Yunnan Black Teas

Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea
Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea

While I consider myself to be somewhat of an universalist when it comes to tea (I’ll drink tea from anywhere), I admit to a strong bias for Chinese black teas, particularly those from Yunnan. While Yunnan is perhaps best known in the tea world as the producer of pu’erh, it also grows and makes some mighty tasty black teas. While I adore Keemun, if I had to choose only one type of black tea to take onto a desert island , it would be a Yunnan black.

The question is, however, which Yunnan black. It’s hard to choose.

One of the things that I most love about Yunnan black tea is its many varieties. Some Yunnan blacks are made up entirely of soft, golden tips that give a wonderful spicy, honey-sweet liquor in the cup. Others are more robust, with only a smattering of tips strewn through earthy-flavored leaf. Each variety is a revelation, and I love to compare and contrast the Yunnans that I try. Even better, Yunnan blacks are the first teas that I often give to newcomers to tea, who are often used to standard, harsh grocery store teabags and never had any idea that tea could be so sweet, smooth and complex. I’ve even tried Yunnan blacks that have cocoa notes. Mmm.

A few suggestions for working with Yunnan black teas:

  • The more robust varieties, those that have more brown leaf and less golden tip, can make excellent breakfast teas.
  • Iced Yunnan black tea is excellent and needs no sugar or other flavorings. (A Yunnan iced tea is an excellent accompaniment to Mexican food.) Some people swear by cold brewing Yunnan black, but I confess to being a purist and preferring to extract the full flavor of the tea by preparing it with hot water and then pouring over ice after steeping.
  • High quality Yunnan blacks are incredibly forgiving on steep times: If you forget about pot and let it sit for awhile, try it anyway. You may find it to be perfectly delicious.
  • Every batch of tea is different, but it seems to me that Yunnan blacks are often fairly high in caffeine: You may want to stop drinking this tea after 3pm.

See also: Yunnan Basics

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