Posted By: Bennet

Juan Shan Yin Zhen is generally held to be the finest yellow tea around. The freshness the buds used, the care taken in production, and of course its exquisitely refreshing flavour are second to none.

Since the sixties it has been consistently awarded innumerable prizes in China. There is documentary evidence of Yellow teas being made in this way dating to as early as 1597, during the Ming Dynasty.

Throughout this period it was used as a tribute offering to the Chinese Emperors. Hundreds of years later, it was still favoured among a new breed of ruling elite: Mao Tse Tung professed it to be his tea of choice. The traditional production techniques for this tea require particular attention and skill, which is why some producers are resorting to simpler methods similar to those used for green tea.

The tea is only grown in one place, Jun Shan island in Dong Ting, a lake in the province of Hunan. The lake is only one kilometre in width, which means production volumes are extremely low. They are further limited in that the tea can only be picked very soon after the Qing Ming festival at the very latest; all JING’s Jun Shan Yin Zhen is harvested before the festival to ensure idea weather conditions for the plumpest, most tender buds.

The greatest care is taking during the harvesting process – single buds are carefully twisted from the stem with the tips of the finger and thumb, making sure that they are not torn or scratched with the fingernails, and frost-damaged or discoloured buds are avoided.Tea harvests are never undertaken in the rain, ensuring none of the flavour is lost in the time between picking and final storage of the finished product.

The test for a good Jun Shan Yin Zhen is said to be that the strong, fat buds should stand up on end on infusion.To prepare the tea, it is first wok-fried to ‘kill green’, preventing it from oxidizing further. It is then lightly baked to give the leaves their characteristic withered yellow appearance. It is then wrapped in thick paper in 1.5kg parcels and placed in out of the light for about 48 hours. This is what gives yellow tea the infusion colour from which it takes its name.

The temperature inside the parcels will rise gradually, and when the temperature reaches 30°C they are opened and the contents mixed around to evenly distribute this heat. They are then repacked to ensure homogenous withering throughout the crop. The tea is then baked again at 50°C for one hour to reduce water content, removed from the flame when the leaves have taken on a slight golden sheen.

The wrapping process is repeated for another twenty hours, and finally the tea is fully fired to remove all remaining water from the leaves. In total, the process takes about 70 consecutive hours, and roughly fifty to sixty thousand buds are used to make just one kilogram of tea.

It is easy to see how this tea has held on to its legendary status for hundreds of years. We hope the hard work that went into making it will be paid off in every cup. Last year we were only able to secure 7kg of this tea which has now sold out. The new crop will be available in June 2011.