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The Yunnan Province of China is home to some of the finest teas from China. A few years ago the Chinese government even went so far as to give approval to a proposal that limits the labeling of any Chinese tea as “pu-erh” to only those grown and processed in this province. This was in part to protect their reputation in the tea market (success breeds imitators) where their popularity is growing. But aside from these teas, other very fine ones are produced. They are categorized as “Black” (called “Dian Hong” or “red tea” in other countries) and “Golden.”

Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

A couple to get you started:

  • Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea — Considered by many to be one of the highest quality teas available from Yunnan Province. A black tea blend composed of tippy, neat, wiry, and well-made leaves that have a wonderful fragrance and produce a bright reddish cup with a malty flavor and aroma. The leaves are harvested and processed during the last 2 weeks of March and the first 2 weeks of April and so have a brighter golden tip. A tea that is perfect on its own, but a bit of milk or sugar help capture that malty character. Steep for 3-7 minutes in water that has been brought to a rolling boil. (My review)
  • Flowering Tea – 3 Flower Burst – Green Tea — This tea mimics the lush Yunnan countryside as it unfolds from brewing. Lily, Osmanthus, and jasmine blooms are tied together with steamed full leaves of Yunnan green tea. They steep up a full green taste with overtones of peach, and undertones of lily and jasmine. Steep in something where you can watch the show!

Some more to be on the lookout for:

  • Royal Yunnan — A tea resulting from literally thousands of years of tea growing and processing experience. The leaves are picked in early Spring from the first flush, and these young, fresh buds turn gold when oxidized instead of black. The rich flavor  that steeps up from these leaves has lingering notes of honey and smoke. Steep as long as you like to get a stronger, not bitter, brew.
  • Dian Hong (Yunnan Red, Yunnan Black) — Unlike other Chinese black teas, the finest grade of Dian Hong has a higher amount of fine leaf buds (“golden tips”). They steep up a liquid that is brassy golden orange and having a sweet aroma that is gentle, and the flavor is free of astringency. Lower grades can steep up darker brown and be bitter, especially if oversteeped. Both are a tea version that goes back only to the earth 20th century. The grades: First Grade, Broken Yunnan (BOP grade), Yunnan Gold (OP to TGFOP grade), and Yunnan Pure Gold (TGFOP to SFTGFOP grade).
  • Golden Bi Luo (Twisted Yunnan Gold, Hong Bi Luo, Yunnan Bi Luo) — A rare golden black tea that is made with a local Yunnan varietal similar to a high grade Yunnan Gold. The leaves are processed in the style of the famous green tea called Bi Luo Chun (from Jiangsu province in China). The flavor is creamy with sweet, malty notes of vanilla.
  • Yunnan Tribute Pu-Erh — A tea aged for many years that has been a favorite in Southern China for a long time. It has a distinctive earthy, bold, and assertive flavor, yet is exceptionally smooth.

About Yunnan Province

This part of China is in the southwest corner and borders Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Tibet, and Vietnam. The elevation ranges from 76 meters above sea level to over 6,700 meters, with tea being grown at 1,200 to 2,000 meters. Weather wise, they are crossed by the Tropic of Cancer, have an annual rainfall range of 1,000 to 2,000 millimeters, and have a temperature range of 12° to 23° Celsius. This is ideal for the tea trees growing there and for which the province is famous. Most of the 200+ species are known as “Yunnan large leaf” and are great for pu-erhs and black teas. Their first flush begins about a half month ahead of other tea-growing provinces such as Zhejiang.

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

I consider myself to be a rather avid fan of Assam tea, a black variety that hails from the Assam region of India. Although I’m always careful to note that Assam teas are definitely not all created equal and some of them are rather yucky, to be quite honest. But I’m such a fan of this tea that on two separate occasions I’ve devoted an entire month at my own tea site to considering its many and varied charms.

Which doesn’t seem a very logical way to open a review of a black tea from the Yunnan region of China. But I wanted to establish that I like Assam so much for the simple reason that I’m starting to wonder if I don’t like Yunnan better. For a while now I’ve been drinking Yunnan tea from a merchant who shall remain nameless. I turn to this one whenever the supply of tea samples from various merchants starts to run dry because it’s of a decent quality and I can run down to the local Whole Foods and buy some, rather than having to go through mail order.

While it’s a rather decent Yunnan, as I say, the English Tea Store’s Golden Heaven Yunnan is a cut above that and is one of those Yunnan teas that might just put me over the top in my homegrown Assam/Yunnan competition.

I have to cringe at the Tea Store’s description of this one, however, specifically the opening part that claims that it’s a “a delicious tea that’s outstanding with milk.” While it may indeed be just that and while I’ve learned not to berate anyone for spoiling an outstanding tea with milk, I’d encourage anyone who thinks that black tea actually needs milk to give this one a try on its own before reaching for the pitcher.

I’ve had the good fortune to try a few decent Yunnan teas over the years and this one holds its own with any of them. It’s got the very full and highly robust black tea flavor that’s common to the breed and some notes of something like spice in the finish. Probably the best indicator of how highly I thought of it is that out of the wealth of tea samples I’ve received in recent weeks it was one of the first to go.

See also:
Review ― Golden Heaven Yunnan from The English Tea Store

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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