This is a very elegant tea. The overall taste sensation of this tea is mineral-stone, crisp & clean with an underlying layer of buttery sweetness. Mengding Mountain Huang Ya has a cool and bracing quality that affirms its high plateau origins – its magnificent terroir – and expresses the chilly early spring weather during which time the tea bushes on Mengding Mountain first flush with tender new buds. The buds re-steep well so you should try many short steepings with these buds that are so packed with flavor. It also cups very well as a room temperature or cold beverage, so don’t miss this refreshing option.
…see our Steeping Notes…
Our batch of 2020 new harvest Mengding Mountain Huang Ya was gathered in very early April 2020, right at the time of change from PQM to Yu Qian designation, somewhat earlier than most other years, but well within the ‘normal’ time for this early tea. The weather in Sichuan has not been quite as finicky as it has been in many other places this spring; in fact, ‘spring’ came early to this high plateau region this year. The tea plants erupted with buds and new growth, only to moderate briefly when the weather suddenly cooled for a week. This was perfect for bud-only tea, which in so many seasons has a tendency to ‘bolt’ in the early heat and loses the ability to have a ‘sweet spot’ of the harvest. Sichuan Province can be ruthless in this regard, but not this year. This would be the point at which a bud-only pluck would still be young, tender, small and fresh, but would also exhibit some adolescent vigor and youthful complexity. This year, 2020, that spot was easy to detect and lasted long enough to produce more leaf than usual. So it might be a ‘vintage’ year for Huang Ya!
This year’s Mengding Mountain Huang Ya has a flavor that is well-concentrated, exceptionally fragrant (when steeped, but not the dry buds), stunningly delicious and full of life. The aroma has just a touch of the ‘tomato-stem’ or ‘cocoa’ smell that some tea varietals possess. The mouthfeel (aka ‘brothiness’) is quite remarkable. The ‘hui gan’, or ‘returning flavor’ that lingers on the palate well after swallowing is remarkable too in this year’s leaf.
The shape of this tea is precise and lean because there was just enough moisture to plump up the cell structure. The color of both the dry and re-hydrated leaf is outstanding – a green that is quite unusual and that could only be produced in a natural, plant-based material. This is one of the most beautiful of Chinese teas. Because this tea is so special, we sell out of it every year. We recommend not waiting too long to place your order.
We have not increased the price from last year – this is very exciting given the world-wide demand for premium tea and the competition that we find ourselves among for special teas such as this.
Mengding Mountain Huang Ya is a glorious springtime phenomenon. This tea is made of ‘first-of-the-season’ compact, tender buds brimming with the vigor of tea bushes that are beginning their annual growth cycle. Yellow teas are increasingly uncommon in China because few tea makers specialize in making them today. The extra work involved in making yellow tea makes it more labor-intensive than that for manufacturing green tea and the market for these teas is judged to be dwindling. We are thrilled to have this tea so that our tea enthusiast customers can experience it before the day arrives when it may no longer be made. ***see ‘More About Yellow Tea’ in the accordion information***
Mengding Mountain Huang Ya production is small and the season begins early in the unusual micro-climate of Sichuan province. Tea pluckers gather delicate, sword-shaped buds and carefully place them into small silk bags (rather than traditional woven bamboo tea plucking baskets) to avoid any damage to the buds. Two workers picking in this manner for one full day will gather only one kilo of fresh buds. This quantity of fresh ‘leaf’ (actually buds!) may reduce to as little as 500grams of finished tea.
Mengding Mountain is located on the Tibetan Plateau in NW Sichuan Province. It is considered by tea historians to be the birthplace of cultivated tea in China. Mengding Mountain is situated northwest of Mt Emei, one of the four sacred mountains in Chinese Buddhism. These gardens’ proximity to Ya’an, and its Agricultural University is no accident, as the professors there have a keen interest in all things tea and the temples in the surrounding mountains are the origins of cultivated tea as we know it today.
When we visited a Mengding Mountain Huang Ya tea garden, temple, and tea factory one spring, there was fresh snow on the tea garden from an overnight storm the night before, when we also had arrived. What an experience to walk past the garden’s scolding ‘guard’ monkeys (actually Tibetan Macaques) onto a famous tea mountain in the fog, the tea bushes covered in ice and snow! The garden supervisors lent us lead crampons to navigate the treacherous paths that guided us past those gregarious (and hungry) monkeys to our destination: exquisite and well-hidden, lush tea gardens…dusted with a fresh snowfall.
click here to read Mary Lou’s post from our first trip to Western China