“Here you go” she said to be as she handed me a green tin. I was standing outside my job and my boss had just given me some tea as a gift. The box was pretty standard with the characters for Huang Shan Mao Feng written on the side（黄山毛峰). It had been a gift to her by a friend and she was passing on to me. She admitted that she hadn’t tried it and had no idea what was inside. Not expecting too much I took it, thanked her, and went on my way not knowing the surprise that awaited me.
Later that day I had a few hours free so I decided to try it. I am fairly familiar with Mao Feng so the second I opened the tin and looked at the leaves I already knew it was not Mao Feng; in fact it wasn’t even green tea. My first hint was the leaf shape. It seem to be almost pure needles. Green tea is almost never pure needles. All needles and no buds would not provide a full enough flavor that green tea makers are looking for. The second thing I noticed was its colour. While the colour was green it was a darker green than I am use too for green teas. After a few minutes of examining it I had a sneaking suspicion, but I would have to taste it before I got excited.
I brewed the tea in an open vessel, two fairness pitchers to be exact, and with my first sip I confirmed my suspicion; this tea was not a green tea but in fact a yellow tea.
The green and yellow flavours are very similar. They are both refreshing and sweet, usually containing nuts and vegetalness. It is very easy to get these two teas confused and some may say they taste exactly the same! But there is a secret to telling them apart, focus on where in the mouth you are tasting the tea.
Green tea is all about the comeback sweetness. The frontal flavour is soft, refreshing and flowing, but once you swallow there is a distinct come back sweetness what washes over your mouth like the tide coming back up onto the beach.
Yellow tea on the other hand has a much more frontal flavour. Not to say there is no come back sweetness, it just is as strong as a green tea. The flavours are going to be focused much more in the front of the mouth and stronger, usually being more nutty with a taste of sweet corn water.
The similarities and differences of flavours come from the similarities and differences in the making. Yellow tea is exposed to high heat very early on just like green tea, but before the tea is allowed to be fully cooked they take it off the heat and let it rest. In this resting period some of the enzymes break down. The tea is then put back on the heat which kills the remaining one. A very small amount of enzymes are broken down which leads to this process being known as microfermation.
The excitement of the fact it was yellow was only beaten by the fact that it was a good yellow tea. I brought to my favourite tea shop in town and the owner, after initial skeptism of my claim, confirmed it was yellow and it was good. (Getting a chinese tea drinker to admit a tea is good is no small feat). She did say the tea was a little under fermented can could have used a longer rest, which I would agree, but it was still good. So what was the retail price of this great yellow tea gifted to me you ask? About 3000RMB ($500).
Animation by Marjorie Wang of intern019.com