This spring our 2019 Tieguanyin Monkey-Picked / Clear & Fragrant-style oolong was grown in the same tea garden, on the same rugged slopes, as was our tea from 2016, 2017, and 2018. This location is in the Anxi region, in southern Fujian Province (Min-Nan), the place for semiball-rolled style oolong, and especially that of the Tieguanyin cultivar.
Tieguanyin has always been highly prized, and as with all Chinese tea, many grades of quality of this tea exist. Is this tea really picked by monkeys? No, it is not. When tea producers bestow the term ’Monkey-Picked’ on their tea, it is a designation that means unrivaled quality due to one of two reasons (or both!):
1. this particular batch of tea came from a tea garden located at a very high elevation (the finer leaf and therefore the more exquisite tea tends to grow in gardens at higher elevations )
2. this tea was plucked from tea bushes growing in difficult to reach places; ie. nearly inaccessible places that require that the tea pluckers be ’as agile as a monkey.’
This tea is extremely floral and mouth-filling. Oxidized to a moderate 25-40%, this oolong is made from the true Tieguanyin tea bush cultivar and is grown in Gan De Village, one of the villages famous for authentic Tieguanyin tea.
While many semiball-rolled style oolongs are made from different tea bush cultivars in the Anxi region (Ben Shan, Huang Jin Gui, Mao Xie and others), authentic Tieguanyin such as this one has a characteristic and readily identifiable fragrance that sets it apart from other similar oolongs.
True to form, spring-pluck Tieguanyin has both high fragrance and substantial flavor in the cup. The aroma of this tea has a brisk mineral-y quality (the aroma of stones in a mountain stream). This is derived from the soil and is reminiscent of the crisp steel-y-ness of the minerals in the ground in which the tea plants thrive, and is a quality that harmonizes well with its bright floral taste, adding complexity and verve to the flavor. A subtle hint of celery also appears in the pungent vegetal notes. Expect a sweet, floral, lingering aftertaste that is the hallmark of a well-made Tieguanyin.
This is a very ‘green’ semiball-rolled oolong. It is a far cry from the highly-oxidized, traditional-style roasted oolongs that are a lovely dark-brown in color, such as our Traditional-Style. While the roasted semiball-rolled oolongs have always been more popular in China, Malaysia and Taiwan, this modern, greener-style is more popular with tea drinkers in the West, particularly Germany, Canada, and the US.
Tea Trekker’s 2019 spring Tieguanyin Clear & Fragrant-style oolong can be enjoyed over the course of many short steepings. The infusions will vary, initially being clear and light, then becoming very rich and mouth-filling before finally returning to an aromatic, clear infusion. The expertly-crimped leaves will swell and open fully, exposing the whole leaf, showing off the lovely crimson-tinged edges of the authentic Tieguanyin varietal.
Note: We are no longer sourcing both the Spring harvest and Autumn harvest of Tieguanyin each year, as we did for many years. We have found that the Spring harvest is much more popular these days, and so did not source the Autumnal Pluck for 2019.
rjh March 2020
Want to know more?