There’s a lot to take in with a name like Taiwan Monkey Picked (Ma Liu Mie) Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea, but the most exciting part is “Monkey-Picked.” What? Really? There were monkeys involved in getting this tea from the tree to my teapot? According to legend, the steep cliff-side where this tea is grown is too treacherous for tea farmers to reach the leaves, so they trained monkeys to pick the leaves for them. Ma Liu Mie is an honorable nickname for this tea used by the locals, as well as the name of the tea-picking Monkey King of legend. Read more about the tea under the “more info” tab here.
My first impression of this tea is that the leaves are small and dense, not cut or broken, but simply in a different shape than the long curls of black tea I’ve come to expect. Dry, this oolong smells pleasantly earthy with a bit of stone-fruit sweetness like raisin or apricot. I followed the recommended brewing instructions, using very hot, boiling water and a hefty serving of tea leaves.
At first sip, I notice strong roasted flavors. However, this tea is not full-on smoke-flavored like lapsang souchong, instead it is more complex, like the perfect warm, golden-char flavor of eating food cooked over a campfire. There are some of the aged, fermented notes I tend to associate with pu erh, but they are much more gentle and less sour. This type of earthiness is concentrated and layered, with notes of toasted grains, warm woods, and new leather.
On a day-to-day basis, I drink tea that is drinkable and easy-going. I have to be in the right mood to want a bold, smokey lapsang souchong, or a challenging, fishy pu erh. This Monkey Picked Oolong is a perfect compromise between all three. It is so much more than a basic breakfast tea, but it is not so sour or smokey to bowl you over. It is gentle and earthy, smooth and toasted, and it has a well-earned, legendary reputation.
How could you not give Monkey Picked Oolong a try?
Here’s the scoop!
Leaf Type: Oolong
Where to Buy: Teavivre
Using Taiwan autumn tea as material, this Monkey Picked Tie Guanyin carefully selected by TeaVivre is baked slowly by soft fire (the baking process falls into three steps and every step lasts two minutes). The degree of fermentation is 100 percent so that the dried tea can keep a long-lasting fragrance. After brewing, the smell of honey peach and the baked flavor can be perfectly appreciated and the beverage tastes gorgeously smooth.