Dianhong tea (滇紅茶), also known as Yunnan red tea, is a high-end Chinese black tea that is grown in Yunnan Province, China. The tea is distinguished from other Chinese black teas by the amount of fine leaf buds or “golden tips” present in the dried tea. These golden tips give the tea a sweet, gentle aroma and produce a brew that is brassy golden orange in color with no astringency. Cheaper varieties of Dianhong produce a darker brownish brew that can be very bitter.
History of Dianhong Tea
Tea production in Yunnan dates back to before the Han dynasty, and teas were typically produced in a compressed form similar to modern pu’er tea. Dianhong tea, on the other hand, is a relatively new product from Yunnan that began production in the early 20th century. The word diān (滇) is the short name for the Yunnan region, while hóng (紅) means “red (tea)”. These teas are sometimes referred to as Yunnan red or Yunnan black, but such references can be confusing due to the other varieties of teas produced in Yunnan.
Varieties of Dianhong Tea
There are several varieties of Dianhong tea, each with its own unique characteristics:
- Broken Yunnan (滇紅碎茶) is a cheap tea used for blending, which contains very few golden buds and is generally bitter on its own. The brew is dark and not brassy but reddish brown. This tea is easily identified by the largely black dried leaves with only a few bursts of golden tips.
- Yunnan Gold (滇紅工夫茶) is a Dianhong tea with fewer golden buds and more dark tea leaves. It is on par with the pure gold variety, and is priced similarly, but makes teas with slightly different characteristics. The brew has a brassy red color different from other black teas and a vivid sweetness not quite as intense as “Yunnan pure gold”.
- Yunnan Pure Gold (金芽滇紅茶) is considered the best type of Dianhong tea. It contains only golden tips, which are usually covered in fine hairs. When viewed from a distance, the dried tea appears bright orange in color. The tea liquor is bright red in color and exhibits a gentle aroma and a sweet taste. The leaves are reddish-brown after being brewed.
- Golden Needle (金针茶) is a pure black variety of Dianhong tea. The leaves are golden in color and yield an amberish infusion.
- Pine Needle (松针滇红) is a preparation technology developed in the 20th century that preserves the straight leaf form, which makes a mix of differently colored leaves reminiscent of old needles fallen off a pine tree. Non-curved leaves are a rather common shape for lightly fermented green teas; however, for black teas, this is a novelty.
Dianhong tea is a type of high-end Chinese black tea grown in Yunnan Province, China. It is distinguished from other Chinese black teas by the amount of golden tips present in the dried tea. The tea produces a brew that is brassy golden orange in color with a sweet, gentle aroma and no astringency. There are several varieties of Dianhong tea, each with its own unique characteristics, including Broken Yunnan, Yunnan Gold, Yunnan Pure Gold, Golden Needle, and Pine Needle.