Junshan Yinzhen

Yellow Tea 2024

An authentic production of the rarest of the rare yellow teas, made only from the spring buds of Junshan Island’s heirloom tea bushes.

Utterly unique, delicate and complex. Junshan Yinzhen’s flavors invoke fresh sugarcane, wild flowers, and corn silk.

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Tea Origin
Junshan Island, Yueyang City, Hunan Province, China

Tea Bush
Junshandao Quntizhong (Junshan Island Heirloom Tea Bush)

Tea Maker
Gao Xiaozu

Harvest Time
Late March

Plucking Standard
One bud

Junshan Yinzhen is the most famous yellow tea in China and was historically a tribute tea. Junshan Island’s heirloom tea bushes and the climate and soil they grow in create delicate floral aromas and light sugarcane taste. The tea’s small area of origin and the skill required to make it result in a very limited quantity of authentic Junshan Yinzhen produced each year.

Tea drinkers should be aware that much of the Junshan Yinzhen on the market is actually processed as green tea. It is also common for tea producers to use tea bushes brought in from other provinces. Our Junshan Yinzhen is processed using the traditional yellow tea methods, which take at least 72 hours to complete. In addition, only buds from the local quntizhong heirloom tea bushes are used so you can appreciate the true and original quality of this unique yellow tea.

Island origins of Junshan Yinzhen

View looking straight down the grassy space between rows of green Junshan Yinzhen tea bushes in a small valley surrounded by forest trees.
Rows of the heirloom tea bushes used to make Junshan Yinzhen, nestled in a verdant valley on Junshan Island.

Junshan is a small island in Dongting Lake, which helps release floods from the Yangzi River. This lake, the 2nd largest lake in China, measures about 1 kilometer long and 0.7 kilometers wide. As well as the high quality tea farms that produce Junshan Yinzhen, Junshan Island is now home to the tea research center of Hunan Province, which takes advantage of the many varieties of tea bushes that grow there. The tea institute was built in 1952 and retains use of approximately one-fourth of the island for research. Besides tea, this island also grows a medicinal herb, he shao wu, the presence of which in the gardens is thought to lend something to the tea’s distinctive flavor.

Harvesting the best for Junshan Yinzhen

Close view of two hands plucking a Junshan Yinzhen tea bud from the bush.Tea harvest season is very short on Junshan, only lasting about 10 days from the end of March to early April. The plucking standards for Junshan Yinzhen are extremely stringent. Workers pick only tea buds that are about 3cm tall, not too old but not too young. The tea buds must not be “empty” with few leaves inside – they choose only the full, luscious tea buds that will open to become 4-5 tea leaves. Skinny buds will only develop 1-2 leaves. They never pick on rainy or dewy days, and do not pick buds that have been damaged by insects. The tea master will check to make sure the tea pickers do not have long fingernails, which can help make picking leaves very fast, but will adversely affect the oxidation of the leaves.

The lengthy process of making China’s most famous yellow tea

Three people in white smocks and hats kneeling down to make sure Junshan Yinzhen leaves are withering evenly on round bamboo trays on the floor.
Checking on the withering Junshan Yinzhen.

After the tea has been harvested, tea makers let the the fresh leaves breathe and wither under shade for 5-6 hours, evenly piled on bamboo sheets. The tea will lose about 5% of its moisture.

They then fry 300 grams of fresh leaves at a time on a shallow, 20° sloped wok. The temperature of the wok is not as hot as for green tea, only about 120°C. The tea maker will fry the leaves for about five minutes and then let them cool off slightly. They will sweep the leaves into a 40cm- thick layer on woven bamboo trays.  The trays are shaken to remove dust and broken leaves and disperse heat, then left to cool for 30 minutes.

A person wrapping the tea buds for Junshan Yinzhen in squares of paper after frying. A low wooden box with three square compartments stands beside them with its lid open. One is filled with bundles of tea.
Wrapping the tea buds in paper after frying. They will be placed in the wooden cabinet for oxidation.

After frying comes the definitive menhuang step that is unique to yellow tea, where small quantities of leaves are wrapped into bundles and allowed to oxidize very slightly. Once several batches of frying are complete, tea makers use thick yellow paper to wrap packets of the still-warm leaves, each weighing about a kilogram. They store the wrapped packages of tea in special wooden cabinets, which keep it warm and encourage very slow oxidation.

The leaves will stay in the cabinets for about 40 hours. After the first 24 hours, they will open up the bundles and mix the leaves for even oxidation before re-wrapping and returning them to storage. At about 40-48 hours (depending on the humidity of the air) they will open the packets back up again and roast them over 50°C charcoal for about an hour, stirring the leaves every 15 minutes. Then the leaves are allowed to cooled on the bamboo trays again. Once cool, they will pack the leaves up in paper again and put them back in the cabinets for another 20 hours.

Still-green tea buds spread thin on a cloth tray that is being placed in a round bamboo drum for roasting.
Junshan Yinzhen about to be roasted for the first time after the first round in the oxidation cabinet.

The tea master must be very skilled to judge the state of oxidation and know how long the tea should rest in the cabinets. The tea buds will change from a green to golden yellow color, and the aroma will begin to develop. When the tea master judges the tea to be ready, the leaves are removed from the cabinets and roasted 500 grams at a time above 50°C charcoal again until the tea is completely dried to shelf stability. When the tea is finished, about 95% of the moisture has been removed. Once the tea is done, the buds are sorted manually to remove any broken pieces. They only save the whole, beautiful tea buds.

Legends of Junshan Island

There is a creation legend for Junshan Island that dates back to 4,000 years ago. An emperor was fighting in this area and died in battle. Two of his favorite lovers came to his funeral, but their boat flipped over in Dongting Lake. The two concubines themselves became the mountains that form Junshan Island to forever accompany their lover. There is a park on the island celebrating this myth.

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.

Junshan Yinzhen brewing guidelines

5 grams (2 Tb) tea

12 oz 85°C (185ºF) water

3 min. first infusion

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