I've been cooresponding w/Stephen over at JAS e-Tea http://www.jas-etea.com/
who reports the following:
"From what I have been able to ascertain from my source in China, here is how the dark-roasted Tie Guan Yin come into being. In the past, oxidation degree of Tie Guan Yin Oolong tea was similar to Wuyi rock tea, which means the color of Tie Guan Yin was dark bloom, and was about 40-60 % oxidized, not the current about 5-10% oxidation of the shiny green TGY. In the past, the traditional Tie Guan Yin focus on the tea taste and sweetness. Today the lightly-fermented Tie Guan Yin focus is on its orchid fragrance. Probably in mid of 1990s, the slightly-fermented Tie Guan Yin came into being, and then became popularized by the tea consumers. So gradually, the traditional Tie Guan Yin was off the market and the technique for creating the tea began to disappear except for some old tea farmers who know how to make the traditional Tie Guan Yin. My source is well acquainted with these tea farmers.
So currently in the market, the so-called dark-roasted Tie Guan Yin is not the traditional Tie Guan Yin. In fact, these teas are the slightly-fermented Tie Guan Yin from several years ago, which were not able to be sold out by tea farmers. But still, in the market, there are some old tea drinkers that pursue the traditional Tie Guan Yin. Hence, the tea merchants bought this remaining slightly-fermented Tie Guan Yin and re-baked them again, which made the tea look like the traditional dark-roasted Tie Guan Yin, and sold this tea at high price to make quick money. That is how most of the dark-roasted oolong tea on the market today came to exist. Now, a lot of consumers have become fond of the re-baked Tie Guan Yin but are unfamiliar with the actual origin of the tea.
So, having talked to my source, I have decided to carry three grades of the dark-roasted oolong:
a. Good quality -
b. Better quality -
c. Best quality -
I should have some stock available in about 2-3 weeks at the most. Could be on hand in about 10 days if everything goes well."
I left the quoted prices off because I'm not sure of the rules regarding that. Don't want this to come off as a sales pitch for this vendor -- just wanted to relay the info. If Chip sezs it's OK, I can always go back and edit with the prices.