Yunnan is one of the oldest tea producing regions in the world and produces some of the best known teas in the world; specifically Yunnan (also known as Dianhong) and the hugely popular Pu Erh. Located in the South-West of China, it is a huge area with massive diversity in animals, plants and geography and has abundant area perfect for tea production.
Until quite recently, almost all of the Yunnan produced in China was pressed into cake form a la Pu Erh (in fact this was true for black tea production in most regions of China); but more recently loose-leaf Yunnan has become popular in its own right.
Yunnan is recognisably closer to familiar Indian teas in appearance as it tends to have a large number of fine leaf buds (or orange tips) included. Were tea classifications applied to Chinese teas in the same way as Indian teas, Yunnan would have a fabulous pedigree!
Yunnan is full-bodied, malty and earthy and fine Yunnan teas are highly sought after, but Yunnan is probably best known for use in blending (where it adds a strongly savoury characteristic) and in the manufacture of Pu Erh cakes and leaves where Yunnan is still the primary tea used to create Pu Erh. Again, it is that deep, full-bodied, savoury flavour which lends itself particularly well to the development of Pu Erh flavours.
In the UK, with the exception of Pu Erh we find that most tea drinkers enjoy Yunnan blended rather than standalone as it is so versatile in balancing stronger flavours. For example our Russian Caravan and Covent Garden blends both have Yunnan as a base and both have very different, strong ingredients present.
Read Behind the Blend next week for more information on Black Tea as we explore its fascinating history, cultivation and uses which make it interesting and popular.
Yunnan teas can only come from the Yunnan region in the south-west of China. Teas grown outside this region may well share characteristics with Yunnan but cannot be named so.
Yunnan is one of the oldest tea-cultivating regions in the world, with tea production on some scale happening in Yunnan for at least two milennia.
Yunnan black tea leaves were pressed into cakes for preservation until quite recently (much like other black teas in China). Loose-leaf Yunnan has been popularised in the last 200 years
Whilst Yunnan refers to the black tea variety produced from plants in Yunnan, other tea types (green/white etc) are produced in this region from the same plants, but processed differently.
Yunnan is grown and harvested throughout the growing season and is picked to include a high number of orange "buds" making Yunnan black teas one of the tippiest Chinese varieties.
Yunnan is usually processed in the usual manner for black teas: picking, fixing to start drying the leaves, bruising or rolling to start the oxidisation process and then heating to stop oxidisation and complete the drying of the leaves.
Yunnan is a popular tea for blending so often undergoes and additional process of cutting or milling to cut the leaves into small pieces and increase their surface area and strength. these leaves tend to be lower quality and are usually used for tea bags.
Yunnan should be full-bodied, malty and savoury at a minimum.
Yunnan is an excellent base for blending, especially as a way to balance stronger flavours and add a savoury, robust element to blends lacking depth.
For good quality Yunnan, one would expect to find a lot of tippy, golden buds. Less tippy varieties are often more suited to blending, are production of immensely popular Pu Erh.
In general, black Yunnan is expected to be full-bodied, malty and savoury; include whole, unbroken leaves and for the finer types, include a significant amount of tip.
At Tea Palace, we are extremely rigorous about product testing and sourcing only the finest quality loose leaf black teas. Our extensive sampling and testing process ensures that our range includes teas deemed to be of the highest possible quality.
Tea Palace does not source broken leaf teas. We are committed to promoting the luxury, quality and flavour of whole leaf and therefore we only accept whole leaf teas classified at the highest end of the grading scale. This applies throughout our range from single estate teas to those used in our blends.
Our Yunnan are selected to include key characteristics depending on the quality of the leaves required. We use whole leaves at a minimum for our blends - so you can be sure that they are of excellent quality.
We specifically look for malty and full-bodied Yunnans with a distinct savour as we think this produced the most delicious and complex cup and is the standard for single estate Yunnan.