Updated: Dec 18, 2021
Yellow tea is a rare variety of tea, which often gets classified as green or white tea. The complete production process of yellow tea is believed to date back to the Qing Dynasty. Due to its complicated process, few varieties of this ancient art remain.
What is Yellow Tea?
Like green, white, and other tea, yellow tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. The production of yellow tea is similar to that of green tea. However, there is an additional step of gently heating the tea leaves by wrapping them in a damp cloth. This extra step, known as Men Huang (Yellow Sealing), helps to minimize the vegetal and grassy characteristics known to that of green tea.
History of Yellow Tea
There are three well-known varieties of yellow tea in existence today: Jun Shan Yin Zhen, Meng Ding Huang Ya, and Huo Shan Huang Ya. These come from the Hu Nan province, Mt. Mengding in Sichuan province, and Huoshan county of Anhui province, respectively. Known as "bud teas", these teas are comprised of the bud and one leaf from the Camillia sinensis plant.
Jun Shan Yin Zhen is the rarest tea coming from China today. It grows on the tiny Jun Shan Island, where the tea estate itself has been state-owned for centuries. Though it translates as Silver Needles of Gentleman Mountain, this rare tea should not be confused with the Chinese Silver Needle white tea.
Meng Ding Huang Ya is produced in a national AAAA-level scenic tourist location in China, on Mengding Mountain. Originally a tribute tea for emperors to enjoy, today its traditional production process is listed as a provincial intangible cultural heritage.
Huo Shan Huang Ya was produced in times dating back to the Tang Dynasty. Unfortunately, due to the outbreak of war in China, its production stopped in the early 20th century. Thanks to local farmers and a group of tea experts, the art of producing this yellow tea was revived in 1973.
Characteristics of Yellow Tea
The visual characteristics of this rare tea are the yellow color to the tea leaves and the yellow liquor produced once brewed. In terms of flavor, yellow tea will yield a less bitter, mellower cup compared to green tea and has a smooth finish. The taste is often described as somewhere between a green tea and a white tea. Due to the heaping during the "yellow sealing" process, this type of tea is slightly fermented and tends to contain more digestive enzymes.
If you're looking for new or rarer teas, yellow tea would be a great contender. Be aware the highest quality yellow teas are reserved for Chinese diplomats and are difficult to find outside of China. These teas tend to come with a hefty price tag as well. As yellow tea begins to rise in popularity once again, there are suppliers that are able to obtain this rare tea for sharing more globally, with Huo Shan Huang Ya perhaps being one of the more readily available varieties.
"'THE EXPLORATION OF A NEW YELLOW TEA AND THE DISCOVERY OF A NEW GREEN TEA", https://camellia-sinensis.com/fr/blogue/jasmin-en-chine-lexploration-dun-nouveau-the-jaune-et-la-decouverte-dun-nouveau-the-vert, April 9, 2012.
"Meng Ding Huang Ya (Yellow Tea)", https://www.chineseteainfo.com/mengding-huangya/
"Huo Shan Huang Ya (Yellow Tea)", https://www.chineseteainfo.com/huoshan-huangya/