Mo Gan Huang Ya (Mo Gan Yellow Buds) Organic Yellow Tea 2012

Mo Gan Huang Ya (Mo Gan Yellow Buds) Organic Yellow Tea 2012
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Mo Gan Huang Ya is produced in eastern Zhejiang province. Zhejiang is famous for producing green tea, and is known as the biggest green tea producer in China. Zhejiang province has 72 counties; 62 of these counties produce tea. Many famous green teas are grown there, such as Shi Feng Long Jing, Da Fo Long Jing, and Purple Bamboo Shoot.

 

There is one other famous tea that comes from Zhejiang province: Mo Gan Huang Ya. This tea is not a green tea, but is a yellow tea. The main difference between yellow and green tea is that yellow is slightly oxidized. When tea polyphenols oxidize during the slow drying process, it results in leaves with a light yellow color. Mo Gan Huang Ya is grown in Hu Zhou city, in northeast Zhejiang province. With the large quantity of tea produced in this province there are also many different types of tea bushes. Dragon Well 43, Wu Liu Zao, Yin Shuang, Jiu Keng are all famous tea bushes grown in Zhejiang. Jiu Keng is the name of the Mo Gan Huang Ya bush.

Within Zhejiang province, De Qing County has a mountain named Mo Gan Shan; the weather in this area is very good for tea. The average temperature is 15 degrees Celsius, with humidity around 80%. The tea even grows in the mist of the clouds at the top of the mountain. At the top of this 758 meter high mountain, you are surrounded by bamboo, clouds and spring water. The air is cool, crisp and clean, and the serene quiet inspires a calming feeling. You can see far into the distance when you walk among the bushes of Mo Gan Shan. These old tea bushes have strong, deep root systems. The bushes themselves are only cut back quite short every two years so they have plenty of time and space to grow normally. The bushes tap into spring water and farmers use grass and chicken manure as fertilizer. The clean environment and use of natural fertilizer makes it very easy for the farmers to receive organic certification.

Most Chinese know of Mo Gan Shan, but not because of the tea. In ancient China, there were ten famous swords; Mo Gan Jian (Mo Gan Sword) is one of these ten famous swords. Mo Gan Jian is actually a set of swords called male and female swords -- Zi Xiong Jian. This sword’s fame comes from an old story based on a historical event. 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 Mo Gan Shan is known in China for these two great swords and for the husband and wife’s great love. This is the Chinese version of Romeo and Juliet; Mo was the maiden name of the wife and Gan was the husband’s name.

Mo Gan Huang Ya is usually known as a green tea. Only two or three masters know how to make tea into yellow tea. This process involves taking fresh tea leaves and withering them (allowing them to oxidize lightly) for two or three hours depending on the moisture content of the leaves. Mo Gan is picked a little later than most teas, and they pick the best shoots -- one bud and two leaves are picked from these bushes around April 20th. Then they wither the leaves about three to four hours, and after this they take four people to hand fry the tea in a very hot wok. The tea master will ask three people to help fry the tea. 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, so each person can only turn the tea about ten to twenty times, totaling a few seconds at a time.

The tea is only fried for about one minute, when the leaves are moved to a bamboo tray and the master will gently kneed 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. Next they will wrap the tea in a light cloth into a ball, then press it flat. The flattened ball is placed on a cylindrical table made of bamboo, which is about one and a half feet tall and resembles a large drum. Then bamboo structure is placed over charcoal, where every half hour the leaves are shaken and mixed, then placed on back over the charcoal for a total of about ten hours. Finally, the leaves are dried to stop the oxidization process. This process is long, and it takes great care to make.

The master, Mrs. Wang Xiang Zhen, was taught to make yellow tea by her mother. This skill has been passed down through her family, and she is now teaching her daughter to learn this special skill as well. The family usually only makes green tea, and will make yellow tea for people who will appreciate the special qualities of yellow tea. They graciously agreed to sell this precious tea to us. We compared the green and yellow tea they made; the green tea is fresh like walking in a field in springtime, but the yellow tea is like sitting in a garden, surrounded by flowers, where right away you feel the rich aroma attract you. When you see the dried tea leaves they are slightly yellow, 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.

Tea Origin: Huzhou City, Zhejiang Province, China
Tea Bush: Mo Gan Shan Heng Lin Yi Hao (Mo Gan Mountain Village Local Bush)
Tea Master: Wang Qiang Zhen
Harvest Time: early April
Picking Standard: 1 bud to 1 tender leaf

Brewing Guidelines
Teaware: 12 oz. glass or porcelain pot
Amount: 1 Tbs of tea leaves
Water: 185°F filtered water
Infusion: First infusion at least 1 minute. The leaves are good for 6 infusions. Add a little more time for each subsequent infusion.
 

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