Yellow teas are often misunderstood, but there are at least five great yellow teas you owe it to yourself to try. I have been exploring some of them with surprisingly good results. Brewing with Gongfu style is preferred. A glass gaiwan allows you to see the beauty of the leaves the best.
Yellow tea is a slightly processed green tea that tends to be less grassy tasting than many green teas. This is achieved by harvesting early in the year and letting the teas oxidize slowly, imparting to the liquid a sweet, mellow flavor and a bright yellow color. The leaves will usually be small and unbroken, and the liquid is high in antioxidants, low in caffeine.
A yellow tea (the dry leaves):
The tea steeping, with a bright yellowish-green color:
A few leaves after steeping:
How to prepare:
Use 1 tablespoon (about 2 grams) of dry tea leaves per 100 ml of water , or a tea to water ratio of 1:50. The water should be heated to 95-100° C (203-212° F). Infuse for 1 minute and strain liquid into a sipping cup (caution: the gaiwan or other steeping vessel may be hot). Repeat 3 to 5 times.
Tea 1: Huoshan Huangya
Yellow bud tea mainly produced in Dabieshan of Huoshan, Anhui province, China. The dry leaves are shaped like Buxus, consisting of tippy tender shoots, and are yellowish in color. The liquid is fairly clear and yellow with a clean aroma and a mellow and thick flavor. The leaves are bright yellow after infusing.
I mentioned this one in a previous blog post. This tea comes to me directly from the tea farmer that operates the mountain tea gardens near Houshan. It’s a tea that I am extremely proud to offer because of its wonderful flavor profile. Huoshan Huangya Tea was recorded as far back as 91 BC as an imperial tribute in the Tang, Ming, and Qing Dynasties. The processing method was lost and then rediscovered after the 1970s; it has won many domestic and oversea prizes. The tea cultivars used are Golden Chick and Huoshan Morning, local and traditional.
Tea 2: Junshan Yinzhen
One of the 10 most famous Chinese teas. This yellow tea is made of single tea buds and produced in Junshan Island, Dongting Lake in Hunnan Province, China. The dry leaves are robust buds, shaped like needles, bright yellow-green in color, and resemble the appearance of Bai Hao Yinzhen, a white tea. The liquid is orangey-apricotty yellow with a pure aroma and a flavor that starts out mellow and think and develops a sweet aftertaste. The leaves after infusing are tender and even.
This version of yellow tea is the foremost representative of an endangered art form. Authentic Junshan Yinzhen is made from leaves grown on Junshan Island, where thick fog and mist create ideal conditions for cultivating this tea, and it takes a painstaking and complex series of steps to process. Their yearly output is only 500 kilograms.
Tea 3: Imperial Meng Ding Huang Ya
A yellow bud tea where the leaves have a flat straight form; it is mainly produced in Mengshan, Sichuan Province, China. The dry leaves are evenly flat and straight, and the color is yellow with gold tips. The liquid is a yellow green with a pure aroma and a mellow, thick, sweet taste. After infusing the leaves are tender and even.
This tea was used as a tribute tea from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) to the Qing Dynasty(1644-1911). It is made using mostly buds picked during early Spring to create a mild and sweet tasting tea with a unique fragrance that comes from the complex processing steps. It is gentle on the stomach and does not cause the upset that some green teas do. The liquid is rich in antioxidants and mild in flavor with no grassy smell like green tea has.
Tea 4: Yellow Little Leaf Tea
Yellow tea made of tender shoots combined with one bud and one or two delicate leaves. Varieties: Weishan Maojian, Beigang Maojian, Yuan’an Luyuan, Wenzhou Huangtang. The shape of the dry leaves is fat and tippy and are golden bright in color. The liquid is orange yellow with a pure aroma and mellow flavor. After infusing, the leaves are tender and even.
This is a specialty tea of Zhejiang. The dry leaves (a bud-and-leaf pairing or a two-leaves-and-a-bud pairing) are wiry and tight, yellow green, and include more tips. The liquid is orange yellow and bright, with a pure aroma and a mellow and thick taste that leaves a sweet after taste. The leaves after infusing are tender and even. The tea was created in the Qing Dynasty and used as a tribute tea.
Tea 5: Yellow Large Leaf Tea
Yellow tea made of tea shoots combined with one bud and two to five tea leaves. Varieties: Huoshan Yellow Large Leaf Tea, Baiyun Tea, Guangdong Dayeqing. The dry leaves are fat, tightly formed, and tippy with a darker greenish blue color. They steep up a liquid that is bright orange yellow with an aroma that is clean and a flavor that is sweet and mellow. The infused leaves are yellow in color. The taste has tones of chestnut with a distinctive character and is very smooth like the best white tea.
Only the youngest tea leaves are hand-picked for this tea; and they are hand-processed using an extra “Meng Huang” fermenting step (literally, “becoming yellow”), which mellows and softens the taste. The tea comes from the Da Hua Ping mountains, said to be the best version of this tea. Like the name suggests, both the leaves and the light peppery taste of this tea will give you a yellow impression that distinguishes it from green teas. For milder flavor, steep for only a few seconds; steep for a little more than a minute to get a stronger flavor. When using a Gongfu tea set, use 3 grams of tea and steep for around 20 seconds.