Yellow tea is the sixth, and the least known, type of tea. It is very similar to green tea, the only difference being a slower drying phase, allowing the leaves to turn yellow while they stay damp.
The infusion also takes on a yellow color. It has a smooth, mellow flavor, without the grassiness of green tea. Similar to white tea, yellow tea is very high quality, with the Junshan Yinzhen variety being one of China’s ten famous teas.
Where to buy
Yellow tea is rare and still very difficult to find in the west. Even most online tea stores don’t carry it. If you need some help finding a good variety, see my recommendations below.
How to Prepare Yellow Tea
The method of brewing yellow tea is basically the same as the method for brewing white tea. This means the leaves should be steeped in cooler water than black or oolong tea leaves.
A temperature of 75-80°C (167-176°F) is a good starting point. To get this temperature, you can just use a simple stove-top kettle to bring the water to a boil and then let it cool down for about five minutes. If you would like to be more accurate in judging the water temperature, you can simply use a thermometer.
If you plan on trying a lot of varieties of tea and/or coffee it might be worth it to invest in a water boiler/warmer or an electric kettle with a variable temperature setting. Personally, I recommend this Cuisinart kettle, because it has presets for every type of tea, so you always get the perfect temperature:
You can brew yellow tea in any regular teapot, although I would recommend using one made from glass or ceramic. Many connoisseurs use a traditional lidded brew cup known as a gaiwan.
The gaiwan can be used for Chinese green teas, white teas, oolong teas, pu-erh teas and some black teas as well.
- Fill both your brew cup and tasting bowl about halfway with hot water to preheat them. Tilt them a bit so that the water creeps up the side and then rotate them so the insides get wet all the way around. Then pour the water out. If you are using a teapot and tea cups, warm those up in a similar fashion.
- Put 1 very full teaspoon of tea leaves in the brew cup. If you are using a teapot, use 1 teaspoon for each cup of tea.
- Pour hot water onto the leaves in the brew cup (or the teapot). The water temperature should be below boiling; around 75-80°C (167-176°F) is ideal.
- Place the lid on the brew cup and let the tea steep for 3 minutes.
- After 3 minutes, pour the tea into the tasting bowl, using the lid of the brew cup to hold back the leaves. Enjoy your tea!
- You can get 3-6 infusions out of most yellow teas. Increase the steeping time 30 seconds to one minute for each infusion. How many infusions you do depends entirely on your taste. Experiment.
Use the amounts given in these instructions as a rough guide. If you find the resulting tea too weak, add more tea leaves; if it is too strong, reduce the amount of leaves used. Similarly, try increasing or decreasing the steeping times.
Yellow tea very difficult to find outside China and most online tea shops don’t carry it either, but surprisingly (or maybe it’s not so surprising), Amazon.com has a few varieties.
By far the best yellow tea, and one of the best teas period, is Junshan Silver Needle (Junshan Yinzhen in Chinese). It is one of ten teas designated as “China Famous Teas.”
I have not tried the Junshan Silver Needle sold on Amazon, though, since I am currently in China and can just buy it at a tea shop. The Amazon one seems priced a little low and it doesn’t have any reviews, so buying it might be a bit risky. Then again, it doesn’t cost much, so it might be worth trying. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover a great value.
The other potentially good option on Amazon is the Golden Dragon Yellow Tea which comes from Teavana. I haven’t tried this one either, but Teavana is the largest online tea seller. The quality of their teas can go either way, though. Usually, the non-flavored ones are good.