So, I've tried several Ti Kuan Yin teas (also spelled Tieguanyin and Ti Kwan Yin) and none of them could even compare to the one I had. In my desperation I even continued to mention this tea to the owner of our local Chinese restaurant. Eventually, he just gave me one of his personal packages of tea (also very good I might add, but again, his mother brought it from China). But, he explained to me that the reason I was having a hard time is because although teas have the same name, the quality will vary depending upon the way the tea is processed and how it is grown, etc. Ahhh, that must explain it. In addition, a bagged version of this tea (or any other tea for that matter) will never be the same quality and even some loose teas are different. So that would explain why the loose tea I bought for less than $4 was okay, but not that great. If I wanted the taste I was seeking, I would have to look for "the good stuff." Hence, the prowl continued.
A Chinese student's parents heard my cry and sent me a can of tea from their recent trip to New York. It was Nan Yen Ti Kuan Yin and it was good, but not the same. I'm still testing it out because I also realize that all teas cannot be steeped for the same amount of time. For some teas, even 5 minutes is too long. The tea will begin to have a bitter aftertaste, which is not desirable. Since all of the instructions of the teas have been written in characters, I have not found the perfect steeping time and tea measurement for the tea I have, but I've recently read that the tea should be light in color which indicates a lesser steeping time.
So what is Ti Kuan Yin? It's an oolong tea that's also known as the "Iron Goddess of Mercy." Why? The name "Ti Kuan Yin" translates into the word "Iron" in English. In part, the tea leaves are rolled very tightly and when they hit the bottom of your cup, they sound like pieces of iron clanking in the cup. According to some tea sources, if the tea leaves do not make this sound, then you have just purchased a fake version of Ti Kuan Yin. (I think I've had some fakes.)
So, how am I going to continue my prowl for this most special tea? I can't wait on Santa to put a plane ticket to China in my stocking, so in the meantime, I will continue to read, search online, and sample when necessary. In my search, I have discovered that Teavana sells Ti Kuan Yin tea under the name "Monkey Picked Oolong." Now I understand the name because one of the legends surrounding this tea states that the monks were unable to reach these leaves and so they trained monkeys to pick those leaves for them. The Teavana price is a bit steep for a tea that I don't know how it tastes, so I hope that one day I will go to a Teavana and sample just one cup of that.
In the meantime, I have also discovered the Mighty Leaf tea Company sells two qualities of Ti Kuan Yin. I think I'll start with the lesser. By signing up for a newsletter with this company, you get a 15% discount coupon on their teas, so I will use that discount to try this tea. I'll let you know what the result is.
Is this search for this tea just because of a good taste? No, but it does taste good (to me). There are many benefits of this tea which you can read in detail here.
In my quest, I stumbled upon a group of bloggers who review teas. Yes, a tea review blog. How cool is that? So, before you randomly purchase (any tea), check the Tea Review Blog to see if there is some available commentary on your potential tea choice. Also, they host a tea swap every month! I believe I've just found a new blog to follow. :-)
The quest continues...