Traditional Tie Guan Yin, Spring 2015 from Sanne Tea

Sanne Tea (pronounced “sanity” apparently) is a new company out of Michigan that focuses on selling high quality Taiwanese oolongs. Sanne Tea was generous enough to send me a few samples of their new offerings. I was really looking forward to the Traditional Tie Guan Yin from Spring 2015, so I jumped into that one first.

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Traditional Tie Guan Yin is much more oxidized and roasted than many of the greener Tie Guan Yin teas that are on the market today. These more traditional styles of Tie Guan Yin oolong are actually quite difficult to find, since most tea drinkers nowadays seem to prefer the nuclear green variety. There’s certainly nothing wrong with drinking greener Tie Guan Yin teas, but I am definitely more into the roasted and oxidized versions.

Muzha or Mucha is a district of Taipei that is known for producing traditional oolong teas (National Chengchi University is also there!). I visited Muzha last year and I was excited to go out and search for tons of roasted oolong to take home with me. Sadly, I couldn’t really find much since most of the shops seemed to sell mostly high mountain/gao shan/高山茶 tea. But then again I speak really shitty Chinese (Read: I don’t speak any Chinese) so perhaps I was looking in the wrong places.

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I finally got my hands on some Muzha Tie Guan Yin, thanks to Sanne Tea. They gave me this really adorable 10 gram sample bag. I love the cute hand-written label and brewing directions. I have a bit of a fetish for tea companies that include the origin of their tea on their packaging, so Sanne Tea definitely won me over there. Sorry for the small stain on the side, that’s my fault! I suppose I shouldn’t leave my sample bags right next to my tea table where they can get easily splashed.

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Dry Leaf

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The dry leaves look very high quality. There were no broken leaves or dust in the sample. The leaves have a definite roasted and oxidized aroma, which is a good sign.

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These dry leaves also have a notably earthy smell, almost similar to a ripe puerh. I’ve never encountered this sort of smell in a Tie Guan Yin, but I don’t think it’s a good or bad thing. Interesting!

Teaware

I used my cute new teapot for this review, since I’m still in my honeymoon stage with this pot. I used 7 grams of leaf for the review.

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Brewing

I started off the brewing cycle with a quick five second rinse. The aroma of these leaves changed completely once they were rinsed. The rinsed leaves smelled incredible. I would describe the aroma as fruity and juicy, with a notable aged aroma. This tea actually smells so similar to the 2003 Aged Green Heart Oolong that I would have a hard time telling them apart if I were blindfolded. This similarity is a bit perplexing since this Tie Guan Yin hasn’t been aged. Perhaps I am confusing the oxidized oolong smell with the aged oolong smell. Both of these teas were roasted, so maybe the roasted scent is the similarity that I am picking up on.

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The first steep is a nice deep orange-red color, almost amber. This color is quite standard for traditional Tie Guan Yin tea. The first flavor that I notice is the roasted note in this tea. I really enjoy the pleasant roasted character of this tea since it is very noticeable but not overpowering. The oxidation of this tea comes through quite heavily. If you are used to drinking lighter high mountain oolongs, this traditional style Tie Guan Yin might taste almost like a black tea. The sweet and floral notes come through next. The tea finishes off with a stone fruit sweetness, perhaps an apricot or peach flavor. The aftertaste of this tea is wonderful, leaving my mouth with a sweet and clean feeling for ten minutes after finishing the first cup. The sides of my tongue kept on salivating for several minutes afterwards too, which is something that I’ve never experienced with this kind of tea.

On an unrelated note, peep the cookbook in the upper right hand corner of the photo above, The Food of Taiwan: Recipes from the Beautiful Island by Cathy Erway. This is probably the best cookbook that I’ve ever owned. If you are interested in learning some Taiwanese recipes or would like to learn more about the history and culture of Taiwanese cuisine, I definitely recommend that you pick up this cookbook.

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The second steep is a bit more red. The roasted and oxidized flavors die down a bit, allowing for the floral sweetness and stone fruit flavor to come through. The mouthfeel is also a bit smoother on the second steep. I left the tea table for a few minutes after this steep, which allowed the tea to cool down a bit. When this tea cools down, it has a pleasant malty flavor that I really enjoy. Perhaps I will try this tea as a cold brewed iced tea and see how it goes.

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I kept on steeping this tea for quite a while. I think I got a total of 8 or 9 steeps from these leaves.

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The tea lightened up quite a bit as I got towards the last steeps. I still enjoyed the latter steeps, since they were more light and floral tasting. This tea really changes a lot as you resteep it. The first and second steeps taste almost like completely different teas from the six and seventh steeps.

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Finished Leaf

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These leaves are a beautiful grey-green color, and are very large and have no holes or tears. They have definitely been well taken care of during processing.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed having the opportunity to try this tea. This tea is certainly a strong example of how a traditional style Tie Guan Yin should taste. It is pretty difficult to find high quality traditional Muzha Tie Guan Yin teas, so this is definitely a special tea. With that said, the price is a bit special as well. You can buy 10 grams of this tea for $9 or 25 grams for $20. I think this is a bit out of my price range for a regular purchase, but I would definitely consider buying this tea as a special treat. Sanne Tea is a great company to support since they aim to supply pesticide-free, high quality Taiwanese oolongs. Also, to be fair, this is one of Sanne Tea’s more expensive offerings. Most of their teas are significantly cheaper.

If you purchase this tea before August 31st, you can use the code “sannetea30” to get 30% off! Sanne Tea is a great shop to supply all of your Taiwanese oolong needs (Bao Zhong, Jin Xuan, etc.) as well as a few black teas.

https://www.sannetea.com/product/traditional-tie-guan-yin-spring-2015/

“Tea. I find that both settles the stomach and concentrates the mind. Wonderful drink, tea.”-Cassandra Clare, City of Bones

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