Huo Shan Huang Ya (霍山黃芽) is a yellow tea from Huo Shan County, located in Anhui Province of China. A balanced and mellow tea, it has smooth vegetal notes with no astringency. Grown from Jin Ji cultivar at an altitude of 800 meters, this particular batch was hand plucked and processed in early April 2020.
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The name of this yellow tea translates as Mount Huo Yellow Bud and refers to its origin (Huo Shan 霍山 – Mount Huo) as well as to the fact that tender buds of this tea are processed using the yellow tea production method. Yellow tea production method is distinct from other teas. While some may find this tea similar to other gently processed greens, all yellow teas undergo a special separate procedure called Sealing Yellow (闷黄 – Men Huang). A laborious process that requires great skill on the tea master’s part results in yellow teas having a much milder and smoother taste.
The Men Huang process is what distinguishes yellow tea from green tea. After plucking, just like with green tea, the leaves are briefly withered. Also like green tea, yellow tea is then heated (traditionally panned in a wok but also using modern machinery), but at a lower temperature than green tea. Afterwards, while the tea is still hot, it is usually rolled, piled and wrapped in paper or cloth to initiate the Men Huang process. It is all done in a controlled environment with further piling and with the introduction of heat and moisture by spraying or steam. This results in slight oxidation through a process of light non-enzymic fermentation. In some cases this process can be repeated many times over a number of days until the desired outcome is achieved. Finally the tea is fixed and dried by either heating or panning in a wok or in a modern machine equivalent. This processing profoundly affects the flavour of the tea, reducing grassy and dry notes and instead making the tea more mellow, smoother and sweeter.
Huo Shan Huang Ya yellow tea has a beautifully mellow nature that sets it apart from other non-oxidised teas. The dark green leaves have a slightly waxy appearance with plenty of silver hairs evident on the straight tippy leaves. When brewed it produces a liquor that is light in colour and taste. At the same time the flavours are quite full – more so than with similar light green or heavier white teas. The processing of this tea really balances the flavours and mellows it out. While it still has some vegetal flavours similar to other green teas, the profile is very smooth and lacking in any grassy astringency of green tea. This tea has umami vegetal notes that are a little sweet and a little savoury at the same time with just a hint of roasted and nutty notes.
This yellow tea is best brewed at 80°C for 2-3 minutes according to your taste and can be brewed 3-4 times, increasing steeping time with each next brew if desired.