A Deep Dive Into Our Yunnan Gold Black Tea
Yunnan Gold from Spring 2019 from Yunshan Garden, Menglian County, Yunnan.
If you have already tried our Yunnan Gold, then you will be fully aware of the creamy, malt and dark chocolate flavours that we will be exploring in this deep dive. If you have not yet tried it, and want a tea with a lot of strength, body but also refinement, to be drunk without milk, then Yunnan Gold could be for you.
In this piece we look at how the farmers of Yunshan combine traditional processes and ancient terroir with a new cultivar to produce a tea that maximises rich, dark, spiced flavours.
We drink this black tea when we want something strong, sweet and malty. It gives the reassuring comfort of a thick, strong black tea but with the refinement of caramel and spice.
Origin: Yunshancun, Menglian County, Yunnan.
Cultivar: Camellia sinensis var. “Yun Kang #10” (sinensis-assamica hybrid).
Name: Comes from a translation of the Chinese Dian Hong, literally meaning Yunnan Red. Also refers to the golden colour of the finished tea.
Style: In the traditional style, it is made using only young tea leaves and buds.
Terroir: High mountain, lush tropical climes of South West Yunnan.
Altitude: approx. 1500-2000m
Picking Season: Spring
Leaf: Long, elegant red-gold, young tea leaves and buds.
Production: Organic practices.
Infusion: Deep and bold dark red-brown tea infusion.
What kind of tea is Yunnan Gold?
Yunnan Gold differs from other Chinese black teas because of the high quantity of buds that are included in the production.
It comes from Menglian County in Yunnan which shares a border with Myanmar - it is tropical, lush and abundant but relatively high altitude. The landscape is full of ancient, high mountain tea gardens, surrounded by villages and lower lying cities.
Although indigenous tea trees grow here, producers in the area experiment with breeding hardier cultivars of the tea plant, including this Yunkang #10 used in this batch. These plants can better withstand the cold winters in this mountainous area, meaning they produce more fresh tea leaves and buds of the quality used to make this tea, and give it its unique thick texture and flavour.
When crafting Yunnan Gold the leaves are oxidised through a combination of withering and rolling; turning the fresh tea leaves from a bright green, to a dark, velvety brown with flashes of gold. These golden pieces indicate the young tea buds – the delicate downy hairs have turned golden during oxidation.
How did we find this batch of tea and who made it?
This tea stood out to us immediately when we first saw it – the leaf has bright golden hues, so high bud proportion, with a vibrant, glossy texture. The taste was exactly what we look for – refined with easily discernible malt, brown sugar and some peppery spice. Being part of our core range means that Tom is always on the lookout for this tea. Being one of China’s famous teas, the local competition is fierce and availability of tea produced with organic methods is minimal. When Tom tasted the sample that Yunshan garden sent him, he was delighted with the tea and it stood out for its identifiable flavours - it was devoid of fault. We reserved the batch and once we were satisfied that the tea passed the pesticide checks, we received it. Following COVID-19 when we can travel again, we will visit the team at Yunshan to find out more about what they are doing to produce such high-quality and delicious tea.
What is this batch like to drink? Aroma, Taste and Texture
The infusion is a dark, copper red colour with a very compelling aroma; it reminds us of bitter-sweet cacao, it is more inviting without overwhelming complexity. It is strong, rich, and invigorating. The thick and creamy texture coats the mouth with malt, chocolate and hints of sweet, dried raisin and spices. It is bright and warm on the finish, it is a comforting tea to drink and, its refinement feels indulgent, without being too heavy.
What is it like to make and how easy is it to get a good taste?
For a 250ml serve (making it in a teapot and then pouring the full infusion into a cup with equal capacity), we usually use our One Cup Tea-iere.
Freshly boiled water will extract the deeper notes of the tea and bring out strength and structure. When we make it this way it is well-rounded with a beautifully, rich copper colour – the maltiness is very prominent and the aroma really filled the room when we were testing the best way to make it. You will get a brown sugar finish that we find very comforting.
This tea can be re-infused, and the second infusion should result in a more present sweetness and delicate fruit notes, while maintaining its delicious, thick texture.
This produced good results - Method: 3.5g or 2tsp per 250ml; 95-100˚C water; 3 minutes per infusion (we recommend two infusions).
Small teapot, lots of leaf, short infusions or “gong fu” style:
Traditional infusion methods in Yunnan would usually call for this tea to be prepared in the gong fu style, using a small teapot or a porcelain gaiwan (lidded tea bowl). We like drinking Yunnan Gold in this way too and we have experimented with a very short infusion time – we think it allows for clear definition of flavour throughout the subsequent infusions. Compared to the 250ml method, the first infusion was less thick, but still very smooth and there was a lot of room for the peppery, spiced flavour. As the leaves and buds opened in the second infusion, they presented much more of the sweet, chocolate notes, rounded texture and a bright copper colour. The third infusion was fully thick, the rich flavour being completely pronounced and well-balanced with sweet, honey and raisin notes appearing and a long, coating finish.
Method: 6g/120ml; 100˚C water; 20 seconds for first infusion, add 5-10 seconds for each subsequent infusion
For both of these infusion methods, we have found that Yunnan Gold is best with soft, filtered water (which we highly recommend), but it is a pretty forgiving tea and should produce a decent flavour even in hard water areas. If you find the infusion looking a bit cloudy, this is usually down to hard water.
The bottom line - who is this tea for?
If you like black teas with good strength, a thick mouthfeel and refinement and if you want easy flavours of chocolate and malt, you will enjoy Yunnan Gold. It is a tea to invigorate you and if you are used to drinking breakfast tea with milk, but would like to try a tea that is still creamy and sweet, without the addition of milk or sugar, this would be a very satisfying option.