What You Need to Know about Anxi Tie Guan Yin Iron Goddess of Mercy – Meimei Fine Teas

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Anxi Iron Goddess of Mercy Statue Tie Guan Yin

What You Need to Know about Anxi Tie Guan Yin Iron Goddess of Mercy

One side of the mountain gently slopes downward, an Iron Goddess of Mercy statue crowning the ridge, overlooking the valley down below. On this slope are rows upon rows of tea bushes, shimmering from morning dew, and peaking up between them are all manner of reds, whites, and yellows from the various indigenous wildflowers. A pleasant, cool mist blankets the area, retreating with the dawn, and as the nocturnal symphony of croaks and chirps reach their grand finale, the birds, seemingly in unison, usher in their own performance, inviting all who can hear to welcome the emergence of the day. This is where Anxi Tieguanyin was born. As the story goes, here stands the statue of the Guanyin Goddess to protect this beautiful land. 

  the Origin of Tie Guan Yin

If it seems to be a place out of a fairy tale, rest assured, its majesty is very real. Located in Fujian Province, Anxi County has come to be known as the home to one of the most famous teas in all of the world: Tie Guan Yin (or iron goddess of mercy).

anxi county, fujiang province Chinese oolong tea

It is precisely this fairytale landscape that lends itself to the distinctive character of Tie Guan Yin. With the exception of deeper roasts, it is often renowned for its floral notes, and these aromatics are inherited from the wildflowers that grow nearby. The soil at these heights, a rich composition of sand and stone, imparts a subtle minerality to this oolong, enhancing the complexity of this lovely tea.

Both of these characteristics are hallmarks of a high quality Tie Guan Yin, for among the low-elevation plantations and farms, the native wildflowers are notably absent and the soil quality diminishes considerably, forcing farmers to resort to synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to grow their teas. But as you ascend the mountains, leaving the urban areas far behind, nature is able to work her magic, creating the ideal conditions for tea bushes and trees to flourish on their own.

If only crafting Anxi Tie Guan Yin were as simple as plucking tea leaves from these bushes. The aim of crafting a Tie Guan Yin is to produce a tea with a full, creamy body, and so this process begins with plucking the tea leaves by hand, a step known as cai qing (採青) in which the strictest of standards and a set of good eyes are used to select the right leaves. Nowadays, a lot of Tie Guan Yin fresh leaves are picked by machines to save labor cost. As a result, a lot of fresh leaves picked do not meet these quality standard and thus the quality of the tea is compromised. 

  Tie guan yin leave picking

From there, the leaves are then sun-withered and placed in bamboo baskets before gently tossing, rocking, and shaking them. This step, known as yao qing (搖青) is meant to breakdown the cellular structure of the tea leaves in order to produce the flavors we have come to associated with Tie Guan Yin. It is crucial at this step to exercise the utmost care, trying to strike a balance between too much and too little leaf breakdown, both of which can have unhappy consequences for the final flavor, ruining the tea entirely.

Tie guan yin leaves oolong tea processing yao qing

When the leaves are ready, Master Zhou will begin bao rou (包揉), painstakingly twisting and rolling each of the leaves by hand. With easily around 200 tea leaves in a 50g pouch, you can imagine how long something like this must take when producing several pounds of tea. Along with the other steps involved in crafting this oolong, Master Zhou spends several long days (and sometimes nights) trying to get his tea just right, preparing it for the roasting process.

Tie guan yin oolong processing chinese tea

After the tea is made, the final step is to sort and remove the small stems from the tea. Then tea is ready for consumption. 

Sorting and picking Tie Guan Yin tea leaves 

Anxi Tie Guan Yin is truly a labor of love, and the results speak for themselves. Between the unique terroir of this beautiful area and the tender hand administered by Master Zhou, this is an exceptional tea that we are lucky to be able to share with you.

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