Written by Eric Rasmussen on August 22, 2010.
Ti Kuan Yin, or Iron Goddess, is undoubtedly one of the most popular oolong teas in America. Oolong teas have partially oxidized leaves, placing them somewhere between green tea (non-oxidized leaves) and black tea (fully oxidized leaves). But don’t let that simple description fool you – oolong teas have mysterious properties all their own.
In general, oolong teas can be steeped several times, and instead of losing flavor or strength, each additional steeping unveils new layers of complexity. To properly enjoy oolong teas, I will typically brew the leaves in 1-2 minute intervals, which is more than sufficient for many loose leaf oolong teas. Depending on the variety of tea, you may continue to find hidden layers of depth for several steepings.
Ti Kuan Yin yields a dark, roasted flavor that has the vegetal quality you’d expect to find in a green tea, but the robust body of a black tea. This makes the tea a solid coffee alternative for breakfast, but I’ve found it works just as well with an afternoon meal. It’s strong enough to hold its own with food, but light enough not to overpower it. Oolong teas aren’t as widely available as green or black teas, so if you aren’t sure where to start looking, there are large selections (with helpful descriptions) available at both Mountain View Tea Village and Harney & Sons.