Yellow Tea: Basics, Health Benefits & the Best Types
The art of tea-making opens up a world of flavor for tea lovers to discover. From everyday herbal teas to the rarest tea types, the tea industry offers a flavor for everyone. If you’re looking for rare tastes and ancient influences in your next cup, check out yellow tea.
Yellow tea is produced similarly to white tea and green tea though an additional step is added. This extra step produces a tea that brews into a golden hue and features a mellow flavor without grassy notes. Learn more about the basics of yellow tea and unearth the best types on the planet.
Yellow Tea Basics
Yellow tea is a type of tea known as true teas. These types of tea are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, known more commonly as the tea plant. Other famous teas in this same classification include green tea, white tea, oolong tea, black tea, and pu-erh tea.
What makes this tea so desirable is its rarity. Yellow tea is a Chinese tea that is difficult to find outside of China. That's because the process to produce this tea is time intensity, requires additional labor, and proves to be difficult when it comes to large-scale quality control. As a result, there are only three main types of yellow tea available on the market today.
Yellow tea undergoes a production process that is similar to green tea but includes one extra, time-consuming step. The leaves are harvested in early spring and immediately dried using direct sunlight or gentle pan-firing. Once dry, the leaves are wrapped in wet paper or cloth to induce a mild oxidation process through steaming. The yellow tea leaves are oxidized for up to three days and may undergo additional firing or drying rounds. This tea processing method produces a yellowing effect on the tea leaves.
Yellow tea offers a mellow flavor that is similar to green tea. It does not have the grassy smell associated with green tea and the yellow tea leaves tend to have a smoother taste. The tea brews into a characteristic yellow, golden hue.
Health Benefits of Yellow Tea
Yellow tea is packed with antioxidants including polyphenols and catechins that are beneficial to overall health. These antioxidants work to prevent damage known as oxidative stress, which is caused by the presence of free radicals. This type of stress is known to breakdown healthy cellular processes and can contribute to premature aging as well as mental decline. The tea is naturally calorie-free, making it a good choice for people on weight loss plans that are looking to replace sugary sodas with healthier alternatives.
Best Types of Yellow Tea
There are just a few types of yellow tea in the world since the production process is difficult and the tradition of making yellow tea has become more obscure. Fortunately, the varieties remaining are high-quality and delicately produced to elicit the classic flavor of this ancient tea. Here are some of the best yellow teas you can get your hands on.
Jun Shan Yin Zhen (Silver Needle)
This tea is cultivated on Jun Shan island in the Hunan Province of China. It was used as a tribute tea in ancient times and is reputed to be the favorite tea of Mao Zedong. The tea offers flavor characteristics that are similar to silver needle white tea. It is slightly floral and mildly sweet with a light and airy body.
Meng Ding Huang Ya
Leaves for this yellow tea are cultivated along Mt. Meng in Sichuan Province. The tea is one of the ancient Chinese teas and has been consumed and cultivated since the reign of the Han Dynasty. The tea offers a nutty flavor with mild notes of grass.
Mo Gan Huang Ya
This is another yellow tea grown at high elevations in the Zhejiang Province. The yellow tea leaves are cultivated on the slopes of Mt. Mo Gan Shan, which has a unique microclimate that deepens the flavor of the tea. The area is rife with mountain springs, foggy mornings, and cool weather patterns. The terroir results in a unique yellow tea that has a lightly sweet flavor, lingering aftertaste, and brews into a color similar to plump apricots.
Huo Shan Huang Ya
This type of ancient yellow tea was cultivated in Anhui Province. In recent years, the number of producers and tea masters focusing on this tea variety have dwindled. The demand for yellow tea in the region has been overwhelmed by a preference for green tea. That coupled with the long production process and cost of cultivating this yellow tea has resulted in the near extinction of this type of yellow tea. Processes are underway to help support these tea masters and revive the production of this special yellow tea.
This type of yellow tea is harvested mainly on Mt. Huo and is used in traditional Chinese tea ceremonies. The tea is made using tea buds and leaves and brews into a light green and yellow hue. It offers a sweet undertone with peppery overtures.
How To Make Yellow Tea
Making yellow tea involves many of the same brewing techniques as green tea or white tea. Since this is a rare tea, it is more likely you'll be brewing using loose leaf teas rather than tea bags. Use one teaspoon of loose leaf tea for every single cup serving. Boiling water will burn the flavor of the delicate yellow tea leaves, so use water between 165 and 175 degrees Fahrenheit instead. Steep the tea leaves for 3 minutes and then set aside. You can use yellow tea leaves for up to 4 to 6 infusions.