Of all the types of Chinese tea, yellow tea or Huang Ya is one of the most rare and expensive, and often consumed by those entranced by the many yellow tea benefits. Aficionados and devotees of this particular brew describe it as having a mellow, smooth, slightly sweet, and less ‘grassy’ taste than green tea, and they enjoy the alleged health benefits of yellow tea, but there’s more to the story than just that.
This wonderful tea has been known and revered in China since the Tang Dynasty (617 – 907), but it is a fairly recent discovery for westerners. Some mistakenly think that it is yet another type of green tea. However, it is in fact a different class of tea.
The production process is the same as that for green tea with the exception of the final and crucial stage: the still hot leaves are removed from the roasting pan and covered with a damp cloth or mats. This allows the tea to rest and also to steam gently. This process is known in Chinese as men huan or ‘sealing yellow’. This step may be repeated several times and it is believed to cause the leaf to reabsorb its own aromatics. It is also this that gives this tea its characteristic yellow coloring.
Types of Yellow Tea
One can purchase bud-only—more correctly described as bud-and-two-leaves—or loose-leaf forms of this tea. The former is more highly prized and considered to be superior in quality.
As with other superior Chinese teas there are several varieties that come from different provinces:
- Da Ye Qing or Big Leaf Green is produced in Guangdong province
- Huang Tang or Yellow Broth / Soup hails from Zhejiand province
- Huoshan Huangya is grown on the slopes of Mount Huo in Anhui province
- Junshan Yinzhen or Silver Needle is cultivated in Hunan province
- Meng Ding Huangya is from Mount Meng in Sichuan province.
Of these five, the aristocrat granted “Chinese Famous Tea” status is Silver Needle.
What are the primary yellow tea benefits?
According to various health and wellness related websites, this particular tea affords a number of significant benefits. On a general note, Yellow Tea has the same powerful antioxidant compounds (catchins) and properties as Green Tea but it is gentler on the digestive system. It also contains vitamins namely A1, B2, B12, C, and E.
More specifically, according to esgreen.com, Huang Ya helps with:
- Inflammation of the bowel or colon: the polyphenols in this brew reduce the inflammation associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease.
- Diabetes: although there is no hard clinical evidence to support this claim, it appears that compounds in this beverage control blood sugar levels and may both prevent and control Type I Diabetes.
- Atherosclerosis: the antioxidants in this tea help to reduce the chance of deposits that cause both coronary artery disease and joint pain.
- High cholesterol: based on one study it seems that polyphenols block the intestinal absorption of cholesterol and promote its elimination. Furthermore these compounds increase levels of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol while lowering LDL or the ‘bad’ version.
- Liver ailments: the catechins or polyphenols reduce inflammation caused by conditions such as hepatitis and this drink may protect the liver from various conditions. However it should be noted that this seems to only be the case if 10 or more sups of tea are drunk daily.
- Weight loss: antioxidants help to boost metabolic rates which can in turn help to burn fat. This beverage can help one to lose weight but in conjunction with a balanced diet and some exercise.
- Anti-carcinogenic: while there is a lack of clinical evidence to support this claim it is significant that countries where a great deal of teas high in polyphenols and antioxidants are consumed—such as China and Japan—the cancer rates are extremely low. This seems to apply especially to breast, prostate, stomach, colorectal, bladder, lung, pancreatic, and esophageal cancers. This can be for any number of different reasons, and we do not invite you to draw any strong conclusions from this correlation.
Note that many of these claims from that website do not cite their source, and should be taken with a grain of salt. Always be skeptical of any outlandish health claims. We’re sharing these simply to point out some of the claims that are out there, tea doesn’t replace medicine or a doctor’s advice, full stop. Here are some of our thoughts when it comes to tea and health.
As with many natural and plant-based substances more research is needed before the traditional scientific and medical community rubber stamps or accepts the health benefits of Yellow Tea. This is counter-balanced, though, by centuries of empirical evidence that indicates drinking these teas is good for one’s well-being.
How to make Yellow Tea
Brewing this hot drink is not complex but care needs to be taken so that one derives optimal taste and benefits from this wonderful (and not inexpensive) tea!
- One can brew this drink in a traditional clay teapot, a glass teapot, or a porcelain lidded bowl or cup (called a gaiwan).
- Use spring or filtered water so that chemicals and impurities often found in tap water don’t detract from or spoil the taste of the tea.
- Don’t use boiling water; allow the water to cool or ‘rest’ for 3 to 4 minutes after boiling before pouring it over the leaves.
- The water temperature should be 160O – 180O F or 71O – 82O C so it draws but the leaves don’t cook.
- Use 1 tablespoon of leaves or 1 teaspoon of bud-only tea per 6 oz. of water.
- Pour the water slowly and gently so that they leaves float on the surface.
- Swirl the water gently around the pot, cup, or tea bowl to aerate it.
- Allow the liquid to steep for 1 to 2 minutes. The leaves will fall to the bottom as they absorb water.
- Filter or strain the liquid poured from a teapot into a porcelain or glass cup.
- Drink the liquid while it is still hot and aromatic.
- This tea can be steeped again 2 or three times before the flavor and benefits begin to be lost. Slightly hotter water may be required for each successive steep.
- One should never add a sweetener or creamer of any kind to the delicate, non-bitter, and expensive tea! It not only destroys the taste but it also eliminates much of the antioxidants.
When one first starts to enjoy this brew part of that pleasure is experimenting with leaf quantities and steeping times until one finds the taste and aroma that is most pleasing.
Yellow tea side effects
One’s not likely to drink a lot of this tea because it’s costly but it’s advisable to limit one’s daily intake anyway. Too much of this beverage may cause anemia and gastric upset in some people. Pregnant women and individuals suffering from chronic or acute medical conditions are urged to consult their pharmacist, doctor, or other health practitioner before drinking this tea.
Given this product is new to tea drinkers in the West one should take special care when purchasing it. There are a lot of poor quality versions on the market and other teas that are total impostors. One also shouldn’t confuse Yellow Tea from China with the one produced in Korea; they are entirely different. Read the packaging carefully or only shop with reputable tea brands.