Iron Goddess, or Tieguanyin, is a very mellow oolong tea and is one of the most popular teas in China. It is produced in the Anxi region of Fujian Province. Fujian is famous first and foremost for tea, and it produces famous versions of everything from white to black. Fujian has been a strong tea producing region for centuries and has developed many of the methods used to produce teas in other regions, including its neighbor across the water, Taiwan. Though it might not have the towering mountain peaks of some tea-growing regions, Fujian has plenty of beauty to offer.
Oolong teas are categorized between a green and a black tea. That means they are slightly oxidized before being dried or fried (to stop the oxidation). Oolongs can range in color from green to black, depending on the level of oxidation, and as you can see, tieguanyin is on the green side of the spectrum. That means its going to have a greener taste and composition. That also means it needs to be sealed and stored at cooler temperatures if it’s going to be kept for long periods.
A good tieguanyin has a very mellow flavor, if brewed carefully. It doesn’t easily tolerate high temperatures, and it shouldn’t be overly steeped. When properly infused, tieguanyin produces a sweet and green-tea-like flavor with a strong aroma of freshly baked and buttered rolls. Indeed, it almost tastes like you’ve just finished a meal after drinking a pot of high-quality Iron Goddess.
The name Iron Goddess comes from a story of old Fujian, before tea made the region so famous. A poor farmer passed by the local temple on his way to work every day, and every time he was disappointed by the deteriorating state of the temple. He lamented that his town didn’t have the means to repair the temple’s statue of the Buddha goddess. One night he had a dream, and the Buddha goddess appeared to him and told him to search for a treasure at the temple, and in return he promised to repair the temple for the goddess. When he awoke he rushed to the temple with excitement, but he found nothing. He thought that maybe there was a long-lost treasure that someone had buried beneath the temple, but he wouldn’t dare desecrate holy ground. At about the moment he was going to give up, he decided to search outside the temple. Behind it he found a young tea plant growing. He decided to dig the plant up and bring it to his mountainside home. The plant quickly flourished and produced many seeds, so many that he decided to give the seeds to everyone in his village. Soon the entire village had transformed into one big tea plantation, and the tea was so sweet and that they all became rich! It wasn’t long before the once-poor farmer had the means to rebuild the temple and the Iron Goddess statue in grand fashion, fulfilling his end of the bargain. And the Anxi people are still grateful to the Iron Goddess for their continuing success in tea production.