The Legend of Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea

Tie Guan Yin is one of the most famous teas throughout the world.

The tea originated from Anxi County, Fujian, China in the 19th century. It produces large leaves which are rolled during processing. Tie Guan Yin oolong tea brews a beautiful golden-yellow color, with strong aromatics and a distinct floral and vegetal flavor.

The Meaning of Tie Guan Yin

The name translates into ‘Iron Goddess of Mercy’ and is named after Guan Yin, a Buddhist bodhisattva in Chinese lore. Guan Yin is often associated with mercy and compassion.

Guan Yin also goes by many other regional names.

  • Hong Kong: Kwun Yum
  • Japan: Kannon, Kanzeon
  • Korea: Gwan-eum, Gwanse-eum
  • Thailand: Kuan Eim, Prah Mae Kuan Eim
  • Vietnam: Quan Am

The flavor of Tie Guan Yin is considered by many to be purifying in nature and is thus associated with Guan Yin. The word ‘Tie’ means ‘iron’ and refers to the compressed shape in which the leaf is rolled into during processing. The sound produced when dropping the rolled tea into a teapot is said to resemble iron.

The Legend of Tie Guan Yin Tea

There are two legends attributed to the origin of Tie Guan Yin tea.

These two legends are referred to as the Wei legend, and the Wang legend.

Wei Legend

The Wei legend begins in Anxi County, in an old shabby temple which contained an iron statue of Guan Yin. The story goes on to state that a poor farmer, known as Wei, would often walk past the temple and noticed that it’s condition was getting worse with each passing year.

He thought to himself ‘Something has to be done about this!’

But being a farmer, Wei was relatively poor and did not have the financial means to pay for any repairs. So, he decided to bring a broom and some incense from his humble home and clean the temple himself. As he swept the temple, he burned the incense as an offering to Guan Yin.

Twice a month, for quite a period of time, the farmer diligently swept the temple, thinking to himself that it was the least he could.

At some point, Guan Yin appeared to him in a dream and told him about a treasure which was in a cave behind the temple. Guan Yin told the farmer to take the treasure and share it with others. In the cave, Wei found a tea shoot, which he planted in his field and nurtured until it grew into a respectable tea bush. He believed it to be the finest tea ever produced and proceeded to give cuttings of the plant to his neighbors.

While selling the tea, it was referred to as Tie Guan Yin, in honor of Guan Yin.

It is said that Wei and his local village eventually repaired the Guan Yin temple with money made from selling Tie Guan Yin tea.

Wang Legend

Wang was a local Chinese scholar based in Xiping, China. The legend states that Wang discovered a tea bush beneath the Guan Yin rock in Xiping. He later visited the Qianlong Emperor during his sixth year of rule, and offered some of the tea as a gift. It is said that the emperor was impressed by the flavor of the tea and inquired about it’s origins. It was given the name Guan Yin due to it being found beneath the Guan Yin rock.

1 Comment
  1. It’s so fun to read about the stories and legends behind all of these various tea strains!

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