Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Secrets of Mengding Huangya (Yellow Buds)-The Rare Chinese Yellow Tea

In a poem Qin and Tea from Baijuyi, a famous poet in Tang Dynasty wrote: with respect to Qin music, the most famous one is Lushui, as for tea, Mengshan is an old friend. Mengding Huangya(Yellow Bud) is from Mengshan(also called Mengding Mountain) of Mingshan County, Sichuan province. Since Tang Dynasty it has been widely known that Mengding tea was as precious as water from Yangzi River. The real Mengding tea has always been precious because Mengding Mountain is usually surrounded by mist and clouds throughout the year. Mengding Mountain is located in the territory of Ya'an City, Sichuan Province, southwest of Sichuan basin. High in the north and low in the south, it is about 10 km long and 4 km wide. Shaped like lotus, Mengding Mountain has five peaks, and Shangqingfeng is the top one with 1456 meters above sea level. Most tea plantations lie about 1200 meters above sea level. Each year around spring equinox when peach trees are in full blossom it is the time for picking tea leaves. 

When it comes to Mengding tea, we’d better mention Mengding Huangya, which is yellow tea. The biggest difference between yellow tea and green tea lies in the piling process. After fixation, it is wrapped with a specialized thick paper, and then undergoes the stack-cover process. As for Mengding Huangya the processing techniques will be comparatively complicated. It can be fully manual and semi-automatic. 

Mengding Huangya is made through the process of fixation, initial wrapping, second-time frying, second-time wrapping, third-time frying, stacking, fourth-time frying, and baking.

The difference of the raw material of fully manual Huangya and semi-automatically-made Huangya is as follows:

As for fully manual Huangya, only single robust bud is plucked as raw material, while for semi-automatically-made Huangya, single bud is picked out among all the plucked fresh leaves.  

Fully manual Huangya need to be fermented three times after manual fixation. Each time tea of about six to seven Liang is wrapped up with bamboo-made coarse paper and fermented for 24 hours at the temperature of around 40 degrees Celsius. The paper should be tasteless and absorptive. During this period, tea makers need to open the bag to check the color and moisture and stir to enable it to heat evenly from time to time. After 24 hours, the tea needs to be scattered, heated, and then wrapped up again with coarse paper to ferment for another 24 hours. For the third 24 hours, the tea needs to be fermented as a whole. After the first fermentation the tea is fresh and fragrant, and for the second time it becomes fragrant and sweet. During this process the experience of tea makers plays a big role.

With respect to semi-automatically-made Huangya, after fixation with machine the three-time wrapping and piling process are finished by hand. It takes 3 to 4 days.   

The techniques of Mengding Huangya making today derive from the tribute tea to the emperor in Qing Dynasty. It was recorded in Minshan County Annals that in a temple some monks were making tribute tea. Firstly they picked out the finest tender bud, and then baked it in a new pot with fire. But the fire was too fierce, and it easily got burned. Therefore they wrapped it up in paper, and then put the package in a hot pot for some time until the tea was half-withered. And later on they began to roll and dry it. After all these procedures some of the tea buds turned dry and yellowish or dark black, and could not become tributes. However, the tea-makers might think it was a pity to throw away those a bit yellow ones which could not become tributes, and hence gradually they were developed into Mengding Huangya nowadays. 

The photos of dried tealeaves, liquor and brewed tealeaves of the semi-automatically-made Mengding Huangya:

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