Tea Growing Area
Place Known as World Heritage
Junshan Island is located in the middle of Dong Ting Lake, which is 15km North East of Yueyang in Hunan Province. The island has 72 mountains with various sizes, these are where the tea gardens located.
The reason why the tea produced in Junshan Island is good are:Very thick fog generated from Dong Ting Lake. Low temperature and high humidity environment. The tea garden is surrounded by various flower trees.
Thanks to these factors, tea leaves at Junshan Island are very rich in amino acids, and with specific and fatty shape.
Plucking and Cultivars
In the past, Junshan Island was involved in wars over and over again. Each time, the owner of tea garden changed. Therefore, there is lack of information on its cultivars.The most exclusive grade of Junshan Yinzhen is produced from the first bud that comes up early in the spring. One bud usually consists of 4-5 pieces of young leaves.Hand-plucking is carried out under very strict criteria. At first, the length of bud should be within 25-30mm and width is within 3-4mm. Stem with length of 2mm should be plucked together with bud.In addition, the bud that fall into following 10 criteria should not be plucked:
1) Bud that is excessively grown
2) Bud that is not straight
3) Hollow bud
4) Purple color
5) Bud damaged by wind
6) Bud with insect bite
7) Bud damaged by plant disease
8) Skinny bud
9) Bud after the rain
10) Bud with morning dew
Due to very stringent criteria, even an expert can only manage to harvest as much as 0.5kg of bud in a day. In any event, 0.5kg contains about 10,000 pieces of bud.
It is said that the best time to harvest the best quality bud for Junshan Yinzhen is only 14 days in total throughout a year, which falls between 4 days before (Qing Ming, occurring on April 4 (leap years) or April 5 (other years) of the Gregorian calendar) and 10 days after.The first bud in spring comes with so-called (Yu Yue, the tiny leaf attached to the bud), that is to protect bud from cold temperature. This naturally made cover could be a good indication to recognize the high quality Junshan Yinzhen.
Special Technique to Oxidize Tea Leaves and Produce Yellow Color
The most distinctive process of yellow tea is called (Men-huang, the smothering process). The leaves which processed in a similar way of green tea are wrapped and kept for 4-5 days that generate typical flavor and color of yellow tea.
Point of Making Junshan Yinzhen
- Pan Frying
Activation and Inactivation of Enzyme
The purpose of is to inactivate oxidative enzyme such as polyphenol oxidase (PPO) with heat.
Chinese green tea is heated by pan frying method. Pan frying is literally frying tea leaves in a metal pan when the temperature of pan reaches 200 degree C. With high temperature, it takes very short time to heat the tea leaves and inactivate oxidative enzyme.In the production of yellow tea, fresh tea leaves will be fried in a pan too.
However it is important that the starting temperature of pan is kept at much lower temperature, i.e., 95-10 degree C. The pan temperature will be then gradually increased until 120-130 degree C and then progressively decreased.When the temperature of tea leaves is slowly increased, enzyme like PPO will rapidly oxidizes polyphenols at maximum speed. The gradual increment of temperature will accelerates enzymatic activity.
Eventually, when the temperature of tea leaf reaches over 60 degree C, most of the enzymes will be inactivated, and this prevent tea leaf from turning into black tea.
After pan frying, tea leaves are dried by burning fire made of specific type of tree. Usually, strong fire is used in order to prevent tea leaves from absorbing essential oil of firewood.
Tea leaves will be cooled down after drying process. The water content of tea leaves was reduced to 40-50%.
- 1st Wrapping
Beginning of (Men-huang, smothering process)
Each 1kg of tea leaves are wrapped with paper and placed inside a pot. It is left under humid condition for 1-2 days. During this period, auto-oxidation of polyphenols in tea leaves was gradually underway. In this oxidation, no enzyme is involves, therefore, it is a non-enzymatic oxidation. The typical yellow color of yellow tea is composed during this stage.
- Second Heating
Production of the flavor
Tea leaves are dried again in order to distribute moisture evenly. Heating process also generates identical Junshan Yinzhen flavor. After the drying process, tea leaves are cooled down and even out moisture. Eventually, the tea leaves contained about 20% of moisture.
- Second Wrapping
Once again tea leaves are wrapped with paper and men-huang will be carried out.In total, it takes 4 days in overall process of men-huang, which produces substances contribute to typical flavor, color and taste of yellow tea.Finally tea leaves are dried to less than 5% moisture and all reactions are stopped.