Traditional Tieguanyin is rich in its body and flavor. This tea takes more oxidation 發酵, stirring 攪拌, and roasting 烘焙 when compared to Baozhong and High Mountain Oolongs. In fact, it takes more work than just about any other oolong tea. On our most recent tea tour, we were lucky to see part of the oxidation and stirring processes.
We went inside a small room where there was a metal tube, a tumbling machine, and a tea rolling machine. We also saw small balls of tea on the floor. Farmer Zhang opened one ball and loosened up the tea leaves a bit on a bamboo tray, then he tossed the leaves in a tube that heated up the leaves (I forgot to ask what the temperature in the tube was). Once in a while, he would reach in and feel the tea. I remembered one time I was on Dong Ding mountain and a tea maker offered to let me reach in the tube and feel the leaves. I turned down that opportunity because I noticed that temperature read 300C and I could hear a hissing sound from the leaves!
Tieguanyin is known for its roasting. Farmer Zhang told us that he would do one roasting and let the tea rest for about two weeks before doing further roastings. He said a lot of customers go to him for Tieguanyin that was done a year or two ago. After that amount of time, the tea's fire will mellow, which makes the tea rounder and smoother. He said Baozhong and high mountain oolongs are designed to be drunk when fresh. That kind of tea is bright and the energy focuses on the head and mouth area, while Tieguanyin's focus is on the throat area and its energy travels down through one's whole body.