All About Tieguanyin (Iron Goddess) Tea

If you love tea even half as much as I do, you’re probably just like me, always exploring new teas to expand your repertoire. If you’ve never heard of Tieguanyin tea, this is your sign to give it a try. With its unique, complex flavors and creamy taste, it’s no wonder this tea is beloved by tea fanatics across the world.

What is Tieguanyin?

Tieguanyin (pronounced tie-gwan-yin) is an oolong tea grown in China. One unique thing about this delightful tea is that it’s actually made using just the tea leaves, not the buds of the tea plant, which are used in most other teas worldwide. It’s also harvested during autumn, instead of spring, when other teas are picked.

The Iron Goddess

Why is it called “Iron Goddess tea”? There’s a story about Tieguanyin’s origins in ancient China. Legend says that in the 19th century, a poor man named Wei spent every day of his life honoring the gods by cleaning the local temple. One day, while tending to the temple, he had a profound vision of Guanyin, the Chinese goddess of mercy.

Guanyin told Wei of a precious treasure located behind the temple. When Wei went to check it, he found a tree growing in the soil. Legend has it that the very tree was Tieguanyin, and so it took its name from the goddess who allegedly bestowed her gift to the people of China.

Types of Tieguanyin

There are several types of Tieguanyin tea which range greatly in flavor and aroma, giving tea drinkers the opportunity to find a perfect fit. The most popular varieties of Tieguanyin include Anxi, Muzha, and Jade Tieguanyin. The primary difference between these tea types is the elevation and soil with which they’re grown.

Anxi Tieguanyin

Anxi Tieguanyin tea comes from a region of China which shares its name. Anxi is the closest Tieguanyin variant to a green tea. It’s prized for its mellow, floral flavor and it has a naturally golden hue. This subtype of Tieguanyin is very light and perfect for afternoon tea.

FUN FACT: Wei, the man from the story of Tieguanyin’s origin, was said to be from the Anxi province of China.

Muzha Tieguanyin

Muzha Tieguanyin, on the other hand, is a little closer to the strength and taste of a black tea. Muzha carries bold, rich flavors with a hint of nuttiness. This tea variety is considered a slightly lower quality, but is often more affordable, so it remains popular. Muzha is also a reddish-brown, almost coppery, hue.

Jade Tieguanyin

Unsurprisingly, Jade Tieguanyin is aptly named after the color it takes when brewed. Jade Tieguanyin is widely beloved by fans of Tieguanyin tea for its flowery, herbal taste and beautiful emerald color. This variety is most often made in Taiwan, but it’s also grown in China in smaller amounts.

What Does Tieguanyin Taste Like?

Depending on which subtype of Tieguanyin you go for, the flavor profile of your tea can change greatly – which is why it’s important to explore your options! If one type of Tieguanyin isn’t for you, try another instead. You may have better luck. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for in an oolong tea, check out this simple guide that can walk you through what’s available.

Brewing at Home

When you’re ready to make your own delicious cup of Tieguanyin tea, these simple brewing steps will guide the way.

  1. First, fill a mug with boiling water. There are a couple ways you can do this – either using a microwave or a tea kettle. I recommend using a tea kettle, because the microwaved water will give the tea a flat taste, whereas freshly boiled water over the stove just tastes a little bit better.
  2. Next, fully submerge a tea sachet of Tieguanyin tea into the water. You can always add another bag if the taste is too mellow. If you’re using looseleaf tea, you’ll need a tea strainer or infuser to do this. Fortunately, they’re easy to find and very affordable.
  3. Allow the tea to steep for just 1-2 minutes. It doesn’t take long for the pleasant flavor of Tieguanyin tea to settle in.
  4. Finally, enjoy your tea!

What Pairs Well with Tieguanyin?

Tieguanyin is a traditional Chinese tea, so naturally it pairs well with Asian cuisine. Tieguanyin has earthy, herbal tones in its flavor which complement vegetable-based dishes and noodles. It’s also widely enjoyed as a lunchtime tea and is served alongside spicy dishes because its natural sweetness helps mellow the heat. Overall, Tieguanyin’s flavor profile is very versatile. It can be enjoyed with almost anything.

Improving the Taste

If the taste of plain Tieguanyin isn’t for you, there are still ways you can enjoy this tea. Tieguanyin is an oolong tea, which are frequently enjoyed with extras because they’re something of an acquired taste.

 If you’re looking to improve your cup of Tieguanyin, you can dress it up with add-ins such as cream or milk, honey, sugar, or agave nectar. These ingredients sweeten your tea without subtracting from its natural flavor.

Caffeine, Carbs & Calories

Like most teas, Tieguanyin is free from calories and carbs when served by itself. However, adding in those little extras such as milk and honey can easily increase the calorie count.

Tieguanyin does have some caffeine, as most oolong teas do, but it averages between 12-14mg. A standard cup of coffee contains about 100mg of caffeine. The caffeine in Tieguanyin tea is just enough to give you a little boost without setting you up for a crash later.

Why Try Tieguanyin?

Tieguanyin has a complex, rich flavor that is sure to leave tea lovers reveling over their morning cup. Its history is as rich as its taste, and it’s as versatile as a tea can be. Its natural antioxidants are believed to provide some serious health benefits as well. Whether you’re new to the tea world or fell in love with this tea years ago, it’s clear that Tieguanyin has a lot to offer.