Award-Winning Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea | Eco-Cha Tea Club
December 19, 2023

Award-Winning Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea | Eco-Cha Tea Club

Award Winning Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea maker

Kicking off our ninth year of the Eco-Cha Tea Club with batch 97 — an award-winning Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea from Muzha, Taiwan. Shown above is our friend who made this tea, and from whom we source our in-store Tie Guan Yin Oolong. On the wall behind him are the numerous awards he's received in recent years — including Champion Award at the top.

Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea rolling by hand

The above image is both real and symbolic of the rolling process that is done "by hand", in that there is only one guy and one rolling machine used in this method, as opposed to a team operating three different machines that are normally used in the modern rolling and drying process. This is extremely rare nowadays. And while rolling and drying factory setups now include a hydraulic compacting machine, this manual method requires far more repetitions of rolling and wrapping than the standard.

Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea warmer

Another step in the rolling and drying process that is unique to Tie Guan Yin Oolong tea making is the use of the "tea warmer" shown above. The cloth-wrapped leaves are set in this low temperature warmer and allowed to continue oxidizing after they have been "fixed" by the standard tumble heating step. This gentle warming while the leaves are still moist results in a tangy note in the flavor profile that is the signature characteristic of Taiwanese Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea.

Rolling and drying tea leaves is very time consuming and labor intensive. This additional step of "steaming" the leaves adds hours to the 2-3 day process. It's really a labor of love that goes into making a proper Muzha Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea. After this "primary production" of harvesting, withering, oxidizing, fixing, rolling and drying, there is the repeated roasting process that is typically spread out over weeks of time. These leaves were roasted four times for a total of 40+ hours, with resting time in between each roast.

Eco-Cha at Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea source

Both this tea type and its maker are an anomaly in our decades of experience exploring the tea culture in Taiwan. It is the most boutique tea source we have known. He is mostly a one man show, along with the helping hands of his wife and children. The volume of tea he produces is a small fraction of anyone else we know. How he makes a living at it is a mystery! He is, however, clearly well off in his self-contained happiness and healthy Buddhist lifestyle.

On the farm with our source of Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea

We were really grateful to finally have been able to visit this year and walk around among his tea gardens, catching up after a long overdue post-Covid visit! This month's batch of the Tea Club is made from spring 2023 harvest, and received both 3rd Place category (top 18%) and "Excellence Award" (top 45%) in the Muzha Farmers' Association spring competition. We procured it in June, and allowed it to rest until now before sharing it. This allows the roast factor to mellow, and the tangy note in Tie Guan Yin Oolong to become more pronounced.


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