What is yellow tea? What isn't yellow tea? Tea producers and drinkers in Huoshan County, Anhui provided us with a variety of a different answers. There, ostensibly in one of China's three central yellow tea growing regions, the "yellow" tea we drank was sometimes new sometimes old, sometimes made from tender buds and sometimes made from aged leaves and stems. In aroma and taste, some were indistinguishable from green tea, others seemed little different from Oolong tea, and others yet tasted like they truly belonged in a category of their own. These variations reflect different processing methods and picks, but the fact that all were presented as Huoshan Huangya is a testament to how much yellow tea here remains a work in progress.
The creators of all the teas in this sampler all agree on one fact alone: yellow tea is hard to sell. Neither they nor the Chinese market is quite sure what yellow tea should be. The producers we met here have contradictory opinions on the optimal pick time, fermentation level, or storage method for yellow tea. For them, us, and all of you, yellow tea is a new frontier. For the first time ever, we want to give the international market a chance to try the full range of products in Huoshan County that are trying to be a yellow tea the market can accept.
Box Content (7 grams each):
Lao Rao's 2023 Huangya Lite (<15% fermented)
The Liu Family's 2018 Aged Huangya Lite (~20% fermented)
Huifeng Tea's 2022 Aged Huangya Lite ( ~20% fermented)
The six teas in this box can be divided into two groups, lightly fermented and heavily fermented. The three teas in the former group have ostensibly only undergone a minimal, "dry" fermentation process; the teas in the latter group teas went through the traditional weekish long process of repeated wet smothering and baking. The former three teas should be brewed grandpa-style like green tea while the latter three are more suited for Gongfu brewing and ought to be treated like raw puer or oolong tea.
In aroma and flavor, a vast range of possibilities are included in this sampler. Lao Rao's 2023 Yellow Lite is basically a standard Chinese baked green tea with a uniquely sweet, taro aroma. The 2018 and 2022 Aged Huangya teas are more fruity and floral, with a mouthfeel and huigan unlike anything green tea can deliver. If there such a thing as a characteristic yellow tea flavor profile, it is probably what one gets from these two teas. The 2021 orthodox huangya teas brew up slightly differently, but both still have the sweetness and fruitiness of the lightly fermented aged huangya samples. These two samples are perhaps the most complex of the whole box and the most prone to becoming astringent. The Huangdacha is straight forward, earthy, and almost chocolatey.