Posted in Kafevend Blog
We had a look at white tea last week, and today we've decided to take a look at another variety we've neglected in the past- yellow tea. Something of a rarity these days, yellow tea has always been a fairly reclusive type. It is exclusively produced in certain regions of China, though the rigours of business have meant that fewer areas now produce what is becoming an exceedingly rare variety of tea.
We in the West have a thing for health fads, and it seems that our fixation on the potential health benefits of green tea has inadvertantly, and unfortunately, aided the decline of yellow tea. The reason for this is the complexity of the processing that the tea leaves have to go through to be considered yellow tea.
Yellow tea shares its first stage of processing with green tea. The leaves are subjected to heat in order to prevent further oxidation and to reduce the moisture content. This can be achieved in a few ways, such as using a purpose built machine, or simply a wok. The next stage is where yellow tea deviates from green and warrants its own classification. The leaves are placed into heaps and covered with a damp cloth. The heat and humidity is what causes the leaves to turn yellow and helps to further develop the taste and aroma. This stage can take up to three days in some cases, as the tea is heated again and rewrapped. Finally, the leaves are fired twice by either baking or roasting them in order to reduce the moisture content before being packed and sold. Sometimes the heaping process occurs after the first firing, just in case it wasn't sounding complicated enough already.
The time and effort needed to make yellow tea does not necessarily translate to a high price and as such has led to several producers switching to green tea in order to fetch more money on the market. Preserving a long standing tradition is all well and good, but I'm sure you'd agree that feeding your family is more important.
There are still a few places left that make yellow tea. Although local consumption accounts for a significant portion of the yellow tea that is made, some is still exported. One of those remaining areas is the island of Jun Shan on Dong Ting lake in China's Hunan province. One of the teas made on the island is Junshan Yinzhen, which is considered one of the most famous Chinese teas of all. Alongside the complexity of its production, another factor that limits the amount made is that it is a "pre-qingming" tea. This refers to the Qingming festival that takes place on the 4th or 5th of April every year. It is also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, as its focus is on paying respects to the dead and family ancestors.
If you have a particularly discerning taste when it comes to tea, and aren't afraid to pay for the privilege, we highly recommend that you seek out some yellow tea and help to keep the tradition going!