oolong tea is one of the most prized teas grown in China. A medium-oxidized
oolong with greenish-black color, it imparts a beautiful amber infusion and an
intoxicating aroma. The highest-quality examples are classified as "Monkey
Picked." Legend has it that monks trained monkeys to collect the leaves
from the branches of wild tea trees growing on steep mountainsides. In
actuality the best Tieguanyin is cultivated, picked, and processed by masterful
human hands using centuries-old techniques.
tea is named for Tieguanyin (or T'ieh-Kuan-Yin), the Iron Goddess of Mercy. The
following is the legend surrounding the origin of this magical tea.
ago in Sand County, Fujian province, China, lived a tea farmer named Mr. Wei.
Each morning and evening he used to pass by a temple dedicated to the Goddess
T'ieh-Kuan-Yin. He was a poor farmer, but was often moved by the poorer
condition of the temple. So he would regularly burn incense inside the temple,
sweep the floors, and clean the statue of the Goddess.
Mr. Wei's deep devotion to her temple, T'ieh-Kuan-Yin appeared to him in a
dream and said: "Behind the temple, deep in a cave is a treasure that will
last you for generations, but for it to be valuable you must share it with all
of your neighbors."
up and rushing to the cave behind the temple, Mr. Wei searched and searched for
the treasure. But the only thing he found was a small sprig of a tea bush.
Unhappily he took this sprig and planted it in his tea garden. Over the next
few years it grew into a bush. When he made tea from the leaves of this bush,
he noticed a unique fragrance and amber infusion which lasted over many
subsequent steeps of the same leaves.
Wei propagated the bush further into hundreds of tea bushes and, remembering
the instructions of the Goddess, he gave shoots and seeds to all of his
neighbors. Traders in the capital heard of the famous tea named after
T'ieh-Kuan-Yin and the region that specialized in growing it. Soon all of the
farmers in Sand County became prosperous and Tieguanyin Oolong developed a
national reputation. The temple was repaired and funds put aside for its
Goddess continues to bless the region today, as some of the best Tieguanyin
still comes from Fujian. Other good Tieguanyin-style oolongs are grown in
Taiwan as well.