The legend(s) of Tiequanyin – Iron Goddess Oolong tea

Iron Goddess tea
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Tiequanyin, or Iron Goddess, is one of the most well-known teas in China. It is different from other oolongs in that it is fermented longer and its leaves tend to be more spherical in shape. The Iron Goddess brews into a golden brown liquid with a strong baked aroma, with a sweet and fruit flavour. People are drawn to the tea for its taste and fragrance but few are aware of the history and legends behind the name of this tea.

Iron Goddess oolong has three legends surrounding it; the Wei legend, Wang legend and the Monkey legend.

Wei Legend

Centuries ago there lived a poor farmer in the Fujian Province of China. There was a temple in this province that was dedicated to the Iron Goddess of Mercy and every morning the poor farmer would walk past his temple to his farm. The temple had not been cared for in a long time and was in a very poor condition. The farmer had no means to repair the temple but still wanted to help. The farmer bought a broom and some incense, he swept the temple clean and lit the incense as an offering to the Goddess.  For many months the farmer repeated the same tasks. One night, the Goddess appeared to him in a dream, she told him of a cave behind the temple where treasure awaited and that he was to take the treasure and share it with others. In the cave, the farmer found a single tea shoot which he planted in his farm and nurtured into a large tea bush, from which the finest tea was produced. He gave cuttings of the tea plant to his neighbours and started selling it under the name Tiequanyin. Over time, the farmer and his neighbours prospered and the temple was repaired and became the beacon for the region.

Wang Legend

Wang was a scholar who accidentally discovered the tea plant beneath the Guanyin rock in Xiping. He brought the plant back home for cultivation. When he visited Emperor Qianlong in the 6th year of his reign, he offered the tea as a gift from his native village. Emperor Qianlong was so impressed that he inquired about its origin. Since the tea was discovered beneath the Guanyin Rock, he decided to call it the Guanyin tea.

Monkey Legend

Many centuries ago, a Buddhist monk was picking tea leaves. His monkey saw his master picking the leaves and started imitating him. The monk discovered that the tea leaves picked by the monkey produced a uniquely different flavour than the ones he picked himself. He was so impressed that he got his monkey to begin picking tea for him from the high mountains of Fujian province which was unreachable by humans. Others tea pickers saw this, and started adopting the practice themselves. But now, only a small Chinese village still continues the tradition.

Whether or not these legends are true, it is still amazing that a single type of tea can hold so much history.

The French and Their Tea

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An interesting article appeared on the BBC’s website in April; it was about France and French teas in comparison with Britain and their treatment of tea. As it turns out, France is reentering the tea market and is quickly becoming famous for their unique and beautiful blends.

The strange thing is, France once upon a time had a tea habit that seriously rivaled the English tea consumption rate. However, as time went on it eventually extinguished to the point where it was very difficult to find a good-quality cup. Only aristocrats and very unwell people drank it on any sort of regular basis, and good tea had to be almost exclusively self-imported.

You can read all about France’s tea story in the BBC article, here: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26962095

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Your Opinion Would Be Appreciated

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Today is a day for Gauging Interest, I think.

All of you are our readers, and we love having you on board. While we have a multitude of posts on a multitude of different topics surrounding tea, we want to know what you want to see more of. So, we’re going to start with a quick poll. You can choose up to three of the following options:

Now here’s the not-as-quick (but still quick!) option: are there any particular posts that you would like to see? We have access to a wealth of tea knowledge here at Australian Tea Masters, and chances are if you have a question about something related to tea, we probably a) know the answer, or b) can get to the bottom of it.

In addition, if you have a tea blog you’d like us to look at (or know someone else’s), link us! We’re always keen to network and share useful posts to a wider audience.

A Pot Full of Memories

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Made from a special clay found only in the city of Yixing, China, this extraordinary teapot possesses the ability to absorb the flavours of the teas inside it over a number of years.

Those who have the privilege of owning and using one over many years are said to be able to brew tea simply by adding plain, boiling water to the pot.

Before the teapot is made, the mined-out clay is left in the sun in the form of large rocks after extraction to weather. This process will take in excess of a year before the clay is ready to be pounded into a powder and sieved to remove impurities. The clay is then placed in a large fresh water tank for three days, and is then allowed to dry out under sunlight. Finally, before it is ready to be sold, excess moisture is drawn out of the product using a vacuum processor.

Such preparation seems excessive, but it doesn’t end there. The potter artisan must make time for a further two days of processing, which involves pounding the clay with a wooden mallet while every so often adding some water, until there are no air pockets to be seen.

With such a lengthy process and renowned tea-brewing capabilities, Yixing teapots are not nearly as expensive as they might sound at first glance. The unfortunate truth, however, is that while commonplace in China, much of the Western World is unfamiliar with them.

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A History of Tea Drinking in Russia, Part 1

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With the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games under way, there is much to be said about Russia. Many don’t realise, however, that Russia has a long history of drinking tea – even longer than Britain, believe it or not – and the country itself still greatly appreciates a good cup of tea to this very day.

A good 100 years before Britain got its first taste of steeped heaven, Russia was importing tea from China. The rest of Europe would have to wait as Russia developed a bustling and thriving culture of serving tea.

During the 19th century, tea had become so strongly associated with the people of Russia that despite the fact tea was produced in China, certain types of black tea were known as “Russian” teas anyway. Russian Caravan is a traditional black tea and is known for its smoky character. It received its name due to its method of importation; generally via caravans led by camels. Black tea is still the most popular tea in Russia, however many residents are now drinking green tea as well.

Perhaps the biggest reason for Russia’s rich culture in tea is its climate; cold days high up in the Northern Hemisphere chill to the bone, but tea is one of the best and tastiest ways to warm up from the inside. Tea has had a profound affect on the Russian way of life since it was introduced in 1638; the Chinese Emperor from West Mongolia first presented the Russian Czar with tea as a gift, however it was refused. The Czar saw no apparent use for “a load of dead leaves”, however eventually accepted upon the Emperor’s insistence. And thus Russia’s tea culture began.

Getting to Russia from China, however, was no simple matter. It was a difficult slog from start to finish, and the harsh conditions importers faced meant that many turned down the offer despite demand. Russian aristocrats were therefore the first to serve the drink and make it acceptable within Russian culture, as its limited supply resulted in skyrocketing prices that few could afford.

When Russia marked sovereignty over Siberia in 1689, however, a tea trade route was created which made it easier for traders. Catherine the Great was the real pioneer in tea importation, however; by the time she had died in 1796, she had ordered the importation of so much tea that class and expense was no longer an issue. Even low-class workers could afford and enjoy the serenity that came with a good cup of loose-leaf tea.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this post on tea in Russia! Throughout the Olympic Games we will be creating a number of other Russia-themed posts, including more Russian tea history and all about the samovar.

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