Tea Fundamentals: Debunking the myth that you need to boil water every time you make tea

After they have withered, the leaves are ready for rolling.

A tea farmer inspects the leaves.

Enticed by its fluffy, golden buds and warming aroma, I began to understand the depth offered by single garden black tea – it doesn’t need milk and it certainly isn’t bitter. Unlike the heavily machine processed and broken leaf of your standard builder’s brew, the spring buds of Yunnan Gold are handpicked in Yunshan Garden, Yunnan province, China, where they’re carefully rolled, fully oxidised and slowly dried to create this regional style of black tea that offers a thick, malty and chocolatey infusion.

This tea has become one of my favourites for a mellow afternoon, where I can sit and fully enjoy the richness and depth of the leaves. But with so many other black teas out there you might be asking yourself, as I did, how do they all compare? So, in this piece I’ll be putting Yunnan Gold in context, to help you find some answers and hopefully some teas you might enjoy too. We’ll see how it tastes in comparison to five other black teas and get to know the ins and outs of what to expect from each infusion. Let’s get tasting…

What are the essential taste and characteristics of Yunnan Gold?

 I find the aroma of Yunnan Gold really comforting with notes of powdered cocoa and malt, which are so enjoyable on a relaxed afternoon. The infusion itself is a dark and compelling copper-red, with a flavour that’s rich with more of that malt and milk chocolate, plus hints of dried raisin and sweet spices. The texture is thick and has a creamy note in the finish, leaving you with an indulgent feeling without being too heavy or needing to add any milk or sugar.

How does it compare to…

Assam Breakfast

 Our go to breakfast tea is blended using the best second flush tea from the gardens of Assam, India. It’s super robust, much more so than Yunnan Gold, which is perfect for the get up and go effect you need in the morning. Both teas have a malty aroma which comes through in the flavour, but Assam Breakfast is stronger and more assertive; with a splash of milk needed to help accentuate the malt and honey top notes. Whereas Yunnan Gold balances that maltiness with notes of chocolate and its own creamy texture and finish. If you’re looking for a superior breakfast tea that has depth, flavour and plenty of power and you want to add milk, Assam Breakfast is for you. But if you’re in need of that same richness, with a few more indulgent notes (and no need to add milk), then try Yunnan Gold.

Assam Gold

 Rather than being a blend of gardens like our breakfast tea, Assam Gold is a single garden expression of black tea from Assam, India. The golden buds look very similar to Yunnan Gold as both are created in a similar process, with Assam Gold being produced slightly later in the summer. For that reason, Assam Gold retains a strong and robust flavour, while having the typically malty and honeyed notes that are prized in teas from this region, as well as hints of dried fruit and sweet spices. Yunnan Gold shares a similar flavour profile, but is more elegant and easy going with its rich chocolate and mellow creaminess. There’s a similar warmth and malty character to both and they can easily be enjoyed without milk, although you might opt for the strength of Assam Gold to start your day, while relaxing with a smooth infusion of Yunnan Gold later on.

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The leaves are laid out to wither on a bamboo mat.

Our Yunnan Gold comes from Menglian County which shares a border with Myanmar - it's tropical, lush and abundant but relatively high altitude.

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A small batch of Yunnan Gold with creamy malt and dark chocolate flavours.

Red Dragon

Red Dragon is a black tea, but with the slight difference of being made using a Taiwanese cultivar that was experimentally grown in Yunnan, China. Both teas share the same terroir in Yunnan, but the difference in the type of tea plants used gives Red Dragon much more of the fruity flavour, typical of the Taiwanese oolongs produced using the same cultivar. Red Dragon has a sweeter profile with notes of forest berries, ginger and milk chocolate but without the rich maltiness and overall warmth you find in Yunnan Gold. Both teas are smooth textured and really enjoyable – if you like a lighter black tea with plenty of depth and want clear fruit notes then try Red Dragon, or stick with Yunnan Gold for a more malty and creamy experience.

Keemun Mao Feng

 Here, ‘Mao Feng’ refers to the fact that two leaves and a young, downy bud are picked to create this Keemun black tea. Unlike Yunnan Gold which uses mostly the fine buds, the addition of some young leaves adds a new complexity to the flavour of this Keemun Mao Feng. It has a fragrant, floral quality and lighter notes of ginger and dried fruit, while still retaining a slightly malty character. Whereas Yunnan Gold is less complex but fully malty in comparison, with less fruit and richer flavours of chocolate and spices. I’d say stick with Yunnan Gold for a thick and creamy infusion or try Keemun Mao Feng for a black tea with deeper complexity and range of flavours.

Wuyi Oolong

Rather than being a black tea, Wuyi Oolong is (you guessed it!) an oolong tea, crafted in the Wuyi mountains of Fujian, China. I’ve picked this one as the flavour leans towards a similar richness as Yunnan Gold and similar sweet notes of chocolate, but with the complexity of rose and peach that comes from the Huang Mei Gui (Yellow Rose) cultivar. This Wuyi Oolong has also been roasted, creating a similarly warming quality as you’ll find with Yunnan Gold, however the roast gives this tea a finish full of cooked sugar and characteristic, mineral stone notes. If you want a complex and toasty infusion with plenty of distinct flavour including cacao and mineral, then give Wuyi Oolong a go. But stick with Yunnan Gold for a fully warming and elegant infusion with a smoother finish.