Yellow tea is China’s rarest tea, due to the extensive manufacturing process to get the yellow hued leaves and liquor. Depending on current trends in China, yellow teas come and go in overall availability, making it more difficult to find these teas here in the United States, but they can be found.
History of Yellow Tea
There are a wide range of stories around the creation of yellow tea and when it occurred, without a lot of agreement around those circumstances. Yellow tea is currently manufactured in both the Anhui and Hunan provinces of China.
It is thought that the tea was produced in honor of the emperor, though which one specifically is not really clear, with yellow being the imperial colors of all five imperial dynasties in China. In Chinese culture, yellow is considered the most beautiful color. It is associated with Yin and Yang and the perfect center of everything. Yellow is paired with red in decorating alters and imperial palaces and is also associated with heroism in China.
With yellow holding such an important place in Chinese culture, it is only natural for tea producers to experiment and ultimately produce a tea that is both yellow in color as a dry leaf and as the beverage.
Producing Yellow Tea
Yellow tea resides somewhere between white and green teas both in flavor and appearance. Like a white tea, it is picked as either only a bud or a bud and single leaf. However, it is steamed during production. Like other teas, yellow tea is picked, withered in the sun and then pan dried. However, at the end of the pan drying, it is then laid back out and covered with a damp cloth and allowed to steam for a few hours. It is then returned to the pan to dry and may then be wrapped again. This process of steaming and drying may be repeated several times until the tea reaches the required color. Keeping the buds and leaves whole while going between the pan and the steaming clothes requires great care, adding time to an already time consuming manufacturing process. The process ends with the final drying in the pan.
All of that work produces a tea that ranges from buttery to floral in flavor depending on which yellow tea you get and at what temperature you steep it.
Types of Yellow Tea
Yellow tea is quite rare and there only a few available including Jun Shan Yin Zhen from the Hunan province and Huo Shan Huang Ya from the Anhui province. Jun Shan Yin Zhen is bud only and tastes buttery with slight floral aroma. The Huo Shan Huang Ya was originally a tribute tea dating back to the Ming Dynasty and brews with a floral aroma and slightly nutty taste. These teas can be brewed at temperatures between 185-200 degrees Fahrenheit for 3-5 minutes for a cup. We would recommend a gaiwan for this tea so you can enjoy the beauty of the infused tea leaves.
So when you are in search of your next tea experience, keep your eyes open for these teas. They are worth a try.