Leaf Type: Oolong
Where to Buy: The Tao of Tea
Native Name: Dark Tieguanyin
Named after the Chinese Goddess of Mercy Kuan Yin, Tieguanyin is one of the more popular rolled oolongs. Although Tieguanyin varietals are native and to Anxi county in Fujian province, many other areas in China are now also cultivating this varietal. There are apparent differences between the various Tieguanyin varietals, each with its own unique characteristics.
In making Strong Fire only the mature, hardy leaves are plucked. They are then withered in the sun for a few hours to reduce moisture. Once suitable suppleness is achieved in the leaves, traditional rolling techniques (at least 13 different motions) are applied in conjunction with light roasting to achieve the optimum shape and flavor. A final high roast is given to complete the processing.
This one scared me a bit. The name “Strong Fire” suggests to me that this might be a very smoky tea. And while it does have well-pronounced smoked tones to it, it certainly is not at all what I expected. The smoky flavor is so perfectly balanced with a roasty-toasty flavor that it doesn’t come off as liquid smoke. It’s actually quite pleasant.
The roasting of these leaves imparts a certain wood-like taste to the cup, as well as the aforementioned roasted flavor and smoky undertones. These bring out the natural sweetness of the Oolong tea, converting what might otherwise be a fruity or floral sweetness to a well-caramelized sweetness. The high roasting imparts a savory, almost burnt flavor to the leaves, enhancing the burnt sugar quality of the caramel flavor.
I like this so much more than I thought I would, and I am finding that each subsequent infusion (I got six incredible infusions from one measurement of leaves) is equally as lovely. I guess it just goes to show you not to judge a tea by its name!