Golden Tipped Yunnan

Golden Tipped Yunnan

Yunnan Sunrise (aka Golden Tipped Yunnan)

Golden-tipped Yunnan also goes by the name Dianhong. Dian is the short name for the Yunnan province and hong means red tea, so the name is Yunnan Red tea. Keep in mind, what Americans and Europeans refer to as black tea is called red tea in China. The red refers to the color of the brew, while the black refers to the color of the leaf. Neither name is wrong, they just refer to different characteristics of the tea.

Origin of Golden Tipped Yunnan

As the name suggests it is produced in the Yunnan province of China. Known more for puerh and bricks of packed tea, Yunnan province did not move into producing loose tea until the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.  Their loose black teas are some of the most complex with rich flavor, most notably by the inclusion of golden buds in the black tea. Most notably the golden-tipped Yunnan is made from the cultivar Yunnan Dayeh, which has a broad leaf, stronger and thicker buds (making it easier to twist and keep whole at the same time), and an earlier sprouting meaning they are harvested in early March instead of late March, allowing the farmer to harvest more during the growing season.streaming The Bye Bye Man film

Golden Tipped Yunnan Production

To produce the golden buds, there are additional steps in the production of this tea than in a typical black tea. As with all tea, after the leaves are plucked they are immediately withered in the sun or climate controlled warehouse to allow the leaves to be pliable and to remove around 60% of their moisture. Next they are rolled either with machine or by hand to help breakdown the cell membrane and speed along oxidation. Then the leaves are laid out and allowed to rest while they oxidize. After assessing the moisture of the leaves, they may be covered with wet cloths to speed the oxidation processes. This is where the Golden-tipped Yunnan deviates from the standard production. The leaves are not allowed to oxidize fully and a slow oxidation process is needed to control it properly so the cloths are not used. They are allowed partial oxidation with the tea master inspecting often to ensure those golden tips don’t turn fully black. They are dried by a variety of techniques by blowing warm air on the leaves. They are then sorted by size to be sold. In some cases, a second drying may occur to further reduce moisture if needed and increase the golden color.

Loose leaf Golden Tipped Yunnan after infusion.

Infused leaf of Golden Tipped Yunnan.

Golden tipped Yunnan (Yunnan Sunrise) has a beautiful mix of golden and black buds with a slightly hoppy smell. It brews a beautiful reddish-brown with a complex mix of orange, malty and smooth finish. The partial oxidation on the leaves allows this black tea to be brewed like an oolong, at lower temperatures, which produces a more creamy flavor.

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Fujian Province of China

On the southeast cost of China lies Fujian Province.

Fujian Province China

The Fujian Province of China is an ecologically diverse region of China that makes the perfect home for tea to grow. Located on the southeastern coast of China, Fujian is approximately 46,000 square miles, about the same size as Mississippi. It currently has a population of 38 million, 1 million higher than the state of California (the most populated state in the US). Fujian is home to many Chinese ethnic minorities including the Hui, Miao and Manchu to name just a few. The Silk Road turned Fujian into one of the most culturally diverse regions of China and the mountainous topography allowed the different cultures to settle and remain distinct over the centuries of migration through this area. This amazing mix of diversity in both people and land forms has created a region with diverse tea production and culture.

Terroir of Fujian Province

Fujian has a humid and mild climate, even up in its mountains. The average low temperature is 41°F and the high will get to around 85°F and averages around 40 inches of rain a year. Most of the tea in the Fujian province is grown in the mountains. Mount Wuyi is the most famous mountain in Fujian province and is part of a jagged mountain range that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Most of the tea are planted on the eastern and northern slopes of this range to get the right mix of fog and sun.

The mild climate also makes this province home to a wide variety of fruits and flowers like bananas, lychee, olives, and jasmine.

History & Culture of Fujian Province

There is a saying in China that says if you travel 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) in Fujian, the culture changes, and if you travel 10 kilometers (6.21 miles) the language changes. This cultural diversity is attributed to the Silk Road, that travels through the entire province. Fujian is one of the oldest provinces, established during the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (220BCE-206BCE) that has survived many dynasties intact. Its large coast lines created even larger trading ports along the coast and the Silk Road created large trading cities inland and brought in many different cultures.

To give you just a glimpse into the cultural diversity, the Hui are decedents of Arabic and Persian merchants and are one of the largest Muslim communities in China. Their dialect is a mix of Chinese and Persian. The Manchus are descendants of the Jurchen people, who were farming tribes in northern China and Siberia that came south bringing their farming and animal husbandry skills to the rest of China, including goat and cow milk production. While the traditions and dialects are different, generally all the cuisines focus on the the abundant seafood found on the coast along with the wide varieties of fruit and vegetable that grow in the region. The spicing on the dishes reflect the culture and heritage of the chef that produces them.

Famous Teas of Fujian Province

Jasmine Tea - Scented Green Tea and Liquor

Jasmine Dragon Tears – Scented Green Tea

Fujian Province is considered the birthplace of Jasmine Dragon Tears Tea, with its creation beginning during the Song dynasty (960 CE-1127CE). It is from Fujian that we get the pine smoked Lapsang Souchong, and where we can find great oolongs like Ti Kuan Yin as well assubtle black teas like Da Hong Pao.

The tea culture has been here since its beginning and has been influenced by the Silk Road. The oolong technique started here traveled the short distance across the Taiwan straight to Taiwan. The techniques for Jasmine tea traveled to other provinces like Huebi. For tea drinkers, Fujian is an important part of tea history and still plays a key role in the industry today.

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Huang Shan Mao Feng Tea and its History

Yellow Mountains with clouds below.

Yellow Mountains of Anhui Province, China – by Flickr User Chi King – CC BY 2.0

Huang Shan Mao Feng tea is rich in both flavor and history.  This amazing green tea is considered one of the most famous Chinese teas, being prized for its complex vegetal flavor and the shape of the finished tea leaves.

History of Huang Shan Mao Feng

Huang Shan Mao Feng comes from the Huang Shan mountains in the Anhui province of China. Huang Shan means yellow mountains, which they happen to be. These are the famous mountains often depicted in Chinese pictures with the pointy jagged rocks at the tip with trees jutting out from deep crevasses. This region provides the perfect terroir for tea, making it home to several famous Chinese teas. Huang Shan Mao Feng may be the youngest of these teas, becoming popular in the late 1800s CE, during the reign of the last Chinese imperial dynasty.

Most Chinese teas have a myth around their creation that reflect the ancient life of China, and this tea is no different. The story goes that a young maiden on a tea plantation fell in love with a local scholar. The plantation owner wanted her as his wife and forced her parents to give the young maiden to him. The night before the wedding the young maiden escaped and fled into the mountains to find the scholar, only to discover he was killed by the plantation owner. When she went to his grave deep in the mountains she cried over his body, turning it into a tea bush and herself into the rain and mist that covers the mountains almost daily.

Huang Shan Mao Feng Production

Huang Shan Mao Feng is made from the young growth of the bud and first leaf, and often have the noticeable silver hairs made famous by Bai Hao Silver Needle tea. It is shaped by hand into a mountain peak. The term Mao Feng mean furry peak. These needles will range in color from light to dark green and have a slight curve in their shape. This tea, like Dragon Well, is picked before the Qing Ming holiday and baked to stop the oxidation.

Steeping Huang Shan Mao Feng

Yellow Tea Huang Shan Mao Feng Leaf and Liquor

Yellow Tea – Huang Shan Mao Feng

You are going to use 3 grams per 8 ounces of water. If you do not have kitchen scale, use 2 tablespoons to get the 3 grams as this tea is very light and airy. The water should be between 175°-185° Fahrenheit. Allow the leaves to steep for 2 minutes for the first cup. Your second cup should be steeped for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Your third cup should be steeped for 3 minutes. Notice how the flavor changes with the cups, going from a light grassy to a strong vegetal flavor.

If you have not had this tea before, stop into the shop for a tasting or order a sample online.  This tea reflects the skill of Chinese tea masters and the beauty of Chinese green tea.

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Flowering Teas – Artwork in a Tea Pot

Flowering teas in a teapot for two at Dominion Tea - Purcellville Tasting Room

Flower Burst enjoyed at our Purcellville Tasting Room in Loudoun County Virginia.

Flowering Teas are not only a good cup of tea but a beautiful piece of artwork. These relative new comers to the tea world require little work from the brewer and a clear glass teapot to truly enjoy.

History and the making of Flowering Teas

Flowering teas, or blooming teas, surfaced in the Chinese market in the 1980’s and started to make it into the US in noticeable volume in the 1990’s. These teas are a combination of tea leaves and flower petals that are sewn together in a pattern to create a flower when steeped in hot water. Always hand tied, these teas originated from the Yunnan province.

In choosing the flowers and tea leaves, the tea company focuses on the wow factor of the bloom opening and the color contrasts along with the flavor. Typically green tea is used as the base to create what will become the leaves of the flower. The tea may or may not be jasmine scented prior to being sewn together. The artists making these are working with wilted leaves that have not been baked yet, so there are a lot of possibilities on how they introduce flavor into the creation. Usually they are working with older leaves as they will hold up to the sewing and molding into shapes more than the younger.

Once the base is in place, using cotton yarn, they will stitch in the center flowers working from the outer flower petals into the center. Common flowers for this are jasmine, chrysanthemum, osmanthus, lily, hibiscus, and amaranth. These flowers impart their own scent and flavor to the tea. The creation is baked and slowly formed into the bud.

Brewing Flowering Teas

Flowering Burst tea balls and open in liquor.

Flower Burst tied flowering tea.

To enjoy a flowering tea, you really need a clear glass tea pot. Since you are working with a green tea and flower petals, you will need water in the 175-185 degree Fahrenheit range. Place the ball in the pot and then fill with water. The ball will float because of the air pockets formed in the ball while it was being stitched together. With time, the ball will absorb in enough water to start to sink. You can help it along using a spoon or chop stick to hold down the ball. Once you see air bubbles leaving the ball, you should be all set to allow the ball to sit and open. This can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes. Once the ball opens, feel free to pour yourself a cup of tea.

Using the Flowering Teas for Decoration

So once you have enjoyed that pot of tea, you can use the open flower as a decoration. Grab a glass vase or cup large enough to allow the flower to remain open in the bottom. Put the flower in the bottom and add enough cold water to allow the blossom to be fully covered. Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. The vinegar will slow the browning of the flower petals. You will need to change the water about every 3 days and the flower will stay for about 2 weeks before fading becomes very apparent. If may be less if kept in a spot with direct sunlight.

Add flowering teas to your tea collection and enjoy a beautiful center piece as well as a good cup of tea.

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First Flush Tea – A Presentation of Spring

Beautiful pink blossoms of a tree at Lake Reston.

Its Spring in the mid-Atlantic but also in prime picking regions around the world.

Spring has sprung in the mid-Atlantic and in addition to flowers in our area this past week saw the first of what will be several first pluckings (first flushes) of the 2016 season. Whether in China, Japan or India, the first flush tea is always considered the most special and typically sells for more money at the tea auctions.

First Flush – Why is it so special?

As we have talked about in the past, terroir effects the tea plant, and the first flush arrives after the plant has been dormant for some time, usually over winter, or during the peak time of year for the plant’s growth leading up to flowering. Of course it is not to the farmer’s benefit to allow the tea plant to blossom as all the growing energy will go into the flower and not into the leaves. Due to that energy, these first pluckings have the most nuanced flavors and usually demand the highest prices, like Pre-Qing Ming Dragonwell or Bai Hao Silver Needle. Both teas carry a taste of light spring grass or flowers.

China First Flush

In China, the first flush comes during the period before Qing-Ming, a big national holiday that is dedicated to the cleaning of the family tomb, to show respect for past relatives and the importance of family, as well as other spring activities like flying a kite. This holiday also falls right around the start of the spring rains. While the rains bring much needed water for the tea plant, they will cause the leaves to loose flavor.

Loose leaf 1st flush Darjeeling from Goomtee Estate

1st Flush Darjeeling from Goomtee Estate in India.

Darjeeling First Flush

In Darjeeling, India, the first pluck will come in late March to early April. A first flush Darjeeling, is practically a green tea with a very light and floral smell, even though it is manufactured as a black. It is truly a reflection of the freshness of spring. While most people are familiar with Second Flush Darjeelings, as that is the Darjeeling that has traveled the globe and has introduced the world to the champagne of teas, it is very different from a First Flush Darjeeling and typically picked in June before the summer monsoons.

Japan First Flush

The first flush in Japan comes in late April to early May. These first flushes go into Ceremonial Grade Matcha, Shincha (not be confused with Sencha), and very top grade Gyokuro. These teas are again lighter and more nuanced flavor adding a sweetness that is not typically found in Japanese greens.

Enjoy a first flush tea next time you get a chance and enjoy a cup of spring.

 

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