Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Channeling Compassion; Iron Goddess of Mercy by Mical Lewis

I have a very personal relationship with the Iron Goddess of Mercy. She was one of the first teas that I liked immediately when I came to work at J-Tea and thus one of the first I could recognize by color and taste. I've always enjoyed strong flavors, so it made sense that I would appreciate Iron Goddess tea. But she really earned my respect and reverence when she helped me overcome a bad case of misanthropy one morning as I was opening the shop.

I don't know why I was drawn to that particular tea that morning as I grumpily swept the floor and wiped down the counters. Maybe it was because I usually drink strong black tea in the mornings or maybe I received a gentle nudge from the universe. As soon as I inhaled the beautiful, fruity fragrance and took my first sip, I felt my heart open and my misanthropy began to melt away.

I later learned that this tea is named after the Chinese Buddhist Goddess of compassion, Kwan Yin. Kwan Yin is a Bodhisattva, which means that she is a being who chose to help humanity even though she had achieved enlightenment and could have ascended into nirvana. She chose to stay with us until every last being had also achieved enlightenment. Another name for her is “She Who Hears the Cries of the World.”

This theme of compassion appears in the original story of the Tie Guan Yin tea varietal. The story goes like this: Every day on his journey to his fields, a farmer would pass by an old, dilapidated temple that contained an iron statue of Kwan Yin. Day after day he passed this temple, thinking to himself how sad it was that there was no one to care for it. On his way to he fields each day he began to stop and sweep out the temple and make sure that the correct offerings were available. After some time Kwan Yin came to the farmer in a dream and told him that when he came to the temple the next day he would find a plant growing near the foot of her statue. She told him to put the leaves in boiling water and that the liquid produced would be of great value to him. And so the Tie Guan Yin varietal of tea was born out of an act of kindness and compassion.

And indeed I feel like I can taste a little bit of an iron tang in and amongst the fruity overtones and the caramel-without-the-sweet flavors. Though this version it is a dark oolong tea, it is quite low in caffeine because it has been heavily roasted. Hot or cold, this is an excellent tea to sip to help you open your heart. So the next time you're enjoying a cup of Iron Goddess, think about Kwan Yin and feel your heart start to open.

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