Alishan Tie Guan Yin Oolong (阿里山鐵觀音烏龍) is a complex high mountain oolong from the famous Alishan tea growing area of Taiwan. This is a traditional Muzha-style tea that has been expertly roasted to produce a wonderfully bold, classic roasted profile. Grown at an altitude of 1,000 metres, this particular batch was handpicked and baked in autumn 2020.
Tie Guan Yin Oolong is a particularly famous Chinese tea that originates from Anxi County of Fujian Province. Traditionally this kind of oolong tea should be roasted. The roasting process is also known as baking and such teas sometimes have the word charcoal in their name. However recent fashion in China means that most Tie Guan Yin oolongs produced there are very minimally oxidised. This style of ‘green oolong’ is increasingly popular due to bright floral flavours and there is much demand for these lighter style of teas. Hence it is often difficult to find a good traditionally roasted Tie Guan Yin Oolong from China. The roasting process requires great skill on part of the tea master and is time consuming. Many prefer to offer less time-intensive lightly oxidised teas instead. Our minimally oxidised Tie Guan Yin Oolong from Anxi is a prime example of this new modern style.
This Alishan Tie Guan Yin Oolong by comparison is a great insight into the more traditional and classic way of producing this oolong. The heritage processing methods have been kept alive and well in Taiwan ever since the original Tie Guan Yin plants and processing techniques were brought from Fujian over 100 years ago. The most famous Tie Guan Yin from Taiwan is undoubtably that from Muzha in northern Taiwan, just outside of Taipei. Here the heritage processing methods are still used to produce teas that are famous for their complexity. This particular Tie Guan Yin is from a different terroir; it is made from Tie Guan Yin bushes that were planted at a small family garden in Alishan. The tea is slowly fired by the tea master over a period of several weeks using the same heritage processing methods employed in northern Taiwan. She is highly skilled and is in fact responsible for the vast majority of our Taiwanese teas that have undergone any sort of finishing by roasting.
The leaves of this oolong are tightly rolled, oxidised to about 20-25% and are medium to highly baked. The liquor produced is bright and very clear with a comforting roasted aroma. The roasted profile exhibits complex multi-layered flavours that are clean and fresh. There are roasted, metallic, warming flavours with herbaceous, subtly peppery and spicy notes or caramelised nuts and roasted chestnuts. It has quite a full, juicy, charcoal flavour that gives way to a tangy, fruity, clean aftertaste. The flavours have a vaporescent quality that make this an intriguing cup. This is definitely a tea to be savoured over multiple infusions since the complexity of each cup reveals something new and exciting.
It is best brewed at 90°C for 3-5 minutes according to your taste and should be brewed multiple times, increasing steeping time with each brew if desired. We find that a longer initial steep of 4 minutes followed by shorter steeping times for subsequent infusions to be best for bringing out complexity of notes. For best results we recommend brewing this tea gong fu style, 6g per 100ml at 95°C with an initial 2-3 seconds rinse followed by 1st infusion of 25s. Then add 5s to each further infusion.
This Alishan Tie Guan Yin Oolong tea was first featured in our February 2020 Curious Tea Subscription Boxes.