HUO SHAN HUANG YA
A super premium Yellow Loose Leaf Tea from the misty mountains of Anhui province, China.
A TEA TASTING INTRODUCTION
We have a super tea for you to taste - a tea type that you maybe have never sipped before.
Huo Shan Huang Ya, or as we simply call it, Huo Shan, is a large leaf Yellow Loose Tea. It is fabulously rare and we would class it as a super-premium fine loose tea. It is from China and has a wonderful legend behind it - something to really impress your fellow tea lovers with when you tell them of your latest find.
You're welcome to follow these notes and make your tea as you read, which hopefully will enhance your tea tasting experience... This may be a good time to pop the kettle on!
MEET RISHI DEB - OUR MASTER BLENDER AND CHINA TEA EXPERT
Rishi Deb is our China tea expert within our Master Blender team here in Andover, Hampshire. UK.
He loves to travel as some of the finest teas he buys for Twinings are from places of outstanding natural beauty around the world. Nothing adds more to the tea experience than sipping your tea whilst drinking in the landscape of where it comes from.
As well as a tea buyer, Rishi is a Master Tea Blender and for him, tea blending is like creating a special recipe where different teas and natural ingredients are combined to create a taste of beauty and majesty.
HUO SHAN HUANG YA – THE STORY OF OLD
Back in the day (a time we are not too certain of the exact dates) all the tea picked from this hill was salty except for the leaves from one particular tree. But nobody had seen this divine tree.
After several years a young man came here to move his ancestral grave. A divinity gave him directions; he found the tree and started to dig. A couple of golden hens were frightened by him and flew away to a little river at the foot of the hill. From then on the tea has never been salty again.
During the reign of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1501 to 1722) this tea was only to be served at the imperial court, as a tribute tea. This was during a time when the Great Wall of China, built as a defence against the Manchu (Qing Dynasty), had stone and brick added to it.
The imperial palace of this time was in the Forbidden City and this tea would have been drunk by the Royal Family. Most tea parties were held in Wenhua Hall, Chonghua Palace (the Hall of Double Glory) or Qianqing Palace (the Hall of Heavenly Purity).
THE REGION & TEA SEASON
It’s from the Anhui province in Eastern China - a beautiful area with misty mountains and the low deltas. It’s lush, it’s green, it’s warm and perfect for tea growing.
The tea producing region covers roughly 500 square kilometres and is situated alongside the wondrous Yellow Mountain, with its Lutus Peak, which is 1800 metres above sea level.
For the tea tourist today there are so many sights to see and places to visit, like the Fengyang Royal Mausoleum of the Ming Dynasty and the Emerald Valley – known as Lovers Valley located in the northern foot of Huangshan Mountain and not forgetting the tea gardens in this region where our Yellow tea is from.
TEA SEASON - CROPPING AND PLUCKING
Tea plantations in this region are above 600 metres in altitude.
They produce succulent, silvery buds, which are plucked by hand early in the growing season. This tends to be just before the spring rains and lasts just a couple of days.
These conditions make this tea fine and rare – so for this season when our stocks are out, we will need to wait for the following year's growing season.
Fengyang Royal Mausoleum of the Ming Dynasty.
Tourist steps built on the cliffs of Huangshan (Yellow Mountain).
Early morning misty tea plucking.
WHAT MAKES A YELLOW TEA?
These teas are similar to green tea but have more tasting notes and a gentler ride on the palette.
The tea leaves during the processing are left longer in order to dry naturally. This causes the leaves to oxidise to a greater degree than green tea but not as much as black tea.
This slower drying process or “mellowing” as it’s referred to by “those in the know” is where these succulent, silvery buds are wrapped up into parcels of tea and allowed to oxidise over several days. It’s these parcels that give the tea this distinct yellow colour.
The tea is usually oven dried or gently pan fried to preserve the subtle flavours. The smell of the dry tea is also quite different to that of white or green tea.
The taste should be really uplifting and refreshing, sweet with a softer mouth feel. It is one of those teas that you will love and as the year rolls by you will start to count the days until the next season’s crop is available to buy.
To create the final tea, the leaves are hand crafted into long, shiny, yellowy-green loose leaves made up of a downy single bud or as in this case one bud and two leaves.
MAKING YOUR TEA
Your kettle will have boiled by now, meaning that if you have a kettle without a temperature control, your freshly boiled water will have rested for about 3 minutes or so.
It is important with some of these rare large leaf teas not to burn or bruise the leaves by adding scalding water. This will lessen your tea experience, as what we want to do is to encourage all those delicate flavours to be present in our cup.
I have used the old trusted method of using one teaspoon per person and one for the pot.
With Yellow tea we would recommend that you allow your tea to steep for 1 to 2 minutes - personally I like a milder, mellower flavour of tea so this is perfect for me. If you like your tea to be more robust, leave your brewing time up to 3 to 4 minutes. Even though the price of fine loose teas like this can seem a luxury, the brilliant thing about finer loose teas is that their leaves can be resteeped 3 to 4 times meaning your leaves will last a little longer.
Add 1 heaped tea spoon or a generous pinch of tea per person and one for the pot - not a hard and fast rule, experiment for yourself to give the amount that gives you the flavour intensity that suits you.
Use freshly boiled water, I let my boiled water rest for a moment or two, so that I don't bruise these fine tea leaves with scolding water.
TASTING YOUR YELLOW TEA
Before you taste your tea, have a smell.
First of all, before your nostrils come close to the tea liquor, just smell the back of your hand – it helps to cleanse your palette.
For me it’s rather lovely, we’ve got some florals in there, honeysuckle and a lovely orchid, and there’s something that’s giving it a smooth and sweet aroma as well.
The tea has such a fine distinct character in the mouth. As a mere tea geek I use words like roasted nuts, honey and a zesty lime to describe the tastes I’m experiencing.
When you smell and taste your tea, why not use the Twinings flavour wheel and see what aromas and tastes you come up with.
Pour your tea after a couple of minutes.
Look for a lovely light yellow colour for the liquor.