by this variety of Oolong. One story tells of a tea farmer finding an iron statue of the Buddhist/Taoist goddess Guan Yin, the bodhisattva/goddess of compassion while out seeking tea leaves. The tea he processed he named in honor of the goddess who perhaps auspiciously sent the tea leaves his way. This may very well be the truth but we can know for certain that Tie Guanyin is a unique and superb mode of Oolong that originated in China before migrating to Taiwan. Keep reading to learn more.
Oolong gets its start
Oolong as a whole also has a few myths, legends, and folktales surrounding its origins. One major theory suggests that Oolong was originally a tribute tea. A tea leaf was sent to the Chinese emperor as a tribute item. The name "Oolong" which is composed of the characters "crow/black" and "dragon" is believed to have been inspired by Oolong's appearance. The dark (or black like a crow) leaves that twisted and turned like the sinuous body of a serpentine Chinese dragon. The Fujian and Anshi regions were historically connected to Oolong but Oolong has today become a mainstay of Taiwanese tea, with tea plants being brought to the island during the Qing dynasty
The origins of Muzha Tie Guanyin go back around 200 years ago or so. The first initial inroads to Muzha Tie Guanyin Oolong began when special cultivars were brought from Fujian and Anshi to Muzha. Muzha is credited as being the original Tie Guanyin-producing area of Taiwan.
The large-scale production of Muzha Tie Guanyin Oolong began in 1919 when two brothers from the Zhang family brought more tea plants from Anshi province to begin a wide-scale tea production effort. The origins Muzha is not high in altitude and gets a lot of sun and so begins bitter but through its special rolling and processing method, it becomes much sweeter. It is harvested year-round. It comes from a special varietal, the Jung Chong which grows its leaves more at the bottom of the plant and more plentifully, too.
Rolled seven times
For Oolong like Tie Guanyin to develop its special flavor, aroma, color, and mouth feel. The leaves must be rolled, twisted, and sometimes formed into little pellets or balls. Muzha Tie Guanyin is rolled seven times.
This additional amount of rolls allows for an increased level of flavor development. As the oolong leaves unfurl when they are exposed to hot water when brewing, they release the flavor and aroma that they have stored up in every roll and twist of the leaves.
This is one of the most exquisite parts of oolong the agony of tea when the leaves twist writhe and dance in the hot water as the leaves stretch out again to their original shape and size. This is a moving part of the brewing process and can be witnessed in a glass teapot or even in a gaiwan cup (more on this later!). As the Muzha Tie Guanyin has been rolled seven times you can enjoy seven times the amount of flavor and aroma.
Memorial temple in Muzha
The memorial temple in Muzha is a wonderful site dedicated to Chang Nai-Miao. Chang Nai-Miao is the honored ancestor and renowned tea master who introduced Tie Guanyin Oolong tea to Muzha. The memorial temple and hall also feature a museum where one can learn more about tea, Tie Guanyin Oolong in particular, and Chang Nai-Miao’s life. There is a wide selection of tea and teaware on display and one can even learn how to pick out and select tea. Most exciting of all, one can be treated to a stellar Gong Fu-style tea experience, too. The temple is located in the misty mountains among tea fields and is the ideal place for one to sample Muzha Tie Guanyin firsthand, and reflect on the beauty of nature and the legacy of tea master Chang.
Muzha Tie Guanyin undergoes a special processing style, that sets it apart from other Taiwanese Oolong teas and even other Tie Guanyin leaves.
First, after the initial oxidization process, the leaves are allowed to dry which partially halts the oxidation of enzymes in the leaves. The leaves are not allowed to dry completely.
Next, the leaves are placed into a bag where they are rolled around into a ball shape. The bag is rolled 20-30 times. Between rolls, the bag is opened and the leaves are separated a bit before being rolled again. This process is repeated a few times.
Now, the leaves will be pan-fired. They are heated at about 70 to 80 degree Celsius before being bagged and rolled again.
After that, the leaves are heated again before being re-bagged and re-rolled.
Next, the leaves will be rolled by hand. This rolling process goes on 10-20 times or so. The rolling by hand is repeated many times as a whole. Between the special varietal that is used, the several dozen rolling methods and intervals, and the special pan-frying method, the final product of Muzha Tie Guanyin is truly stunning.
But what is the flavor and aroma profile of Muzha Tie Guanyin Oolong tea? The unique and special process that these leaves undergo manifests in a flavor and aroma palette that is a harmonious fruity-acidic akin to ripe plum or other fresh and somewhat brisk fruits. The flavor is crisp, smooth, fruity, and carries a cavalcade of nuanced hints and notes. it is a leaf that must be tasted to be believed.
The most ideal way to brew any Oolong is in a Yixing teapot. Yixing is a special clay from China and is formed into charming little teapots that grace many a Gong Fu table. The Yixing is great for Oolong because it gives one an authentic mode of brewing. As you brew the same leaf the porous interior of the pot attains a charismatic level of aroma and flavor that imbues each brewing.
Instead of a yixing, a gaiwan cup is also ideal. The gaiwan allows one to have a personal window into the brewing process and the aroma of their leaves. It allows one to get as much of that direct leaf experience as possible and is also a very authentic way to enjoy Taiwanese tea.
Another great vessel option is a glass pot so one can witness their leaves twist turn pop and unfurl as they are immersed in the boiling water. This puts on quite a show and the leaves are just stunning to look at in the water.
No matter what vessel you use, be sure to use fresh, filtered, or purified water, and to allow your kettle to continue to boil for an extra 20 seconds to a minute. The best temperature to brew Oolong is about 195 degrees, and the ideal steeping time is about 3 minutes.
Be sure to brew your leaves multiple times as the leaves present a nuanced flavor and aroma experience with every subsequent brewing!
The Goddess of Mercy
You can experience the kind and benevolent compassion of Guan Yin when you brew Muzha Tie Guanyin Oolong leaves. Be sure to give your leaves multiple brews, and thank the goddess that these leaves found their way to Muzha!
- “1999 Aged Muzha Tieguanyin Oolong Tea, Lot 235.” Taiwan Tea Crafts, www.taiwanteacrafts.com/product/1999-aged-muzha-tieguanyin-oolong-tea/?v=38dd815e66db. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
- liberteas. Muzha Tikuanyin Oolong Tea from T-Oolong Tea. 2 Nov. 2013, www.sororiteasisters.com/2013/11/02/muzha-tikuanyin-oolong-tea-from-t-oolong-tea/. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
- “Muzha Organic Wu Yi Tie Guan Yin Roasted Oolong Tea - Spring 2018.” Taiwan Sourcing, taiwanoolongs.com/products/muzha-organic-wu-yi-tie-guan-yin-roasted-oolong-tea-spring-2018. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
- “Muzha Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea.” @Amazon, www.amazon.com/vdp/b42b78aa347b4e358d8fd95bf165435c. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
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