Huo Shan Huang Da Cha (霍山黄大茶) is known as the ‘coffee of tea’. It is classed as a yellow tea because of the processing that it undergoes, but unlike a ‘usual’ yellow tea which is light and close to a white or green tea, this one has been heavily roasted (deep baked). April 2018 harvest.
The manufacture of yellow tea is a process that is very similar to that of green tea (withering followed by steaming or pan-frying to prevent oxidation) with one additional stage. After pan-frying the tea leaves are gently heated (normally under a damp cloth or wrapped in paper) allowing them to oxidise very slightly through a process of non-enzymic fermentation. This step is repeated as many times as necessary to achieve the desired appearance and aroma. After this step Huo Shan Huang Da Cha undergoes additional heavy roasting, which is unique to this tea and sets it apart from other yellow teas, such as the Huo Shan Huang Ya.
Grown in Huo Shan County of Anhui Province, this tea is also known as ‘Mount Huo Big Yellow’ to follow the literal translation of the Chinese name. The large leaves of this tea are harvested from the bushes that are also used to make Huo Shan Huang Ya yellow tea. The harvest time is in the middle of April. This particular crop is form the 2015 harvest and this tea definitely improves with age, mellowing out with time.
As the name suggests, this Huo Shan Huang Da Cha yellow tea has very large leaves that are also mixed with some of the stems from the tea plant. Much like the Japanese Kukicha, the stems impart this tea with extra sweetness due to naturally occurring sugars that are present in higher concentration in the stems.
The claim to be the ‘coffee of tea’ certainly holds strong for this Huo Shan Huang Da Cha yellow tea. The roasting of the tea leaves is somewhat reminiscent of a strong coffee roast. The aroma from the dry leaves is very roasted with a big helping of smoked sultanas. The liquor is medium strength and light umber in colour. The taste profile is extremely similar to coffee. There is an unmistakable coffee roast-kind of taste present throughout. It is also reminiscent, strangely, of a flavour that is akin to a diluted brandy. So to us it also tasted like a slightly alcoholic drink. Perhaps black coffee and brandy in one cup? There are also hints of dried fruits, such as prunes on the aftertaste to keep things even more exciting!
Huo Shan Huang Da Cha is best brewed with water at 90°C for 4-5 minutes and can be brewed multiple times.