This tea is a bit expensive, but worth it. In fact, I consider it pretty much the perfect oolong. If you like roasted oolongs, you really need to try this. Let’s be clear: this is seriously roasted. If you like your oolongs to be gentle and flowery, this might not be for you. But if you prefer something a little bolder and more substantial, you’ll love this.
A note on the name: The Tea Gallery uses the term “Iron Boddhisattva” for what other vendors call “Tie Guan Yin,” perhaps to avoid the messy orthographic variants associated with the more common term. This translation is accurate enough, I guess, but it substitutes the generic term “boddhisattva” for Guan Yin, a specific boddhisattva who embodies mercy and who is especially dear to East Asian Buddhists. Tie Guan Yin traditionally comes from the Anxi province of China, although some are now grown in Taiwan.
This is a tea that benefits from a little thought in brewing. Done wrong, a tea with such a strong roast can just taste burnt. I brew it in a gaiwan and use lots o’ leaf, but very short steeps (< 1 min. in the earlier ones). I throw out the first steep. The liquor is a beautiful red-amber. The aroma will remind you of a campfire. The flavor is surprisingly complex, with chocolate prominent, but with notes of stone fruits and a subtle mineral quality. As you proceed with multiple steeps, the roasted chocolaty flavors recede and the fruity qualities come forward. This is one of the most fun things about the tea: there is so much difference between the early steeps and later ones. It’s beautiful to watch the tea evolve over the course of an afternoon. The downside to that is that you’ll likely keep drinking it and drinking it to see where it will go and before you know it you’ll have drunk ungodly quantities of tea and won’t be able to go to sleep.