Inside the Tea Industry with Sharyn Johnston: The Splendor of Yellow Tea, Discovering Tea’s Hidden Gem

inside the tea industry with sharyn johnston

Did you miss an installment of our monthly World Tea News column: Inside the Tea Industry with Sharyn Johnston? Read it here!

Yellow tea is a luxurious type of tea, which is often overshadowed by some of the other tea categories.

Yellow tea is a separate category of Chinese tea that is made from the same plant variety as other teas, the Camellia sinensis. It has an interesting origin story, including its significance for the emperors, imperial court, and its place in history.


Its unique selling point is its subtle, delicate flavor profile and its unique processing style along with its historical significance. The first initial steps of the processing method resemble green tea production – leaf collection, withering, and fixation or kill-green process on a hot surface. The leaves are next subjected to one of the most vital stages called Men Huang or “sealing yellow,” which gives the tea its name.

yellow tea
Yellow Tea

During this phase, the humid tea leaves are slightly steamed and wrapped in a layer of paper or fabric to ferment mildly. As a result, the normal grassy flavor of green tea is eliminated, and a sweeter, milder taste with a distinctly yellow hue is formed.

Yellow tea is usually harvested in April and the leaf plucking style is one bud, one leaf or one bud and two unopened leaves. The quality of the leaf is generally always high.

When steeped, yellow tea has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor with the color of the liquor being like champagne. Often the second steep is more flavorful than the first.

Korea also produces a rare yellow tea called Hwang Cha Yellow tea, but the process is different and not a classic yellow tea production style as the leaf produced is more like an oolong. The flavor is also delicious with notes of grapes, quince, and a slightly toasted note.

Historical Significance

Yellow tea has a wonderful historical significance to emperors, which epitomizes it as an exclusive masterpiece of craftsmanship that is less known than a classic green tea but is closer to it in taste and status. The historical importance of yellow tea stems largely from its creation during the first years of the Qing Dynasty and its reference as a tribute tea.

A tribute tea is a variety especially designated by the government or the royal court as honoring the quality that was suitable to present it to an emperor.

Due to this rigorous refinement, yellow tea was typically brewed only for the ruling family and their noble guests. Jinshan Jinzhen, or Silver Needle from Jinshan Island in Hunan province, is one of China’s most iconic yellow teas due to its tradition as an imperial tribute tea. Another famous yellow tea is Husham Huang from Anhui province in China.

A yellow tea tasting is worth the experience as a special tea.


Plan to Attend or Participate in World Tea Expo, March 24-26, 2025

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