Tea Review: Tie Luo Han

Finally got a chance to open the box of tea from my parents' tea tour of China.  They had a great time and tasted a LOT of tea.  Basically they had 2-3 tea tastings per day and visited some of the largest and most famous tea producing regions. The teas that they sent over are a Yixing Black (Red) Tea, a Longjing (Dragonwell) produced on 4/6/14 (I'm very interested in this because freshness is key for longjings and I don't think I've ever had this young of a tea), the Tia Luo Han featured here, and Bai Hao Yin Zhen (Silver Needle White).

I had a nice variety of packaging, and the canister for the Tie Luo Han was really cool!  Tie Luo Han is a Wuyi Rock Oolong from the north of Fujian Province.  This tea is from QingShi Rock Tea Factory.  My parents tasted tea there for two days and toured their factory.  This tea is a 2014 and its name means Iron Monk Arhat or Iron Monk Warrior.  My parents even went to the tea farmer's house to take a picture with him and taste tea in their kitchen!

The tea was sealed inside the canister with a simple plastic bag that was twisted shut.  I didn't realize how much tea was actually in this container until I opened it!  I should mention that this is one of the Four Famous Rock Oolongs, with the others being the infamous Da Huang Pao (Big Red Robe), Shui Jin Gui (Golden Sea Turtle), and Bai Jiguan (White Cockscomb).  These teas all taste very similar to one another and most of the time get lumped together as "Big Red Robe" oolong.

The loose tea smelled very similar to the Da Hong Pao I recently had.  It's a roasted tea, so it will dominate the smell of the loose tea. I've been trying to brew high-quality oolongs at a lower temperature, so I opted for 170F for the first 30 second infusion, without rinsing before hand (I can't waste this stuff!).  The color was more pale than the Big Red Robe, and vastly different than the ruby red liquor of the Chinese Red teas I've been having lately. This is after two steepings at 175F.  I cranked it up to 190F for the third, and even 200F for the fourth steepings.

So how does it taste?  I was expecting a fuller mouth feel for this tea than what it resulted in.  It was indistinguishable from the Da Hong Pao, but perhaps the roasted flavors were more apparent due to this being a very young tea.  Looking at other reviews I've been seeing it described as "full-bodied" which I would not use as a description for this tea.  It has the sweet, dried apricot notes like Oriental Beauty or Da Hong Pao mixed with a very pleasant roasted flavor (I have a thing for roasted oolongs like Dong Ding).