Yellow tea – huang ya – has been around and beloved since the days of the Tang Dynasty (617-907 AD). Though some consider it be a variation of green tea – it is in fact its own class of tea – and is most treasured.
The Huang Shan Mountains of Anhui is home to around 75 separate mountain peaks spread across Province. It is nothing short of a visual feast with its steep jagged mountains at an elevation of approximately 1200 meters. Lush rich forests, thick rich bamboo groves and rushing water springs all contribute to the terroir of the region and the tea itself. The high elevations and dense rich soil partnered with handmade/ traditional tea farming practices brings this wonderful yellow tea alive for us to enjoy when its first picked typically around April of each year.
After plucking and initial drying, and just before firing, the leaves are given an additional step called “men huan.” That extra step is referred to as “sealing the yellow” and is the defining step which creates: Yellow Tea. The tea leaves are steamed lightly and then covered with cloth to allow the leaves to absorb additional fragrances/flavors and allowed to rest for up to a day. At the discretion of the Tea Master, the smothering of the leaves may be repeated in order to bring it to the desired finish.
Huo Shan Huang Ya is smooth. Really smooth. And floral. And completely lacking in bitterness or astringency – which is a defining characteristic of most Yellow Teas. Our lot is naturally sweet and vegetal, but not overly grassy. The straw-colored liquor from the sword shaped leaves yields a surprisingly bright, clear and clean cup of tea reminiscent of fresh hay. The floral notes linger… and linger some more on the palate.
When we first introduced Yellow Tea / Huo Shan Huang Ya to our die hard Green Tea lovers/customers, the reaction was always the same: “I’ve never heard of Yellow Tea.” That’s because it’s not as common in the West. But once our tea people were nudged to try this gorgeous leaf, there was no turning back: love at first sip!
The Health Benefits of Yellow Tea are similar to the benefits of Green Tea with an additional advantage: it is easier on the stomach. People sensitive to Green Tea have had great luck with the mellowness, yet flavorful Yellow Tea.
~The Chief Leaf