Exciting news! Our website for our upcoming event in October is now up! Please check it out and read all about our event. You can now purchase tickets, book into classes, register as an exhibitor, submit an entry into the Golden Leaf Awards and lots more! http://www.australianteaexpo.com.au
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.
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 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.
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.
Oolongs are an interesting breed of tea.
Many tea drinkers have only heard of “Black” tea, “Green” tea, and herbals, as that is simply what is stocked most commonly on the supermarket shelves. But there’s another extremely viable, extremely delicious form of tea that everyone should appreciate at least once in their lives: oolong tea.
Oolong teas are a vibrant in-between of green tea and black tea, offering qualities of both but never reaching either’s extremes. The reasoning for this lies in the process used to create oolong teas.
When the camellia sinensis (tea) leaves are picked off the bush, they are subjected to a process that gradually (or sometimes very rapidly) increases the oxidation levels in the leaves. Green tea is usually described as unoxidised or very lightly oxidised; typically the levels are very low or non-existent. Black tea, on the other hand, has been fully oxidised, which gives it its blackened colour and fuller taste.
So where does this leave oolong tea?
Oolong tea is right in the middle of green tea and black tea on the oxidation chart. It encompasses a wide range of oxidation percentages and can have more characteristics of green tea, or more characteristics of black tea, as a result. Typically, increasing the oxidation level of a tea will lower its catechin count and increase its caffeine levels.
Taiwan and China are especially famous for their oolong teas, and produce a large range for consumers to pick through. Some are among the most highly revered teas in the world.
Exciting news regarding the 2014 Melbourne Tea Fair – Exhibitor Registration is now open! You can download your Exhibitor Registration Form and Exhibitor Information Package from our website, at http://australianteamasters.com.au/blog/melbourne-tea-fair
Don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity! Exhibitor registration closes on July 18, 2014.
If you are lucky enough to explore the world, why not explore the world of tea? There are so many different types of teas you can try. I don’t mean just black, green, puerh, oolongs or white teas (or even yellow, blue or red teas). Try a first or second flush Darjeeling from India, a high grown tea from Ceylon, silver tips from China or an oolong from Taiwan.
Try to avoid flavoured teas as they don’t allow you to taste the real essence of tea you are trying. Each tea has it’s own natural flavour profile. Next time you go for something new, close your eyes and inhale the smell of the dry leaf, and then the wet. Drink in the aroma of the steaming cup of choice before you taste it. What can you smell? Do you notice any stone fruits or a nutty roasted flavour? Is it sweet or savoury? Now taste it. Does it taste the same as it smells?
If you are feeling adventurous, try a tea type you have never tried. On a recent trip to Europe I discovered a white Darjeeling – the flavour was so delicate with hints of peach and the leaves were downy and soft. It was so refreshing and light but full-bodied at the same time if that could be possible. It was wonderful to try something new. Discover your own new favourites. Or if you’d prefer to stick to something similar to what you are used too, perhaps just go for another type of black tea. How about a Keemun, Assam, Nilgiri or Yunnan?
Having discovered several new teas on my travels, it was even more delightful to come home to my usual daily cup.
Hint: Next time when you are out and about I encourage you to try something different. Ask for a loose leaf, and go for something you wouldn’t normally have. It makes your favourite cup of tea at home all the more special.
Words and image contributed by Tea Master, Suzi van Middelkoop from Tea by the Sea.