A Comprehensive Guide to Yellow Tea

Yellow tea (Chinese 黃茶; Korean 황차) is a delicate and time-consuming tea to produce, requiring great skill and patience. Its labor-intensive production process takes several days of careful attention to detail. Although yellow tea has been around for centuries, it is still relatively unknown in the western world, making it a rare find in international markets.

Image: Yellow Tea (黄茶)


Yellow tea is a rare type of tea made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which is known for producing other famous teas such as green, white, oolong, black, and pu-erh teas. The production process for yellow tea is time-intensive and laborious, making it difficult to find outside of China. In this article, we will explore the basics of yellow tea, its production process, flavor profile, health benefits, and the differences between yellow and green teas.

Yellow Tea Basics

Yellow tea is one of the true teas, made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. This tea is rare and difficult to find outside of China due to the time-intensive and laborious production process. Only three main types of yellow tea are available on the market today, making it a unique sight on the international market.

Production Process

The production process for yellow tea is similar to green tea but with an additional, time-consuming step. The leaves are harvested in early spring, dried using direct sunlight or gentle pan-firing, and then wrapped in wet paper or cloth to induce mild oxidation through steaming. The leaves are oxidized for up to three days and may undergo additional firing or drying rounds. This tea processing method produces a yellowing effect on the tea leaves.


Yellow tea has a mellow flavor that is similar to green tea but without the grassy smell. The yellow tea leaves tend to have a smoother taste and brew into a characteristic yellow, golden hue.

Health Benefits of Yellow Tea

Yellow tea is packed with antioxidants, including polyphenols and catechins, which are beneficial to overall health. These antioxidants work to prevent oxidative stress, which can cause damage to healthy cellular processes and contribute to premature aging and mental decline. Yellow tea is naturally calorie-free, making it an excellent choice for people on weight loss plans looking for healthier alternatives to sugary sodas.

Difference Between Green and Yellow Tea

Green and yellow teas are two completely different categories of tea and go through different processing methods. Yellow tea takes the processing a step further from green tea by adding a stage where the tea is allowed to ferment a little before being completely dried, resulting in a more tender and mellow flavor profile. Neither category is better than the other; they just allow us to experience tea leaves in different ways.

Best Yellow Teas to Try

Yellow tea is a rare and highly-prized tea variety that’s difficult to find outside of China. It has a mellow flavor profile that’s similar to green tea, but with a smoother taste and a yellowish-golden hue. Here are some of the best yellow teas that you can try.

Jun Shan Yin Zhen (Silver Needle)

This tea originates from Jun Shan island in the Hunan Province of China and has been used as a tribute tea for centuries. It has a light, airy body with a slightly floral and mildly sweet flavor, similar to silver needle white tea.

Meng Ding Huang Ya

This tea is cultivated along Mt. Meng in Sichuan Province and has been consumed since the reign of the Han Dynasty. It has a nutty flavor with mild notes of grass.

Mo Gan Huang Ya

This yellow tea is grown at high elevations in the Zhejiang Province, on the slopes of Mt. Mo Gan Shan, which has a unique microclimate. This results in a lightly sweet flavor with a lingering aftertaste and a color similar to plump apricots.

Huo Shan Huang Ya

This ancient yellow tea variety is cultivated in Anhui Province and has been used in traditional Chinese tea ceremonies. It’s made using tea buds and leaves and has a light green and yellow hue. It offers a sweet undertone with peppery overtures.

Hwangcha – Korean Yellow Tea

In Korea, domestic tea is classified mainly as either green tea or fermented tea. The term “fermented” actually means “oxidized” and yellow tea is used to refer to lightly oxidized fermented tea without any implications of processing methods or a result that would qualify the tea as “yellow tea” in the Chinese definition. Unlike Chinese yellow tea, Korean yellow tea is made similarly to oolong tea or lightly oxidized black tea. The key feature of Korean yellow tea is a noticeable but relatively low level of oxidation which results in the tea liquor having a yellow color.

Tips for Brewing Yellow Tea

Yellow tea is a delicate and rare tea that requires special attention when it comes to brewing. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Use loose leaf tea: Since yellow tea is not as commonly found in tea bags, it is more likely that you will be using loose leaf tea for brewing.
  2. Measure the tea: Use one teaspoon of loose leaf tea for every single cup serving.
  3. Use the right water temperature: Boiling water can burn the delicate yellow tea leaves and affect the flavor. Instead, use water between 165 and 175 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Steep for 3 minutes: Steep the tea leaves for 3 minutes and then set aside.
  5. Reuse the tea leaves: Yellow tea leaves can be used for up to 4 to 6 infusions, so don’t throw them away after the first steep. Simply add more water and repeat the brewing process.

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