Before 2000, Green Ti Kuan Yin was not much to look at. However, over the past 10 years, it has ruled the Chinese market, thanks in large part to Zhang Tianfu, who improved the production process, and to Taiwan, from which a new process was imported. The new and improved Green Ti Kuan Yin – the result of cooperation between Taiwan and Mainland China – has the light green color of tea water, as compared with traditional Ti Kuan Yin, which must be roasted and has the dark color of tea leaf. Now, when we talk about Ti Kuan Yin, we are normally talking about Green Ti Kuan Yin.
The three most important types of Ti Kuan Yin are Zhengwei, Xiaoqing, and Tuosuan. In addition, there are two lesser types of Ti Kuan Yin – Xiaozheng and Xiaosuan.
In terms of color, Zhengwei is a little dark, whereas Xiaoqing and Tuosuan are both very green. In terms of fragrance, Zhengwei is weakest, Xiaoqing is a bit stronger, and Tuosuan is the strongest. The fragrance of Tuosuan is very unique – although it smells sour, it’s a “fresh” sour. Some people like this kind of smell, but most people like Xiaoqing better.
Zhengwei has a gentler taste, along with a fantastic sweetness; it’s famous for its lightness and sweetness as well as its pale yellow tea water. Xiaoqing, with its beautiful green tea water, offers a subtle sweetness. And in line with its sour fragrance, Tuosuan provides a sour taste as well that you will either like or shun.
Whereas a good-quality Zhengwei will have a lighter taste and fragrance, both low- and high-quality Xiaoqing teas have a strong pungent taste and smell, and are the most popular Ti Kuan Yin teas on the market.
Although Ti Kuan Yin’s green fresh color will remind you of green tea, its strong taste will remind you of black tea. These days people think of Ti Kuan Yin as a high-grade tea for gifting or for Gongfu tea brewing.
Normally, we make Zhengwei in the morning of the day after picking, whereas we make Xiaoqing from Noon to night, and Tuosuan in the night or the next day. Zhengwei generally needs more rounds for shaking and a shorter time for withering.
For more detailed information about processing Ti Kuan Yin, you can read another of my posts.