Tie Guan Yin or Ti Kuan Yin tea is publicly known as the pearl of teas in China, honored as the king of Chinese teas.
There are five harvest seasons for Tie Guan Yin throughout a year, from spring, summer, mid-summer, autumn and winter. The autumn Tie Guan Yin tea is the best of refreshing aroma teas. Spring Tie Guan Yin is harvested around Start of Summer and has the best overall quality. Although the aroma of autumn tea is stronger than spring tea, the taste is not as complex as spring tea. Winter tea is ranked after, and two summer teas are considered lower-quality.
Jade Tie Guan Yin or lightly baked Tie Guan Yin, is a newer type of Tie Guan Yin developed in the late last century and has a light green jade color. It produces a very flowery aroma and taste. It is more similar to green tea than Oolong. Guanyin King or Guanyin Wang is the best of Jade Tieguanyin and Autumn Tieguanyin.
Tea plant is particular about the climate, environment and more. The less water containing in the soil and the air in the cool autumn climate provides the autumn Tie Guan Yin a great condition to yield the high fragrant tea leaves. Due to the difference of seasonal climate change and the difference of nutrition containing in the tea plant itself, the tea quality inevitably changes after fresh leaves being picked from the tea tree. The processed tea based on such prior condition, the quality is bound to be better.
The spring or the autumn Tie Guan Yin normally are the far better ones compare to winter and summer. They both have their own characteristics. If you prefer the aroma more than the taste, buy the autumn tea instead of spring tea which is basically costed more.
Four Ways to Distinguish the Quality of Tie Guan Yin tea
Tie Guan Yin, as the name suggests, weigh like iron and shape like Goddess. Tie Guan Yin is a semi-fermented tea which is between full fermented black tea and non fermented green tea, having a unique flavor. There are numerous varieties on the market developed by tea vendors now from light fermentation to mid-oxidation about 50% or even more, however they are all classified by its quality. The light-fermented Guan Yin tea is also named Jade Guan Yin due to its fresh green jade-like color from its lightly fermented process. And when the tea leaves get more oxidized, the color of leaves apperently change to brown as well as the tea soup. The aroma becomes more fruity than original vegetal floral.
Let's take a look at its shape, the loose profile, it is telling that is a very general level tea. The finest quality of the Tie Guan Yin should be defined as tight, solid and heavy feel.
The color of better grade less fermented Tie Guan Yin tea should look fresh and green. The mid-oxidized should have fresh greenish brown color. On the other hand, if the color looks pale, then it might have lost its freshness already, and the taste of the tea is no longer followed by sweetness. Moreover, it should not be looked too dry with lots of broken fannings.
From its taste and flavor, the high quality Tie Guan Yin should taste fresh, sweet and fragrant. Any sour, bitter taste or unnatural aroma should considered lower quality, but be aware of some businesses adding flavor into the tea to keep up the aroma which is not natural.
Another way to test the quality of Tie Guan Yin is the mouthfeel after drinking this fresh oolong tea. The good one will last the fragrance longer in the mouth, and can obviously feel the effect. These are very basic knowledges to learn before you start to buy Tie Guan Yin oolong tea.
How to Buy Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea
To buy a good quality Tie Guan Yin tea, we should understand some basic knowledge about this unique oolong tea. First, you need to observe the appearance of the tea by looking at the freshness of color of tea leaf under the light source. If the tea looks dry dark grey should be inferior tea. The winter tea should look jade green while the spring tea is blackish green. The better one should coat with green white frost. Moreover, you should watch for whether the red edge existed, which is indicating the moderation of its fermentation. On the other hand, the small glossy appearance is telling that they are those buds lack of fermentation.
Second, it is the aroma of the tea. This is probably the easiest way for everyone. Hold the tea closely and try to smell it for three times. The good tea will continuously get stronger and stronger aroma every time you smell it, contrarily the lower qualities are used to be lack of this.
Third is the touch, which is the hand feel of tea leaf shaking on your hand. The round shape of tea cannot be felt too soft, since I could be no enough dried. As well as the weight of tea should be modest. If its weight is felt too light on your hand it could be lack of taste while the overweight could be much bitter. The higher quality tea leaves usually have the characteristic of tight and solid feel, and also you can hear crisp sound when you gently shake a few pieces of dry tea in a glass instead of dumb sound from inferior.
Finally is the brewing, the most important way to tell the difference of the quality. You only need a 5 gram of tea leaf steeped with 150 ml of boiled water for 5 minutes. Then, push aside the tea leaves with a tea spoon. The difference of the tea soup will tell the different quality of the tea leaves. The cloudy soup tells that the tea leaf is not fried enough. And the weak clear soup tells that it is rather tender and not properly fermented while the broken yellowish leaves is over fried. The color of the tea soup from the higher quality of tea leaves must be bright and thick. Due to the difference of the varieties of the tea leaves and the producing methods, the color of soups may be varied from yellow to golden yellow. Moreover, it should not have grassy smell, even if the tea is getting cold, the orchid floral aroma is still around.