Mogan Huangya (Mogan Yellow Buds)

Organic Yellow Tea 2021

A rare tea with a lingering wildflower aroma, deep flavor and honeyed finish. One of the few teas made by a female tea master, produced with complicated yellow tea processing techniques. Yellow tea is a light tea that has all the rich aroma and nutrition of a green tea, but a gentler character without the grassy edge.

2021’s Mogan Huangya is darker this year, but gentle as ever. Thick with aromas that are both aetherial and floral: beeswax, honey, sandalwood.

Clear selection

Tea Origin
Moganshan, Deqing County, Huzhou City, Zhejiang Province, China

Tea Bush
Jiu Keng, Mogan Quntizhong (Mogan Heirloom Tea Bush)

Tea Master
Wang Xiangzhen and Zhao Xianqin

Harvest Time
Mid-April

Picking Standard
One bud, two leaves

This rare tea possesses a lingering wildflower aroma, deep flavor and honeyed finish. One of the few teas made by a female tea master, it is made into a yellow tea through complicated and specialized processing techniques. Yellow tea is a light tea that has all the rich aroma and nutrition of a green tea, but a gentler character without the grassy edge.

While similar to green tea, as a yellow tea Mogan Huangya differs in that it is slightly oxidized in a process unique to the yellow tea style. This processing step is known as menhuang and involves wrapping the moist tea leaves in cloth bundles and gently roasting them over charcoal. When tea polyphenols oxidize during this slow roasting, it results in leaves with a light yellow color. While white teas like Baihao Yinzhen (Silver Needle) are also slightly oxidized, their oxidation results instead from their natural slow air-drying that turns the buds a silvery white color, rather than a specialized step in the tea making process.

The dry yellow tea leaves of Mogan Huangya are dim shade of yellowish green, 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.

The yellow tea master of Moganshan

A smiling woman in a white coat and hat holding a small cloth-wrapped bundle in both hands.
Tea master Wang Xiangzhen wrapping bundles of freshly fried tea leaves in cloth for Mogan Huangya’s specialized menhuang processing step to make it into yellow tea.

Knowledge of the techniques to make yellow tea are very rare these days. Today, only two or three masters still know how to make Mogan Huangya, the region’s traditional type of yellow tea. Tea master Mrs. Wang Xiangzhen has been given the prestigious honor of Master of Intangible Cultural Heritage by the state for her expertise in making Mogan Huangya. She was taught to make yellow tea by her mother, and she is now teaching her daughter and granddaughter these skills as well. These three generations of women tea makers is even rarer, as most tea masters are men. 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 Mogan yellow tea to us.

Making Mogan yellow tea

Leaves for Mogan Huangya are picked a little later than most spring teas — usually around April 20th. Only the best young shoots with one bud with two leaves are plucked. Fresh tea leaves are withered for two or three hours depending on the moisture content of the leaves when they were plucked. Once they have lost some of their moisture, they become flexible rather than crisp, and they can be fried without breaking the leaf.

Four people in white coats clustered around a set of woks, watching one woman frying the fresh Mogan Huangya yellow tea in one of them.
Tea master Wang Xiangzhen teaching her daughter Zhao Xianqin the hand frying technique for Mogan Huangya yellow tea.

It takes a team of four people to hand fry Mogan Huangya 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 the next team member takes their turn. The tea is only fried for about one minute total.

After frying, the leaves are moved to a bamboo tray where 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.

A woven bamboo drum with small bundles of fabric-wrapped tea on top, next to a round charcoal brazier smothered with ash.
Stoking the charcoal used to roast Mogan Huangya yellow tea in its special menhuang step of processing.

Next comes the unique menhuang step that defines a yellow tea. This very delicate step is what causes yellow tea’s mild oxidation. They will wrap the still-moist tea leaves in a light cloth into a ball, then press it flat. The flattened bundle is placed on a cylindrical table made of bamboo, which is about one and a half feet tall and resembles a large drum. The bamboo drum is placed over charcoal to gently roast the tea. Every half hour the tea master unwraps the bundles of leaves to check their progress and shake and mix them for even oxidation, then re-wraps them and places them back over the charcoal. This slow roasting process lasts for a total of about ten hours. Once it is complete, the leaves are dried to stop the oxidization process. This process is long and laborious, and it takes great care to complete properly.

The Moganshan Tea Gardens

A woman standing among rows of tea bushes holding a leaf. A rolling mountainside with rows of tea plants extends into the misty distance behind her, with other mountains in the background.
Zhuping examining a tea leaf while visiting the mountaintop tea gardens where Yu Qian Mogan Green is grown and made.

The weather and climate in this area is especially good for tea cultivation. The average temperature there is 15°C (59°F) with humidity hovering steadily around 80%. The tea bushes easily take to growing in the shade of clouds at the top of Mogan Mountain, surrounded by bamboo, mist, and mountain springs. 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 Moganshan, you can see far into the distance and into the valley below. Because of its high altitude, tea grown here usually grows slower and needs to be harvested about a week later than in other areas.

A row of short young tea bushes with a row of taller, older ones behind them and trees in the distant background.
Older (back row) and younger (front row) Jiu Keng cultivar tea bushes in the organic tea garden on top of Moganshan. Without the use of harsh herbicides, sensitive plants like ferns still grow here.

Mogan Huangya is made from seed-grown bushes, not cuttings, that had seeded from the Jiu Keng variety and Mogan’s local heirloom tea bushes. 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. Farmers use cut grass and weeds and fermented rapeseed paste (a byproduct of canola oil) as fertilizer. The pristine environment and use of natural fertilizers allows the farm to easily qualify for organic certification.

Origins in the Green Tea Capital: Hangzhou

Moganshan has long been praised for its green tea, and actually produces far more green tea than yellow. This particular origin was even mentioned in Lu Yu’s Cha Jing, the first book on tea ever written over 1,200 years ago. Mount Mogan is the tallest mountain peak in the Hangzhou area at 758 meters. This entire region of Zhejiang Province has a very long history of producing excellent green tea, including Longjing (Dragon Well), the most famous green tea in China. The Hangzhou origin which produces our Shifeng Longjing (Shifeng Dragon Well) is only about an hour’s drive away from Moganshan.

Mythology of Moganshan

A vista of blue mountains layered with mist, with a hazy orange sun setting behind them. Tea bushes and vegetation sprawls in the foreground.
The breathtaking view from the peak of Moganshan.

Most Chinese know of Moganshan, but not because of its tea. In the stories of ancient China, there were ten legendary swords; Mogan Jian (The Swords of Mogan) was one of these ten legends. As the story goes, Mogan 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 Mogan 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.

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.

Mogan Huangya (Mogan Yellow Buds) brewing guidelines

5 grams (1.5 Tb) tea

12 oz 85°C (185ºF) water

3 min. first infusion

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