Welcome to readers from Somalia
COMING SOON: Singing Bird SINGLE ESTATE TEA from VIETNAM
Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world
Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy gives her name to a kind of tea. Tie Guan Yin or sometimes Tie Kwan Yin.
A fine example of this tea, along with a particular Da Hong Pao tea, has reportedly been sold for something in the region of $3000, for a one kilo.
Her temple in the Chinese sub-city of Cholon in Saigon.
The tea here is a heavy roast, highly oxidised tea. It is popular in Hong Kong and Chaozhou, where serious practitioners of Chao Zhou style gongfu tea brew the Tie Guan Yin with a heavy hand. There are too many steps to list here for this style of brewing. One may also brew such teas more casually by following parameters similar to a high roast Tie Guan Yin. This type of Tie Guan Yin looks like this:
The teapot is a short spout yixing pot bearing the Chinese characters of a Buddhist prayer.
The liquid is mid-brown colour with a long shallow finish. The aftertaste is lingering and of smoke, close to rolling tobacco. It's a distinctive tea and quite unlike any other tea I have tasted. The mouth-feel is slender with sweet coffee notes.
The Iron Goddess of Mercy - a very humble, paint spattered 12 inches high.
I was in Da Nang at Christmas.
At Lin Ung Pagoda on the Son Tra peninsula. The Son Tra Guan Yin statue is 220 feet tall. The tallest statue in Vietnam.
I was in Da Nang at Christmas.
Guan Yin is known across east Asia from Sri Lanka and Myanmar to Korea and Japan. She is an important symbol of compassion. She's also associated with vegetarianism.
Jump back to tea.
Muzha Tieguanyin tea 木柵鉄観音
This Tie Guan Yin tea is a very dark roast.
This is a traditional oolong. It is roasted and has a stronger taste with a roast nutty character. The tea liquid is more brown than red. In this version of Tie Guan Yin I can first of all taste a lot of smoke followed by a slowly evolving sweet caramel flavour. My feeling is that fine tea, like good wine, reaches the back of the palate and seems to infuse through the nose on the breathe out. The second steep is similar but the smokiness is softer. Some say the second steep is for your friends, the first for your enemy with this tea I find the reverse is true. The next three brews are less distinctive. The first two are rich and dimensional while the third tails off quite dramatically despite longer infusions. This tea is sourced from Taiwan
see also Stephane Erler's Teamasters high-roast-Tie-Guan-Yin
Back at the Quan Am temple in Cho Lon.
The names of temple benefactors
A temple frieze.
These porcelain dioramas skirting the roof depict life in a 19th century Chinese city. Actors, demons, animals, Persian sailors and traders appear - a representation not unlike the trading history of Cho Lon.
There are approximately 465,000 Cantonese Chinese in southern Vietnam, the majority in Cho Lon.
Some of these incense coils burn for as long as a month. The tags carries the name of the worshipper who paid for it.
At the pagoda I met Dr Zhifang Song of The University of Canterbury, New Zealand. He explained to me the significance of the temple and others in Cho Lon. He told me something of the significance of these temples for shǎoshù mínzú (少数民族) diasporan Chinese people especially as the new China begins re-recognising the old "silk road" routes.
Happy tea drinking!