Mengding Huangya First Harvest 2021 明前蒙顶黄芽
March 15, 2021
Mengding Mountain 蒙顶山 in Ya’an Sichuan Province is an ancient mountain, where the history of tea cultivation dates back more than 2000 years. Teas from Mengding Mountain have served as tribute tea to the Emperors for over one thousand years, spanning five Dynasties: Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing. Mengding Mountain has five peaks, the highest standing in the cloud at 1460m above sea level. The peaks are covered in mist and fog all year round. Looking down from the peaks, the scenery is stunning - undulating mountains, wide plains as far as the eyes can see and crisscrossing streams, all covered in a layer of mist.
The tea garden of our three teas from Mengding Mountain is located at the peak of the mountain, at 1400m altitude. The tea trees, an heirloom varietal called laochuancha 老川茶, are scattered between ancient temples, gigantic rocks and towering conifer trees. The trees are only harvested once per year in the spring, and left to grow on their own without human intervention for the rest of the year.
Yellow teas is a semi-oxidized tea that falls in the delicate space between green tea and oolong tea. It is oxidized slightly more than green teas, and slightly less than oolong tea. The oxidation of yellow tea differs fundamentally from those of green, oolong and black teas. Green, oolong and black tea goes through enzymatic oxidation, a result of enzymes in the tea leaves reacting with oxygen in the air. Yellow teas goes through hydrothermal oxidation, a result of trapped water vapour and heat during processing.
Mengding Huangya “Yellow Bud” was prized as one of the tribute teas to the emperor in the Tang Dynasty. The making of yellow tea required hours of extremely focused and meticulous work, and by the end of 20th century, artisans who made yellow tea had gradually dwindled to almost nothing.
Tender and newly sprouted buds are carefully picked by hand in the early morning and withered on bamboo mats indoors. The leaves are then pan-fried in small batches of 100 grams. After this initial pan-frying, the tea is wrapped in hand made paper, and stored in a dedicated room with higher humidity and temperature. Every 30 minutes for 4 hours, the paper packs are unwrapped, the tea is moved around, and the pack is then wrapped up again. The tea is then pan-fried again, to further reduce the moisture content. This process is called 焖黄 or “smothering”, and it is unique to the making of yellow tea. In total, this Huangya went through 4 rounds of this “smothering” process. After the final pan-frying, the tea is spread out on paper and allowed to cool for around 36 hours, before receiving a final low-temperature baking. The entire process of making this yellow tea took over 100 hours, lasting over 5 days.
The resulting tea is remarkable. On the nose the dried leaves have floral, nutty and buttery aromatics. On the palate, it is extremely smooth and rounded, with a full body. It is high in umami, with notes of biscotti, toasted almonds and butter cookies. When brewed stronger with either a higher water temperature or steeped for longer, and along with its strong umami flavour, this tea bears a slight resemblance to the taste of matcha.
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|Steep time||10 - 60 sec|
|No. of infusions||8