Comparing Tieguanyin Green Oolong Teas

Although trying a new tea is always fun, sometimes you discover more when you compare a couple of teas. Today I tried two oolongs kindly provided by Life in Teacup, a company specializing in Chinese teas.

Both are Anxi Tieguanyin (or Tie Guan Yin) oolongs, one Modern Green Roast Grade II and the other Traditional Green Roast. It was probably a dumb idea to try two oolongs because they can be brewed so many times, but I started early in the day!

Anxi is a county in China’s Fujian Province and is well known for its oolong tea, especially Tieguanyin, also called Iron Goddess of Mercy. I love Indonesia’s version (Sumatra Barisan) so was looking forward to trying these. But here’s the thing—there are many versions of Tieguanyin. Life in Teacup sent five different ones to me, ranging from green to red (black). For this comparison, I selected the most green ones.

For both teas, I brewed a heaping teaspoon in 60 ml of 205°F water, 20 seconds per infusion.

Modern Green Roast Grade II

The Sumatra Barisan as well as Life in Teacup’s Modern Green Roast, shown here, are light, jade, or green oolongs, meaning they are closer in oxidation levels to green rather than black tea.

modern green leaves

The leaves have a fresh aroma, slightly sweet and slightly fruity, perhaps reminiscent of hay in my mind.

The light golden greenish-brown brew had a light aroma, matched by a light pleasant flavor.

The second infusion yielded a deeper color and the flavor, as expected, was a little fuller and its flavor lingered a bit. Light and pleasant, with a slight vegetal note and the faintest toastiness, this tea is a nice one to have with a meal or as an everyday tea.

The third infusion was about the same. Some of the leaves are fully open but not all; they exhibit the red edges characteristic of oolongs.

I found the tea pleasant enough, but not compelling.

Traditional Green Roast (Chinese tea ceremony)

These very dark green leaves are more oxidized than those of the modern style. They have an intoxicating aroma, sweet and fruity and spicy and warm.

trad gr rst lvs

The difference is striking, with a first brew that’s full bodied, far more flavorful than the Traditional Green Roast. There’s a slight vegetal bitter note found in leafy greens such as swiss chard, balanced by a toasty and nutty note. The color of the brew is slightly more brown than the greener oolong, with a more intense aroma.

Each infusion continues that robust, full-bodied flavor, vegetal yet toasty and nutty, with the slightest bitter aftertaste akin to leafy greens, but in no way unpleasant.

This tea has substance, with a warmth and complexity that commands some attention.

The mostly intact leaves are largely—but not entirely—unfurled at this point.

closeup brewed lvs

After a few more infusions, a grassier note came out.  I found every infusion of this tea to be delicious!

When you put the two oolongs side-by-side, the cup may look almost the same, and the leaves are similar, but these are vastly different teas. Both have their merits but of the two, I definitely prefer the more intense Traditional Green Roast.

both teas

Oolong teas are fascinating because you’ll find the flavor changes with each brewing, and you can manipulate those flavors by your leaf-to-water ratio, water temperature, and brewing time. The next time I try the Modern Green Roast, I will change my parameters and maybe I’ll find I enjoy it more.

3 thoughts on “Comparing Tieguanyin Green Oolong Teas

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