The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
China's Yellow Tea
The Most Misunderstood Type of Tea
China's yellow teas are probably the most misunderstood of all the main tea
types, and even though they share many attributes of green teas, they don't
seem to fit neatly into any one category.
Many people haven't even heard
of yellow tea, thinking it's a new
addition to
China's teas, but it
actually goes back as far as the
Song Dynasty
(960-1279) and it's reported to have been a
tribute tea (a sort of yearly tax payment made to
each emperor with teas chosen by them from
among favorites.

Many tea sellers outside of China don't understand
what
yellow teas are
exactly and in some
instances may be mis-
takenly labelling and
selling
green teas as
yellow.  That's really
too bad, because yell-
ow teas are delicious, sweet fresh teas in their own right.

                                               Similar in many ways to green teas, yellow teas receive an extra
                                               step during manufacture that makes them more costly to produce.
                                               Add to that the fact that they are often made from tips or buds,
                                               the most select plucking, and it's clear why they are the most rare
                                               and hardest to find among the
six main tea types.

                                               From four or five pounds of plucked tea a day comes just eight
ounces of tiny buds.  And coupled together with the extra step taken during manufacture, and
it's clear why yellow teas are so expensive
and rare.

The Chinese believe that some of the best
teas are grown high on the mountaintop,
and this definitely rings true of yellow tea,
starting with Mengding Mountain Huang Ya
or Mengding Mountain Snow Buds, a sweet,
refreshingly lively yellow tea from Ya' an
County in central Sichuan Province.  This fla-
vorful tea is a long-leaf mao feng tea.  Mao
feng refers to the choice picking of two leafs
and a bud.

Located several hours drive north of Ya'an
lies Mingshan County, the historical location
where tea was first cultivated in China.  Leg-
end tells of a young man named Wu LiZhen,
who planted seven tea trees from cuttings on Meng-
ding Mountain around 53 B.C., during the
Han
Dynasty.  

The legend goes on to tell how later, during the
Song Dynasty (960-1279), Emperor Xiaozong gave Wu LiZhen the title of Master of Sweet Dew,
choosing Mengding Mountain Huang Ya as a tribute tea.

                                   Grown in the higher elevations, Mengding Mountain Huang Ya is made
                                   from early spring buds which are plucked as soon as they are covered
                                   with soft white down, then made into this sweet, refreshing yellow tea
                                   the Chinese call gan lu or "sweet dew" in honor of Wu LiZhen.

                                   From Mount Emei, one of China's most sacred Buddhist mountains, also
                                   located in Sichuan Province comes Bamboo Tips or Zhu Ye Qing, another
                                   sweet and refreshing yellow tea made from many small compact buds.

                                   Both Bamboo Tips and Mengding Mountain Huang Ya are short and slend-
                                   er, and this style of pluck is often called Sparrow's Tongue because of its
fine, thin crescent shape.

From northern
Fujian Province comes Jun Shan Yin Zhen, or Jun
Mountains Silver Needle.  An early spring flush tea, Jun Mountains
silver needle contains only the very young silvery-green, soft down
covered buds that closely resemble those of
white tea but are a
more gold or tan, khaki color.
              
The white bunches of Silver Needle are domesticated from wild tea
trees and the plump, down-covered silvery green leaves have been
prized for their medicinal properties for over a thousand years.  

                                  Some other China yellow teas to look for are Snow Shoot Tea from Qing
                                  Cheng Mountain, plucked during the earliest part of the spring flush tea
                                  harvest.  Also Meng Ding Yellow Sprouts, a spring flush tea likely picked
                                  later in the season as the tips are a little less fluffy.

                                  And from Huang Mountain in
Anhui Province comes Huang Shan Mao Feng
                                  (also called Yellow Mountain Hair Peak) where the tea bushes grow
                                  among beautifully scented wild peach trees.

                                  Lastly, also from Anhui Province there is Huo Shan Huang Ya (or Huo Shan
                                  Yellow Sprouts), an ancient tea said to be from the Ming and Qing Dynas-
ties.  Lost until the 1970's, this spicy, gingery, floral tea was again discovered and is being
produced.

As with all the other yellow teas, it's both labor intensive and difficult to make, but definitely         
worth the effort.  
Enjoy.   
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