Mo Gan Huang Ya (Mo Gan Yellow Buds)

Organic Yellow Tea 2017

This tea is may look like a green tea, but it is in fact a yellow tea. The main difference between yellow and green tea is that yellow is slightly oxidized. Yellow tea is known for being gentler on the stomach than green tea, making it a nice alternative.

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Tea Origin
Mo Gan Shan (near Huzhou City), De Qing County, Zhejiang Province, China

Tea Bush
Jiu Keng

Tea Master
Wang Qiang Zhen

Harvest Time
early April

Picking Standard
one bud with one newly opened leaf

Origins

Mo Gan Huang Ya is produced in eastern Zhejiang province. Zhejiang is famous for producing green tea, and is known as the biggest green tea producer in China. Zhejiang province has 72 counties; 62 of these counties produce tea. Many famous green teas are grown there, such as Shi Feng Long Jing, Da Fo Long Jing, and Purple Bamboo Shoot.

There is one other famous tea that comes from Zhejiang province: Mo Gan Huang Ya. This tea is not a green tea, but is a yellow tea. The main difference between yellow and green tea is that yellow is slightly oxidized. When tea polyphenols oxidize during the slow drying process, it results in leaves with a light yellow color. Mo Gan Huang Ya is grown in Hu Zhou city, in northeast Zhejiang province. With the large quantity of tea produced in this province there are also many different types of tea bushes. Dragon Well 43, Wu Liu Zao, Yin Shuang, Jiu Keng are all famous tea bushes grown in Zhejiang. Jiu Keng is the name of the Mo Gan Huang Ya bush.

Within Zhejiang province, De Qing County has a mountain named Mo Gan Shan. The weather in this area is especially good for tea. The average temperature there is 15 degrees Celsius with humidity hovering steadily around 80%. The tea bushes easily take to growing in the shade of clouds at the top of this 758 meter high mountain, surrounded by bamboo, mist, and spring water. The air is cool, crisp and clean, and the serene quiet of the area inspires a calm in visitors. When you walk among the tea fields of Mo Gan Shan, you can see far into the distance and into the valley below. The old tea bushes growing here have strong, deep root systems. The tops of the bushes are only cut every two years so they have plenty of time and space to grow normally. The bushes are irrigated with spring water and farmers use grass and chicken manure as fertilizer. The pristine environment and use of natural fertilizer allows the farmers to easily qualify for organic certification.

Mythology

Most Chinese know of Mo Gan Shan, but not because of its tea. In the stories of ancient China, there were ten legendary swords; Mo Gan Jian (The Swords of Mo Gan) was one of these ten legends. As the story goes, Mo Gan Jian was actually a set of swords called male and female swords — Zi Xiong Jian. In the Chun Qiu Dynasty, Helu, a king in Eastern China (in the Wu Kingdom) ordered Gan Jiang and Mo Ye (famous sword smiths in this region, a husband and wife team) to make him the best pair of swords they could make in three months. This was a difficult order to complete because it takes a long time to make a good sword. Mo Ye, wanting to fulfill this order to ensure her husband’s life, prayed to the gods to spare her husband and help him appease the king. She decided to sacrifice her life to the gods in exchange for her husband’s, so she threw herself into the furnace. Her husband completed his task for the king, and the swords he made became famous because of his wife’s sacrifice. So Mo Gan Shan (taking its name from the surnames of the sword smiths) is known in China for these two great swords and for the husband and wife’s great love.

Process

Mo Gan Shan almost exclusively produces green tea from its bushes. Today, only two or three masters still know how to make Mo Gan Huang Ya, the region’s traditional yellow tea.

Leaves for Mo Gan Huang Ya are picked a little later than most spring teas — usually around April 20th. Only the best shoots, one bud with one leaf are plucked. Fresh tea leaves are withered (allowing them to oxidize lightly) for two or three hours depending on the moisture content of the leaves when they were plucked. After the leaves have lost some of their moisture, it takes four people to hand fry the leaves in a very hot wok.  The diameter of the wok is about two feet and it’s about one foot deep, and is heated using a traditional wood fire. The temperature of the wok is about 300 degrees Celsius. Due to the intense heat, each worker is only able to work the tea leaves in the wok for a few seconds at a time before they alternate.

The tea is only fried for about one minute, when the leaves are moved to a bamboo tray and the master will gently knead the hot tea leaves. It takes a delicate hand to roll the hot, pliable leaves to shape them. The motion also results in a slight amount of tea polyphenols being oxidized, which reduces bitter flavors in the finished tea. Next they will wrap the tea in a light cloth into a ball, then press it flat. The flattened ball is placed on a cylindrical table made of bamboo, which is about one and a half feet tall and resembles a large drum. Bamboo structure is placed over charcoal, where every half hour the wrapped bundles of leaves are shaken and mixed, then placed on back over the charcoal for a total of about ten hours. Finally, the leaves are dried to stop the oxidization process. This process is long, and it takes great care to complete properly.

Tea master

The master, Mrs. Wang Xiang Zhen, was taught to make yellow tea by her mother, and she is now teaching her daughter to learn this special skill as well. The family usually only makes green tea, and will make yellow tea only by request for people who will appreciate its special qualities. They graciously agreed to sell this precious tea to us. When you see the dried tea leaves they are slightly yellow, but when you steep them it’s as though they come back to life, and they will quickly open as they absorb the water. The tea color is a bright, slightly yellow color, like fresh apricots. The aroma becomes more full as the leaves absorb the moisture; this richness creates a sweet lingering aftertaste.

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.

Mo Gan Huang Ya (Mo Gan Yellow Buds) brewing guidelines

Teaware: 12 oz. glass or porcelain pot
Amount: 1 Tbs of tea leaves
Water: 185°F filtered water
Infusion: First infusion at least 1 minute. The leaves are good for 6 infusions. Add a little more time for each subsequent infusion.