This yellow tea has not been available to us since 2013. It is from tea gardens in a stunningly beautiful valley of Hunan Province that we visited in 2006.
Snow Dragon Huang Ya (Yellow Buds) is from the heart of China’s interior, where agriculture is king. It would have been the perfect tea to join our repertoire again now, in such a perfect tea-growing year, but alas, the harvest just didn’t come in as high a quality as expected, so when we tasted the tea that we would actually be sent, we decided to pass on it, again. Too bad, as the samples that we tasted early in the season were quite good…
The terroir is perfect on the mountainsides from which this tea is plucked. It is near a UNESCO World Heritage site that helps to protect the region from development and pollution. Hunan Province is famous for high quality food production and is arguably the ‘heart & lungs’ of modern China’s agriculture.
Stylistically, Snow Dragon Huang Ya drinks very clean and smooth. It has the characteristically soft finish and lush undertones that one expects in a finely-crafted yellow tea. Its aroma is pleasant but mild, and the color of the liquor will entice one to look deeply into it to see the soft pale colors that are readily evident, but do not scream out of the cup at you.
The buds are wonderfully-formed, flattened enough in the firing to dry properly, but still plump with their distinctive flavor, and showing excellent proportion from one emerging leaflet to another. These buds are truly an artisan-made manufacture. Unlike many of the Spring Green and Yellow teas, these Snow Dragon Huang Ya will store well and should have drunk nicely well into 2022, possibly past the start of next year’s harvest time.
One of the unique features of this bud pluck is that it is only because the gardens are in Hunan Province, which is somewhat south in central/western China, that the buds are able to plump up this much so early in the harvesting season. In most tea-growing areas this mature a pluck would probably only be able to be made a month later and by then the plants would in most cases have lost their sweetness, but not with these tea plants, that have adapted to the terroir of Hunan and are now in harmony with the weather.
We were to be quite pleased to be offering this tea again this season, especially after such a long hiatus, and hoped to drink quite a bit of it ourselves during this transition season from warm weather to cool. Snow Dragon Huang Ya is perfect whenever a refreshing, light beverage is appropriate and is proof of the incredible care in manufacture that these buds receive. This is about as perfect a tea as there is for stunning Indian Summer days in the north, or those cool, crisp autumn days in the south. Because the buds can be steeped numerous times, it is a good tea to use for making Arnold Palmers™ for a crowd or a refreshing punch for an outdoor wedding?
Hunan Province has been known for exquisite green, yellow, and black teas for about as long as tea has been cultivated in China. Hunan Province was one of the first places that tea bushes were taken for transplanting following their successful cultivation in Sichuan Province, its neighbor to the north. Hunan Province is, in many ways, the perfect location for the manufacture of premium tea. For much of history, however, the green and yellow teas manufactured there have been reserved strictly for the domestic market.
Today, Hunan Province’s green and yellow teas, along with its black tea, coffee crop, and world-famous vegetable harvests (including its many varieties of chilies!) showcase the province as being, in many ways, the organic center of agricultural Mainland China.