In Search of the Iron Buddha: A Tea Review


Iron Buddha Oolong tea from Teavana was one of my all time favorite teas! Teavana sold it at $10/2oz for many years, and I thought it would never end. It did. Teavana discontinued it, instead offering only Monkey Picked Oolong (good, but expensive at $25/2oz) or various flavored and scented Oolongs. Those are fine too, but are no Iron Buddha Oolong! And I’m no tea expert–my teacabulary is at noob level, but I have been drinking tea for most of my years and I know what my taste buds like. They like good tea–it can be green, black, oolong or herbal, but there are some which absolutely sing in my mouth and I have a hard time getting enough.

Now, alas, I can’t get any more Iron Buddha Oolong and so began a quest. I’ve tasted quite a lot of teas along the way. Side-tracked by greens at times to be sure, I thought Ti Guan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy also sometimes called Iron Buddha) might be a good replacement because of the word “iron” in the name. Ti Guan Yin is very good too, but there is a much better match as far as flavor and that’s what matters to me.

Drumroll please… actually lets make it a kettle whistle. [Kettle whistle]

The winner is Jade Oolong Tea ($53.99/lb or about $7/2oz) sourced from Taiwan and purchased in bulk at Wegmans. Oolongs can vary a great deal in their amount of fermentation so that some are closer to green teas and others lean toward black. This oolong reminds me of a Chinese green in appearance and it’s very similar to Monkey Picked in many ways (only less expensive), but there isn’t anything quite like it (except other teas which are like it). Wegmans was a nice choice for experimentation since they offer bulk teas which can be purchased in small quantities. That way I could easily and relatively inexpensively taste all of their oolongs, of which they had quite a few, and compare to my last remaining bits of genuine Teavana Iron Buddha.

Color and flavor: Jade Oolong Taiwan brews up a light golden amber with a complex orchid yumminess. Not as overtly single-note floral as jasmine teas, this has the clean, clear complexity of a fine daytime perfume in teacup form. There is a pleasant amount of astringency, only the slightest waft of grassy green and almost no roasted flavor at all. It is anchored with a hint of earthiness. Delicious!

While some may find this or Iron Buddha too strong, I say (hopefully politely), “You’re doing it wrong!” Perhaps complaints of the strength is part of what prompted Teavana to discontinue Iron Buddha. It may seem obvious, but if it’s too strong for you, be careful not to over steep–use less tea or brew for a shorter amount of time. Since this tea works exceptionally well for multiple infusions, you may enjoy the second or third infusion best. I love the first brew, but if you don’t, consider pouring it off and chilling for iced tea. Subsequent infusions tend to bring out the mellow, earthy flavors. Each one is different. I like them all.

Leaves: The leaves are a deep jade green that are rolled tightly like pellets, but not as tight or fully round as, say, gunpowder green or jasmine pearl teas. Small before steeping, they unfurl elegantly in the 190-195 degree water as they release their flavor–transforming into beautiful, detailed, full, large leaves. These will quickly expand to fill a tea ball or even a tea strainer if you’re not careful. Cramped tea leaves results in less flavor, more wasted tea and the inability to visually enjoy the leaves as they unfurl. I suggest using a really large tea strainer or adding tea directly to the pot and pouring all water into cups after brewing for 3-4 minutes. The large leaves are easy to strain.

This tea is lovely through multiple infusions as subtle nuances evolve.
Time for more!

Copyright © 2010 Deb L. Kapke

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: