Meta: The basics of organic Yellow Tea covered. Our short article about the delicate nature of Yellow Tea, its history and its unique taste and feel.
Yellow Tea is considered to be the rarest type of tea in the world. Delicately produced in small batches and only limitedly available outside of China, a batch of high quality organic Yellow Tea is extremely hard to come by. But once you do, you are in for an absolute treat. But what is Yellow Tea exactly? How is it made, why is it so exclusive and importantly: what does it taste like? High time we covered the basics of this famously delicate and uncommon infusion.
The Emperor’s choice
Although Yellow Tea is extremely rare, it is anything but a modern find. Yellow Tea dates back to as early the Qing Dynasty (1390 – 1650 AD) and it was initially reserved for emperors only. This meant that Yellow Tea was prepared with the utmost care as a tribute for the Imperial Court. It was also a common gift for an emperor to bestow upon their guests. It is said that a gift of Yellow Tea to the Germanic realm in southern Scandinavia (now Denmark) brought Yellow Tea to the attention of the West.
Like all other teas, Yellow Tea is made from the Tea Plant Camellia Sinensis. But unlike the surfeit of types of green tea, Yellow Tea comes in only three types, depending on the region the leaves were grown and harvested. Yellow Tea generally has a sweet, bright and floral taste and a gentle fruity, floral aroma. Yellow Tea has a medium body, which means flavor is neither too strong or too weak and it has tremendous pairing abilities. It is not only exceptional in terms of taste and feel, but it also offers a number of health benefits. These qualities make yellow tea a must-try for all tea lovers.
The art of harvesting and sealing
The harvest of tea leaves required for producing yellow tea usually happens in March, right before the last snowfall of the season. At the time China’s high mountains are often still covered in snow and ice, tea farmers maneuver through dangerous conditions to get the very first tips of the tea bushes. Only to conclude the easy part…
To produce Yellow Tea, an extremely meticulous and time-consuming process then commences, requiring a traditional skill that only very few people master. The initial stages are similar to green tea: the leaves are gathered and dried in large pans, but at this point the process changes. What follows is sealing yellow or as the natives call ‘men huan’. The key to this procedure is the temperature that it is done at. Only a handful of masters in China know the exact temperature and the secret is never shared.
Every year there is only about a week in which the weather conditions are good enough for processing Yellow Tea. A short window of perfect balance between temperature and humidity
Fresh tea leaves are covered with material, for instance linen or thick paper. At carefully timed intervals the tea is then fired again, freshly wrapped and left to cool and slightly oxidise. It allows the leaves to release and reabsorb moisture, a kind of breathing process which the Chinese refer to as ‘reabsorbing essence’. The leaves lose their green colour, turn yellow and the flavour changes. This process goes on for days, requiring a lot of patience and devotion. Ultimately, the tea leaves are slowly roasted to finish the process.
Considering all this, it is not hard to understand why Yellow Tea has remained so exclusive. Arguably, it even would have become extinct if it weren’t so highly valued by locals.
What does it taste like?
We’re cutting corners here but in short: the taste of Yellow Tea is unparalleled. It is like drinking an extremely delicate green tea, typically lacking the vegetal notes and the grassy elements that come with most green teas. Instead, it brings a sensation of extreme purity, like drinking fresh morning dew. Yellow Tea is soft, fresh, slightly sweet and its finish is remarkably smooth.
What should you have on the side?
For starters: nothing. We recommend enjoying your first few cups of organic Yellow Tea all by itself, allowing yourself to fully take in its purity and subtle shifts in taste and fragrance. Once you are familiar with its basic traits, Yellow Tea offers absolutely staggering pairing abilities.
During our tasting and food pairing events, numerous people referred to the taste of Yellow Tea as ‘slightly fermented’. And when paired with raw seafood, like oysters, this connotation seems spot-on, since the two combined make for a true sensation.
In our range of Arte & Zayne origins, we have one Yellow Tea, limitedly available for you to discover and enjoy. Mellow Yellow: a 100% pure and uncut Huang Shan Yellow Tea, revealing all the beauty and purity this unique type of tea has to offer.