Tie Guan Yin
Tie Guan Yin ("Iron Bodhisattva/Goddess of Compassion/Mercy" also romanized Tie Kuan/Quan Yin) is a popular style of oolong from the Anxi region of Fujian Province, China. It is processed into a rolled shape, and may either be roasted or unroasted.
Traditionally Tie Guan Yin was processed into a striped shape. The currently popular rolled shape of Tie Guan Yin started in mid-1990s,under the influence of Taiwan oolong. Besides change of shape, a fundamental change in Tie Guan Yin, as well as almost all other southern Fujian oolong varietals, is the oxidation level of the tea is significantly lighter than that found in traditional Tie Guan Yin. Although traditional style of Tie Guan Yin with medium oxidation can occasionally be found, the modern style of Tie Guan Yin with light oxidation is more commonly seen in market after 1990s.
Translation and Etymology
Tie translates to "iron", and Guan Yin to "Observing the Sounds/Cries of the World". Tie Guan Yin is the Chinese name given to the Indian Buddhist figure Avalokiteśvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. It is also the name of a similar figure in the Daoist tradition, but it is commonly understood that this Daoist figure was lifted from Buddhism.
Tie Guan Yin is often translated as "Iron Goddess of Mercy/Compassion," but it is more accurately translated (from a Buddhist perspective) as "Iron Bodhisattva of Mercy/Compassion." In the Buddhist hierarchy of beings, gods are not necessarily any closer to enlightenment than a human, animal, or any other being. They have just earned more good karma in their previous lives; a bodhisattva, on the other hand, is an extremely advanced being.
As with many teas, several popular folk tales exist about the origination of tie guan yin tea. One such legend is below.
A poor farmer was dismayed by the poor condition of the Guan Yin temple (with an iron statue of Guan Yin) near his home. He wished to repair it, but had not the resources to do so. Doing what he could, he instead brought frequent offerings of incense and swept the floor of the temple. One night, the bodhisattva Guan Yin appeared to him in a dream, telling him that there was a treasure for him and his neighbors behind the temple. The farmer looked and found a lone tea plant, and took it back to his farm, where he cultivated it into a tea bush, which produced spectacular tea. He gave cuttings to his neighbors, and they sold the tea as Tie Guan Yin. Eventually, the farmers grew prosperous, and the temple was rebuilt.
Tie Guan Yin may be brewed in any number of ways– it is not usually a fussy tea. However, using a gaiwan or Yixing pot will generally produce the best results. Typical parameters for brewing with these tools are: 1/5 of brewing vessel full of leaf (or, about 5g/100mL), boiling or just off the boil water, and infusion times starting at ~30s, adjusting to taste.
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