When I first tried this tea (a few months back), I was quite disappointed with it. I had prepared a double tea tasting session involving a high quality GuanYinWang (unsure as to the brand/location etc.) and this ‘ti kuan yin’ (also written as tieguanyin in Chinese Pin Yin spelling).
I think due to the juxtaposition of the teas I was left severely dissatisfied – almost feeling like I had wasted $13 on 100g of the stuff. As my girlfriend had had the exact same reaction to it, I felt that the tea was of unmistakably poor quality.
I later reconciled myself however, by remembering that each cup of tea is something to learn from.
Some time later I decided to give it another go as there wasn’t much left in the package and I thought I might as well finish it off.
During last night’s tea session I had it in a large metal teapot, using a tablespoon worth of tea brewed with boiling water for about 2.5/3 minutes (pre-rinsed the leaves first of course).
It was surprisingly different to my first impression. It came out quite sweet, like a honey coated buttery flavour. The mouth-feel was quite flat though – I received confirmation from my girlfriend of this fact. She also commented that the sweetness could either be of melon or of honey.
I personally took it to be more of a butter-type, perhaps even popcorn flavour – then it made me wonder whether the aroma had cross-contaminated with the Gen Mai Cha I had purchased from the same place (all packages are in a sealed light proof bag, so I doubt this highly, unless contaminated in-store).
Just to make sure I tried the tea a few more times, and each time it was slightly different (perhaps due to brewing, but as I felt I had kept most of the variables the same, I pinned it on the leaves themselves).
The leaves on the other hand were quite a sad sight. Some of the leaves were nice and fresh, while others seemed to have withered quite miserably (prior to processing). The colour of the leaves was very inconsistent: there were whites, pale greens, pale yellows, dark greens, faded maroon, faded deep purple and forest-floor brown. Some of the leaves were ripped, other appeared similar to images I had seen of tea plants with particular deficiencies (yellow or red around the rim of the leaf).
I don’t know exactly what this means; I will definitely be looking it up. Perhaps some teas are supposed to be comprised of all these bits and pieces. Perhaps not all teas are supposed to be uniform in colour and shape. My impression was the more consistent the tea was in size, shape, tightness of roll, shade of green etc. the better brew it will produce. Is there an exception to this rule?
I want to know what the deal is with cheap Tie Guan Yin. My understanding is that this Iron Goddess of Mercy goes through many different processing steps (I think perhaps even the most of all teas), and as such should it not be of a higher price? Are the cheaper Tie Guan Yin teas merely half-heartedly processed teas?
In conclusion, I’m glad I tried this tea again. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered it, just a bit inconsistent from cup to cup. Just make sure you don’t drink it alongside any top shelf teas.