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24th February 2009

By Edward Eisler

Yunnan Black Tea (Dian Hong Gong Fu)

The finest Yunnan black tea is composed entirely of golden tips – often referred to in English as Yunnan Gold Black Tea.

The three features of Yunnan black teas are: large leaves, golden colour and rich fragrance. Compared to other black tea varieties in China, Yunnan Gold is a newcomer, first created in 1938. The purpose of its invention was actually not for the Chinese domestic market but for the British market, trading through Hong Kong. It was said that Queen Elizabeth was very fond of this tea and even stored it in a glass container for display. This tea was precious and was once sold at £800.00 per lb. The production was unfortunately frozen for about 50 years due to civil wars in Mainland China, and its production and skills employed therein were revived as recently as the end of the 1980s.

Yunnan Gold is grown between 1000 and 2000 meters in a climate with an average temperature of 15-18 degrees. These natural conditions make it possible to harvest the tea for nine months of the year.  The Spring crop is considered the best. This is because the tea leaves picked in spring tend to be plump and tender.  Due to climatic changes, the leaves from the summer and autumn crops tend to carry harder stems and less tenderness. The majority of the production comes from the tea gardens based in West Yunnan Province, followed by those in Southern Yunnan.

The level of gold colour of the tea leaves varies depending on the season as well as the origin. In general, the tea produced in West Yunnan carries a gold that is slightly more orange, and the tea from Menghai and Shun Jian in Southern Yunnan are bright gold. Spring crops carry the lightest gold colour which becomes progressively darker through summer and autumn.

As far as fragrance is concerned, the Yunnan Gold from West Yunnan is regarded as the finest, especially from the region of Yun County (Yun Xian). Southern Yunnan Gold is in comparison more astringent.