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The Processing Of Yellow Teas

Although they have been known and appreciated for several centuries, yellow teas are becoming increasingly rare. Only a few remain, such as Jun Shan Yin Zhen. One province, Hunan, still produces limited quantities, ensuring the survival of this prestigious tea. It is called "yellow" because of an unusual characteristic arising from its processing: after being dehydrated, the still-warm leaves are covered with a damp cloth, triggering a slight oxidation through steaming, which gives the leaves a yellowish tinge.

PICKING

Only the bud is picked. In order to obtain a high-quality yellow tea, the bud is picked before it becomes downy.

WITHERING

The withering stage is carried out in the same way as for green tea, on cloths or bamboo racks.

HEATING

Heating is carried out in pans, and the leaves are stirred by hand.

STEAM OXIDATION

The process of steam oxidation involves spreading the leaves directly on the ground and leaving them covered with a damp cloth for a period of four to 10 hours, depending on the weaker conditions. Covering the leaves gently warms them, which affects the development of their aroma.

DRYING

The leaves are then dried for 10 to 20 minutes at a temperature of 230 to 250°F (110 to 120°C). At the end of this stage, the leaves should contain no more than 5 percent humidity. The next stage is sorting by means of sieves, if the sorting is done manually.