Tieluohan Tea – The Oldest Of Wuyi 4 Great Oolong Tea Trees

HomeTea KnowledgeTieluohan Tea - The Oldest Of Wuyi 4 Great Oolong Tea Trees

Last Updated on 03/21/2021 by Desmond

Fujian is the largest Oolong tea-producing region, and the products are divide into two genres – Minnan and Minbei. When we are talking about Oolong, we can’t miss them, especially Wuyi Rock Tea. There are Four Great Oolong Tea Trees in Minbei, one of them has a domineering name – Tieluohan. It is said Tieluohan tea is the one with the longest history; maybe it can show the “rock-flavor style” thoroughly.

What Is Tieluohan Tea

Tieluohan tea is also called Tie Luo Han. In Chinese, Tie means iron, and Luohan refers to the Arhat. What is an Arhat? People who ever studied Buddhism know surely, the Arhat is the apprentice of the Buddha, a total of 16, 18, or 500 guys(different denomination has a different saying.) They are the Buddhists who practiced to the highest level; it can be interpreted as a demigod. Of course, in most people’s impression, the Arhat typically refers to the monk in Shaolin Monastery with the strongest Kongfu and being a guard. So you can realize its flavor must be very robust and strengthful from the name Tieluohan.

Names Legends

About the name Tieluohan tea, there are 3 legends.

Story 1. A long time ago, a monk name Ji Hui was good at processing tea. The monk is tall and strong and with black skin because of the daily farm work, which looks like the Arhat in the picture. So, the folks around call him Iron Arhat. One day, he stepped into Wuyi mountain again. At Feng Ke Pit’s gap, he found a tea tree, growing as strong as himself and with soft leaves. He picks it and brought it home, processing it into tea. Folks fell in love with the tea after drinking it, so they named it with his nickname.

Story 2. This story sounds normal and like a business promotion. It is said that at the old time, a merchant named Shi starting a tea shop in Minnan specialize sold loose tea from Minbei. At that time, two rat plagues outbreak in a short period, many people died. Shi offered his teas to the patients for free. Just like other teas originated stories, the great health benefits of the tea cured many patients. People thought these teas are gifts from God, so call it Tieluohan tea.

Story 3. This one is the most marvelous. It is said that the Queen Mother of the west arranged a party on the heaven and invited the Arhats as guests. One of them was drunk and dropped his weapon, a branch, to the ground. An old farmer picked it. At night, the Arhat came to the farmer’s dream and said: If you cultivate this branch well, it will grow into a great tea plant, and its leaves can cure every disease. Then we can guess what happened at the end of the story.


We can not figure out the truth of the legends. But according to the Wuyi region historical documents, Tieluohan is the first Great Tea Tree was found, even earlier than Da Hong Pao. It was discovered in Tang, got a little fame in Song, then became a trend in Qing Dynasty.

Tieluohan tea’s popularity may thank a tea master from Quanzhou, Fujian; He also called Shi. I thought the second story might be about his company. He was running a tea shop in Quanzhou, specialize sold Tieluohan tea. Because of the excellent and unique flavor, Tieluohan tea became popular soon. It was more than it, due to many people went to Southeast Asia as laborers, the tea also spread there; native there are also fell in love with the tea because of the awesome health benefits. It sounds like Liu Bao tea‘s story, but the difference is, Tieluohan tea is still prevalent in China.

Tree Variety and Processing

There are four great Ming Cong(famous tea tree) in Wuyi Mountain(plus Da Hong Pao, there are five.) They are Bai Jiguan(white cockscomb,) Ban Tian Yao(midair monster,) Shui Jin Gui(Water Golden Tortoise,) and Tieluohan.

Tieluohan was discovered in the Inside Ghost Cave of Huiyuan rock in Wuyi Mountain; some similar plants also grow in Zhuke rock and Matou rock regions. It belongs to Clone Shrub, middle-leaf Camellia Sinensis. Since the 1980s, the Tieluohan tea tree cultivating scale has been expanded; you can see it in many tea plantations.

The Tieluohan leaves’ characteristics are apparent. When it still be a tender bud, it shows yellow-green, soft, thick, and with lots of “Hao.” After it grew into a leaf, it becomes flat, thickening, and crisp. You can see the unsharp sawtooth on the rim, and the fuzz also becomes less.

Harvest starts in the spring; the first flush picking takes one bud to the second leaf as standard. At this moment, the leaves contain about 2.9% amino acid, 29.7% tea polyphenol, and 3.7% caffeine. April, the yield increase to the highest, tea masters will take one bud and to the third or fourth leaf as standard; every square in the tea plantation can output about 30kg teas.

The leaves after picking will be processed into a tea by the following steps:

  • Placing
  • Sunning
  • Shaking
  • Frying
  • Rolling
  • Roast drying

Among them, shaking and frying are the most essential steps of Oolong tea processing. Shaking is for breaking the rim of leaves, making the juice flow out, and leads to a different fermentation degree; that is Oolong tea’s primary characteristic. Frying is for stoping the leaves from fermenting and makes the internal substances transform. The leaves from the great tea trees can develop various flavors by a senior tea master shaking and frying.

Tieluohuan leaves have excellent heat resistance, which makes them can be roasting at a high temperature so that the flavor will become more mellow and plump. The robust TCM(traditional Chinese medicine) scent and the so-called “Yan Yun” (rock flavor) are the Tieluohan tea’s primary aroma.

How Does Tieluohan Tea Tastes Like?

Unlike the Minnan Oolong, such as Tieguanyin tea; the Minbei Wuyi Rock Tea got more mature fruity but less fresh floral. And Tieluohan tea got the most shooting flavor. Just like its name, strengthful, tegrity, and mild.

When you unwrap the package, you will found that the Tieluohan leaves are thick, strong, intact, and long, with less crimp. They show dark-brown because they had been deeply roasted. The overlook is really like a Shaolin Monastery warrior monk, giving a stately feeling. And at this time, you may already smell its unique wood-like aroma.

In the Gongfu Tea Ceremony, there is a step special for smelling the dry leaves’ scent. Pre-heat a Gaiwan first, put the leaves in, cover and braise for a while, then open the lid and have a smell. 

If you feel it carefully, you may find the aroma is just like the perfume, which has a structure. The top notes is a rich TCM scent with delicate fruity and slight caramel; the mid notes is the unique Cong Aroma(wooden smell) of Wuyi Rock Tea; the base notes is the old-tree-like, a bit spicy and herbaceous fragrance.

You can’t wait to brew the Tieluohan tea. From a glass fair cup, you can see the infusion is like the liquid amber, bright and thick. The strong TCM scent comes at this moment, smells like the Angelica Sinensis. Having a little sip, the herbaceous fragrance will make you be a mistake for thinking it is TCM, but it is not bitter and astringent. At the same time, you will feel a mineral-like and firewood-like flavor; this is the so-called “Yan Yun”(rock flavor.) This feeling can be described as mild, quiet, and calm.

After the infusion slides down your throat, the characteristic “sweet return” of high-quality tea comes. Floral, fruity, and medicine scent all come and hit your oral, and left a slight sweet in your tongue. Associate with the tea’s name, this feeling is like being in a temple and listening to the monks reciting soul-cleaning sutras.

Tieluohan tea is deserved you a try!

Storage Ways

Tieluohan belongs to partially-fermented tea. Even though some people also aging the Tieluohan tea like dark tea. But, Tieluohan has been deeply roasted; In Chinese Traditional Thought saying, it is with lots of “heat,” specifically, it means the unique “Yan Yun” of rock teas. As time goes, this flavor will lose gradually, which is the so-called”anneal.” The Tieluohan tea without Yan Yun is just like lost the soul. If you are doing wrong in the aging process, the loss will be more significant.

However, compared with the Qing-flavor type Tieguanyin tea, Tieluohan tea doesn’t need to be finish consumed ASAP; like the Strong-flavor type, it can be store for about 2-3 years. During the storing process, pay attention to the followings:

  • Dry
  • Dark
  • A relatively low-temperature (about 27℃)
  • Airtight

Because Tieluohan tea is with “heat,” it can not be allowed to store in a fridge like Tieguanyin; The heat and the cold will be neutralized and break the flavor. Thus, typically keep it under an average temperature is OK.

Generally, an iron-can with excellent airtightness performance will be awesome to store Tieluohan tea; their name also matches. But the metal smell of iron-can may pollute the tea’s flavor; you need to put the leaves in a sealable aluminum package first.

Related ReadingChoose the best tea storage container for loose leaf tea.

How To Make Tieluohan Tea

Tieluohan tea has a deep fermentation degree and has been deeply roasted; it got the Wuyi Rock Tea’s primary feature – resistance to brewing. You can even cook it.

  1. Prepare and pre-heat the teaware. A 150ml porcelain Gaiwan will be a good choice;
  2. Put 8-10g Tieluohan loose leaves into the Gaiwan, add hot water, cover, then put out the wastewater soon;
  3. Refill over 95℃ hot water, cover, steep for about 8-10 seconds;
  4. Pour the infusion into a fair cup to equal the concentration;
  5. Serving;

After the fifth brew, you can extend about 5 seconds for every following brew according to the infusion concentration.

After the third brew, you can keep making Tieluohan tea in a cooking way.

  1. Prepare a cast-iron teapot, fill water to 2/3, heat it to boil;
  2. Transfer the leaves in Gaiwan to the teapot, keep heating for about 30 seconds;
  3. Serving;
  4. Every following brew can extend about 10 seconds heating time;
Just a tea lover. Like to try different types of tea. Do not matter if the brewing is perfect, only enjoy the various charming taste.


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