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.”
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.
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