Traditional Roast Tie Guan Yin - 2009 Fall Anxi Oolong Tea
I spent a lot of time looking for and tasting every traditional style roasted Tie Guan Yin I could find this past Spring in Guangdong and Hong Kong. Interestingly, everywhere I went, people kept telling me that this style of TGY is only popular these days with the older Cantonese populations in Guangdong and Hong Kong, so many of the tea sellers I talked to didn’t bother to stock it any more. Nevertheless, I kept asking every time I ended up in a new shop, and I finally stumbled onto this beauty.
This tea comes from the Fall Harvest of 2009, and it was allowed to oxidize to what I estimate to be about 30-35% of the way before packing and shipping to the amazing 3rd generation Cantonese tea master we got this tea from. Over the next 18 months or so, the master baked and re-baked this tea multiple times at a relatively low temperature until he achieved the correct flavor profile and deemed it ready to sell.
When infused, the resulting liquor is not a deep, dark amber as you might expect with a more roasted Tie Guan Yin; rather, it is a more light honey-amber color, which is a direct result of the long, low temperature roasting process. In contrast to the many dark roasted, almost charred or burned tasting commercial versions of Anxi Tie Guan Yin that are available at your local Asian grocery, because of the slow, careful roast, the flavor of the infusion is more of a balance between the toasted (not burned) grain type flavors and the underlying sweet, fruity flavors and aromas from the Tie Guan Yin tea varietal itself.
In my opinion, this tea is best steeped Gong Fu style, and I have settled on about 8 grams in a 150ml gaiwan or Yixing teapot using water just under a boil. It is well suited to western style steeping, and I tend to use slightly more than usual leaf (maybe 2-2.5 teaspoons per cup) with this one to get a nice, thick and bracing brew. Of course, tastes will vary, so please experiment with times, temperatures, and amount of leaf used until you find your preference.