Thursday, July 14, 2011

Shade-Grown Tie Guan Yin

A mention of this tea on Twitter from Greg at Norbu Teas perked my interest right away.
It is unconventional, not highly accessible, and it was the first time I had heard of such a tea.

Growing tea in shade is very common in Japan, and gives the vibrant green color all so familiar to those who drink matcha, gyokuro, or sencha.

So basically take your average, nuclear green (so affectionately named by some bloggers) , Anxi TGY, and make it even more green. At this point, it might be referred to as radioactive green.

But all sarcasm aside, this tea is truly unique.

Some might consider this a grassy tea, but the aroma displays more characteristics than just that.
The dry leaf smells highly floral, fresh, and has a distinct minty evergreen trait to it.

The aroma coming off of the liquor smells much sweeter, and less like vegetation.
Honey scents mix with lemongrass, and collide with the same evergreen characteristic that was evident in the dry leaf.
The higher concentration of amino acids and chlorophyll really do bring out quite different attributes than a standard TGY.

A sweet, rich, evergreen tasting liquid is the final product of the leaves.
It is well rounded, just floral enough, and has very low astringency. This comes as a bit of a surprise to me, seeing as Japanese teas can have quite high levels of astringency, and this tea does, in some ways, bear resemblance to a sencha or bancha. I suppose the difference would be that this TGY was not steamed.

Another interesting quality of this tea is that it is very "wet." It does not dry out the mouth, but rather it induces the production of saliva.

After the fourth and final infusion was finished, a very vegetal aftertaste presented itself, conjuring up tastes most closely resembling spinach. It was a clean finish, however.

This tea is very crisp. It is not smooth and creamy in texture, but has sharp, distinct flavors.

The tea is lacking in endurance, although I did not use quite so much dry leaf as I should have (just a personal preference). It lasts long enough for a pleasing session, though!

I would buy this tea again, and I would recommend it for anyone looking for something a little off the beaten path.



  1. The leaves are in beautiful shape, almost comparable to Taiwan oolong leaves! Most green style TGY don't have such nice intact leaves.

  2. Gingko,

    Yes I was going to comment on that. The leaves are not as torn up as I would have suspected! Although, still not quite as pretty and whole as a good Taiwanese, but still, better than the norm!

  3. Very interesting !

    Do you know how the trees are shaded ? And How many time.
    I was wondering if shaded teas does exist in China.

  4. Flo,

    The trees are shaded with sheets that cut out about 50% of sunlight. The sheets are put over the crops 2-3 weeks before the harvest.
    It is a Japanese technique, but I guess they were trying to produce some sort of concept tea.

  5. Thank you for your answer.
    50% cut is weak. In japan, for grading up a sencha, sheets that cuts 60-75% of sunlight are used, but, usual 7-10 days. For kabuse-Cha, two or three weeks with a 90% cut. Three weeks or more for gyokuro and matcha with a 95-98% cut.
    So, you're right, I think there are trying to produce their own concept tea, with only hints from Japanese technique.
    Really interesting.

  6. Wow this sounds like a real fun tea. This is A very cool concept combining technique of Japanese gyokuro and the anxi oolong. very cool.

  7. Will,

    Yes! I agree. The concept is an intriguing one, and the results are quite good! It is interesting how much tea can be affected by different factors.

  8. This post has got me thinking about the label shade-grown, and I just published a post about shade-grown coffee vs. shade-grown tea and how the same label is used in radically different ways with respect to these teas, and coffee.

    I find myself being a grumpy stickler for language for once, because I think the "shade-grown" label carries a very strong positive connotation of sustainability and protecting the environment. For this reason, and also for the fact that these teas are grown normally in sun for much of their life-span and then only shaded for a finite period before harvest, I'd prefer to call these teas "shaded" rather than "shade-grown".

    That said, the shading process used by these teas definitely produces substantial changes in flavor, and can produce some amazing teas; I've never tried an oolong produced in this manner, and I'd be curious to do so.

  9. Alex,

    This oolong would be the place to start! I do not like green TGY very much, but this was radically different than conventional green TGY!
    Yes I read your post and it is fantastic!