Jinya (Yunnan Golden Buds)

Black Tea 2021

Hand-plucked tea buds that turn a beautiful golden color instead of black due to the rich antioxidants and low level of chlorophyll in the early spring tea buds. This tea’s infusion is velvety, full, and sweet with a cocoa powder aroma even when brewed cold. The many-layered buds take great skill to process into black tea.

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Tea Origin
Fengqing County, Lincang City, Yunnan Province, China

Tea Bush
Yunnan Dayezhong (Yunnan Large Leaf Tea Tree)

Tea Master
Chen Keke and Li Dong

Harvest Time
Mid-March

Picking Standard
One bud

The exclusive use of single young tea buds to make Jinya (Yunnan Golden Buds) is highly unusual for a black tea. Because of this, it possesses a very rich aroma that resembles cacao. The flavor is smooth with a delicate sweetness that covers the entire palate. Golden Buds is truly a remarkable tea.

A package of freshly opened Jinya (Yunnan Golden Buds) black tea with the dry leaves spilling out of the silvery zipper bag.
The rich golden color of Jinya (Yunnan Golden Buds) black tea.

The leaf material for our Jinya comes from the thick forests in the mountains surrounding Fengqing and Yun Counties in the Baiyingshan region of Yunnan Province. It is harvested when the year’s first tea buds begin to grow in late March or early April. Most black teas are made from leaves that are harvested later in the season, and after being oxidized and dried, they appear black in color. Young tea buds, on the other hand, are a beautiful golden color after processing. This is due to the rich antioxidants and lower amount of chlorophyll contained in the young growth. The fine fuzzy hairs on each bud are a testament to the tea maker’s skillful handling of the leaves without breaking them off.

The challenge of oxidizing black tea buds
Close up view of fresh fuzzy tea buds to be made into Dian Hong Jin Ya (Golden Buds) black tea.
Freshly plucked single tea buds that will be made into Jinya (Yunnan Golden Buds).

The Fengqing Tea Company first produced Jinya in 1958. Instead of the slightly more mature 1 bud to 2-3 leaf pluckings they usually use for high-end Yunnan black teas, they started making it with only buds. Yunnan Province was the first place to make black tea with leaf material this young.

Processing tea buds into a black tea requires an immense amount of skill to produce a good tea because of the many layers of leaves contained within them. If left on the tea bush, healthy tea buds will eventually open into five or six tea leaves. The tea maker must carefully control the oxidation process so that it develops evenly through each and every layer of the bud. Black tea that is over-oxidized will be sour, and if under-oxidized, the tea will be heavy and tannic. But with just the right touch and technique, black teas like Jinya emerge from the process with an exquisite rich aroma and a sweet smooth flavor.

Processing black tea into golden buds
Laying a woven bamboo mat across bars in the upper part of the trough so that there is still space underneath it.
The wind tunnels used for withering fresh tea. The leaves are placed on a bamboo mat over the long wooden troughs and air is blown through the space underneath them.

The tea maker will spread a thin and even layer of freshly harvested tea buds on a bamboo tray to breathe for 3-5 hours. They are then placed in a wind tunnel made from woven wood or bamboo, where fans will blow air through the tunnel under the leaves to wither them for about 5-6 hours. The tea maker will then fry the leaves by hand to remove about half of their water content. After that, the tea is ready to be oxidized.

Oxidizing tea buds turning from green to gold, with hints of red.
Golden Buds changing color as they oxidize.

Oxidation requires heat and moisture. The tea is wrapped in fabric and placed in wooden boxes covered with a thick piece of cloth to keep the environment warm and humid. This will oxidize the tea in a natural fashion. The tea maker must check the tea buds often to mix the tea intermittently and make sure heat is evenly distributed among the buds for even oxidation. They also need to manually check the condition of the leaves to determine when to arrest the oxidation process. They do this by squeezing and smelling the tea leaves, judging with well-honed senses of smell and touch. Oxidation is a critical step of the process that must be carefully controlled in order to develop the tea’s aroma and make sure the taste is sweet, smooth and free from any grassy flavor of under-oxidized leaves.

History of black tea in Yunnan

Yunnan Province began producing black tea in 1939. The Chinese wanted to move the business of exporting tea out of the east coast of China (then occupied by the Japanese Army) to the border of Myanmar in Yunnan. Two accomplished tea makers, Feng Shaoqiu and Fang Hejun, went to Yunnan to research the area for tea cultivation. They found that Fengqing County in southwest Yunnan was an ideal place to start producing good quality tea. The soil in this area is red in color and nutrient rich, and already had a diverse bounty of tea plants growing, some of them very old. They set up a factory and began to produce large quantities of tea. Soon, Yunnan teas met with runaway success. The Dianhong company they set up remains a large center of tea production and research in Yunnan today.

No chemical fertilizer, pesticide, or herbicide was used in the production of this tea. Click here to read more about our promise to fair trade and the environment.

Jinya (Yunnan Golden Buds) brewing guidelines

5 grams (2 Tb) tea

12 oz 100°C (212ºF) water

3 min. first infusion

At least 4 infusions: 3, 3, 5, 8 minutes