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What is Tie Guan Yin?

Tie Guan Yin is a popular type of oolong tea. Oolong teas are semi-oxidized, which puts them in a category between green and black teas in flavor and appearance. The controlled level of oxidation creates a complex flavor profile. This tea can also be roasted, adding to its complexity. Depending on the production style, it can be rich and floral, or deep and toasty.

Tie Guan Yin Tea Originated in China’s Anxi region of Fujian province in the 19th century, and it is still grown there today. The leaves are from the tea cultivar, although others are also used. The leaves are rolled into a tight semi-balled shape, which slowly unfurl as you steep the tea. This aromatic tea can be steeped many times, allowing the leaves to completely open up, and release their flavors.

Other names: Iron Goddess of Mercy, Ti Kuan Yin, Tieguanyin, Guanyin and Iron Buddha, many tea drinkers refer to it simply as TGY

tie guan yin statue wood
tie guan yin statue head
tie guan yin statue gold

Tie Guan Yin Origin

It's a tea with a fabled history and folklore. Its origins have conflicting stories, depending on who you ask. Tie Guan Yin translates to “Iron ‘Guanyin’” , Guanyin is know to be the Goddess of Mercy. The two legends associated with the origin of the tea are Wei and Wang.

Legend of Wei

In the center of Anxi Town, there was a neglected temple that had an Iron Statue of Guan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Every day, on the way to his tea fields, an old tea farmer named Wei passed by the statue and reflected how beautiful the temple was and how poorly it was kept. Something had to be done, he thought. Being poor, he lacked the means to restore the temple.

Instead, he brought a broom and some incense, cleaned the temple and lit the incense as an offer for Guan Yin. "It's the least I can do". He repeated the task at least twice a month for many months after.

One Night, Guan Yin appeared in his dream and told him about a cave behind the temple where a treasure was waiting for him, which he had to take and share with others. At the cave, the farmer found a single tea bud. He planted in his field and cultivated until it became a large bush, from which he harvested the best tea. He gave a few sprigs of this rare plant to all his neighbors and began selling the tea under the name Tie Guan Yin.

Over time, Wei and all his neighbors prospered and the temple was restored and became a beacon for the region. Wei never stopped appreciating the beautiful temple.

Legend of Wang

In the first year of Emperor Qianlong a scholar named Wang, a native of Xiping accidentally discovered the tea plant underneath the Guanyin rock in Xiping. He then took it home, carefully cultivate, and grow it. In the sixth year of Qianlong, Wang visited the Qianlong Emperor and offered the tea as a gift from his hometown.

The Emperor was so impressed with it's strong, like iron, taste that he asked about its origin. As the tea has been found under the Guanyin rock, he decided to call it Guanyin Tea

Tie Guan Yin Types

There are two main types of Tie Guan Yin: Anxi and Muzha. The names reflect the region and country where they are produced. Each area creates a very different style of tea. The Anxi style is green and floral, while the Muzha style is rich and roasty.

Anxi Tie Guan Yin

green tie guan yin leaves
green tie guan yin liquor

Anxi Tie Guan Yin is produced in the Anxi area of Fujian province in China. In the Chinese production style the leaves are lightly oxidized, and gently roasted, if at all. The tea is rolled in a semi-balled style, and the appearance is quite green. Chinese Tie Guan Yin has a vibrant floral aroma, golden color, and a buttery, velvety texture. This style of is quite popular and easier to find.

Muzha Tie Guan Yin

roasted tie guan yin leaves
roasted tie guan yin tea color

Muzha Tie Guan Yin is produced in the Muzha area of Taiwan. This tea is further oxidized, relative to Anxi, and slowly roasted. Rolled into a ball shape similar to the Anxi style, however the leaves are much darker in appearance with nutty, smoky, roasted notes. The liquid is a dark, coppery reddish brown. The flavor is much stronger and deeper than its greener, Chinese counterpart.

Taiwanese Tie Guan Yin

tie guan yin loose leaf tea
tie guan yin loose leaf tea steeped
tie guan yin tea color

As mentioned above, Taiwan is known for the roasted, darker type. The cultivar was introduced to Taiwan 1920s and the more traditional, oxidized and roasted style was used to process the leaves. These teas are produced in Muzha, a region in the southern Wenshan District of Taipei City.

The leaves are oxidized for a longer period of time than the Anxi style, around 30%-40% and are usually finished with a charcoal roast. Processing the leaves in this way brings out nutty and stone fruit flavors.

You can find the Muzha style here at Té Company. If you are looking for a lighter one, you can try our Mount Pyrus tea from Li Shan. While not exactly the same as an Anxi Tie Guan Yin, it has a similar fresh, aromatic profile.

Tie Guan Yin Caffeine

This oolong tea does contain caffeine, as it comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The caffeine content in tea varies with the processing.

Please refer to our tea and caffeine blog post for more information on this topic.

How To Make Tie Guan Yin Tea

Tie Guan Yin Hot Tea

Here is a starting point on how to brew this tea. Once familiar with the tea, you should experiment with the leaves and steep time to see what you like best.

Tie Guan Yin 6 grams
Water 237 ml, heated to 212°F (Boiling)

Add a generous teaspoon of Tie Guan Yin tea leaves into your brewing vessel. Pour the boiling water and steep for 1 – 2 minutes. Sip and enjoy.

Tie Guan Yin Cold Brew Tea

We love Muzha type as a cold brew. It is refreshing and brings out surprising notes in the tea that may not be apparent when it’s prepared hot. Please note, you need more time, and more tea to prepare a cold brew.

Muzha Tie Guan Yin 8 grams
Water .75 Liter (cold)

Place the tea in a vessel and pour in the cold water. Give it a gentle shake to combine. Pop in the fridge and let it sit for 24 hours. Pour into a glass with ice and enjoy!

For more about preparing your tea both hot and cold, check out our brewing guides.

Shop Iron Goddess

We offer two different renditions of Taiwanese Muzha type.

The first, Iron Goddess, is a blend of two cultivars processed with a slow, repeated roast to bring out a more intense bouquet. The roast notes are heavy, like an old man smoking cigars on side street hickory benches. It is the peat whiskey of teas.

The second, Iron Goddess Archetype, is a more classical interpretation made from the Tie Guan Yin cultivar. Compared to the Iron Goddess, the Archetype has tighter and more detailed roasted overtones tempered by tangy, caramelized fruit.

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