Anxi Oolongs: Again, similar to the Wu Li Rock Mountain oolongs, Anxi oolongs are grown in the Fujian province. Unlike the Wu Li Rock Mountain oolongs, they are typically on the lighter end of roasting, and as a result are usually classified as green oolongs. Below is a list of the most common Anxi oolongs and their attributes. There are a number of fake Anxi teas hovering around in the market, so be sure to buy from a good dealer. These are exceptional candidates for Yixing teapots and the Gong-Fu steeping method in general (more on those at a later post.) Fortunately, unlike Wu Yi Rock Mountain oolongs, these teas are generally a forgiving steep, and easy to prepare.
Tie Guan Yin: Translates to Iron Goddess. It is the most famous Anxi oolong. It’s a light tea, sometimes mistakenly labelled as a green tea. It can taste crisp, bright, and floral. Sometimes mellow. There are many varieties on this kind of oolong, so it’s almost a subcategory in itself (which as a side note, is the same for many oolongs) It’s among my favourite teas. According to legend, there was a poor farmer who once went on a contemplative walk to a temple. At the temple, there was an iron statue of a goddess standing erect and commanding, amongst the otherwise dilapidated temple. The farmer thought the temple ought to be in better condition, as it was housing a statue of a goddess. He couldn’t afford to rebuild the temple, but went back the next day with a broom and some incense. He swept away all the twigs and the dust; did the best he could without spending money. He then offered the incense to the statue, and went on his way. The farmer repeated this process every so often, almost becoming a caretaker for the temple. One visit, the goddess spoke to him. She told him there was a treasure behind the temple, and he should look to go to find it. The farmer did, and the treasure was a cutting from a tea bush. The farmer planted them, cultivated them, and got filthy rich. The tea, as a nod to the goddess, was named Tie Guan Yin.
Ma Liu Mi: Translated as – and I will say perhaps a bit misleadingly – Monkey Picked Oolong tea. I will firstly say these leaves are not picked by monkeys, despite what the odd mall-boutique tea dealer will try to imply. Often these are blends of various Anxi oolongs, though they may not always be. A good dealer will be able to tell you if it is blended or not. It tastes extremely light, usually, and floral; a descriptor which is common for green oolongs. It is a very green oolong, so it could be a gentle introduction to oolongs, for you green and white tea drinkers out there. According to legend, there was a tea bush on a mountain, which happened to produce extraordinary tea. The mountain was too difficult to climb by themselves, so they decided training monkeys to pick the leaves for them was less effort. I dislike outing specific tea dealers; I instead like to recommend good ones. But I can’t go on with a good conscious without mentioning this. I don’t think I’ll publish it in my book, but I need to say it at least in my blog. I have found that Teavana greatly misleads you about their monkey picked oolong. I have been flat outright told that theirs was officially the best oolong in the world, and have been told monkeys pick this tea. And though they’re tricky with the wording, they also highly imply the same thing on their website. These things simply are not true. They gravely overcharge for this tea, and lead you to believe – quite convincingly if you’re not yet a shrewd judge of tea – that it’s picked by monkeys. I have heard this complaint again and again, and I’ve heard of many a times people are tricked into spending more money than it’s worth. You are able to get much higher quality monkey picked oolong for greatly lower prices at the dealers I list at the bottom of the page. But of course this is just my opinion, and I don’t claim this as fact (he-he-he, try suing for libel now, Teavana)
Huangjin Gui: Translated as Golden Osmanthus, as it tastes and smells similar to osmanthus flowers. Because I like flowery teas, this also goes up on my list of favourite oolongs. Depending on the tea, it has honey notes to them. It’s a green, sprightly oolong that tastes like honey and osmanthus. It tastes as appealing as it sounds.
Li Li Xiang: Translated to Every Leaf Fragrant. Similar to the monkey oolongs, it is often blended with other Anxi oolongs, though that means it usually is a bit less expensive. It makes for a lovely every day oolong tea, which you don’t have to break the bank buying. It usually tastes pretty “standard” for green oolongs, meaning floral and fruity; of apricots or other stone fruits.
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