What is Yunnan Tea?
Yunnan tea is a type of fermented tea that is produced in the Yunnan province in China. Also known as Chinese black tea, dianhong tea, and pu’er tea, these tea leaves can be purchased in their raw form, at which point they can undergo a long fermentation time – sometimes aging for years before they are used.  The leaves are dried and rolled before fermentation. In terms of taste, yunnan tea has a rich and malty flavor, with some undertones of chocolate or pepper, making for a pleasant, warming tea that can be drunk throughout the year.
Yunnan Tea Varieties
The most common varieties of yunnan tea include Dianhong black tea and Pu’er tea, among others. Yunnan tea is famous in China. And Yunnan province is the hometown of tea in China. Here are the introduction of Dianhong tea and Pu’er tea.
What is Dianhong Black Tea?
Dianhong tea is a relatively high-end, delicious Chinese black tea, sometimes used in various blends of tea, grown in Yunnan province, China. The main difference between Dianhong tea and other Chinese black teas is the amount of “fine lead buds” in the dried tea. Black tea is a kind of brown color, the aroma is soft but not so astringent. Cheaper Dianhong tea produce a darker brown brew that can be very bitter.
Yunnan black tea, or Dianhong tea, is a legendary local tea grown in Fengqing County (470 km from Kunming) of Lincang City (520 km from Kunming) in the southwest of Yunnan Province. It is one of many famous indigenous teas such as the “drinkable antique” Pu’er tea and is available in local tea houses to as well as supermarkets like Carrefour and Walmart. Dianhong and Pu’er teas are delicacies though prices vary with quality.
History of Dianhong Black Tea
Teas grown in Yunnan prior to the Han dynasty were typically produced in a compressed form similar to modern pu’er tea. Dianhong is relatively new product from Yunnan that began production in the early 20th century. In the autumn of 1938, many of China’s black tea producing regions were occupied by the Japanese. To develop tea business, an important export for earning foreign exchange to support the War against Japan’s invasion, Mr Feng Shaoqiu (1900-1987) – a tea expert of the former China Tea Trade Company Limited – was dispatched to Yunnan to develop a new producing base. Through arduous inspection and investigation, he identified the top-quality teas among those freshly picked in Fengqing County, and used these teas to make black tea which he named “Dianhong Tea”. So far, Fengqing has planted over 20,000 hectares of tea bushes, from a base of less than 2,000 hectares in the 1940s, with an annual tea output of about 10,000 tonnes — of which 70% are black tea. And 84% of its total population (0.45 mln) has been involved in the tea industry. The word diān (滇) is the short name for the Yunnan region while hóng (紅) means “red (tea)”; as such, these teas are sometimes simply referred to as Yunnan red or Yunnan black.
Manufacturing Process of Dianhong Black Tea
“Yunnan Black Tea Production Techniques” has a worldwide impact, with significant Yunnan local characteristics and product advantages. The traditional production techniques of Yunnan black tea include withering萎凋, rolling揉捻, fermentation发酵 and drying干燥. The first is withering: after a period of natural water loss, the fresh leaves of tea become withered and withered. After withering, water can be evaporated appropriately to facilitate shape. At the same time, tea fragrance is appearing, which is an important processing stage to form the aroma of Yunnan black tea. Secondly, twisting: the withered fresh leaves are twisted, and the strength and time of the twisting are grasped by the tea maker.
Read more about the Manufacturing Process of Dianhong Black Tea
Varieties of Dianhong Black Tea
Broken Yunnan (滇红碎茶)– An inexpensive variety with few golden buds and a rather bitter taste. Dark in color.
Yunnan Gold (滇红功夫茶)– This variety has a balance of golden buds and black tea leaves and is a vibrant red in color.
Yunnan Pure Gold（金芽滇红茶）– Primarily made of golden buds, the color of this tea is bright red, while the leaves become a reddish-brown after brewing.
Golden Needle （金针茶）– These leaves are pure black, with no gold buds; however, the brew is a rich amber color.
Pine Needle （松针滇红）– A preparation technology developed in the 20th century preserving straight leaf form, which makes a mix of differently coloured leaves reminiscent of old needles fallen from a pine tree.
Main Dianhong Producing Areas in Yunnan
The main Dian black producing areas in Yunnan are Lincang, Baoshan, Xishuangbanna, Dehong, Honghe, including more than 20 counties. The main tea producing areas in Yunnan spread along 23°27 N where scientists believe that the climatic conditions are beneficial for biological diversity. Geographically, the producing area of Dianhong black tea in Yunnan can be divided into 3 main parts: West tea-area of Yunnan, South tea-area of Yunnan and Northeast tea-area of Yunnan. The west tea-area is primarily located in 4 cities of Lincang (临沧), Baoshan(保山), Dehong(德宏), Dali; the total planting area is about 52.2% in Yunnan province with the 65% of the total production in Yunnan. The south tea-area is slightly smaller than the west tea-area; however, it is regarded as the birthplace of tea and tea culture in China. The main tea producing counties in this area are Simao(思茅), Xishuangbanna(西双版纳), Wenshan(文山) and Honghe(红河), the tea area and tea out account for 32.7% and 30.8%.
Dianhong Black Tea Experts
What is Pu’er Tea?
Pu’er tea known as “black tea” in the Far East part of the world, originates from the Yunnan province of China and is named after the market town in which it was first developed. Pu’er tea is post-fermented, which means that the tea leaves go through a microbial fermentation process after they have been dried and rolled, causing the leaves to darken and change in flavor. This process allows the teas to not only improve with age like a fine wine, but many pu’er teas are able to retain their freshness for up to fifty years! Pu’er teas can be found in compressed brick form or in loose leaf form and can be made from both green and black tea leaves.Pu’er tea is made from a larger leaf strain of camellia sinensis called Dayeh, which are ancient trees with mature leaves that are said to be between 500 and 1000 years old. These trees are usually grown in temperate regions and although they can be harvested year-round, the opportune time to harvest is in mid-spring. Various conditions and environmental factors can impact the flavor profile of pu-erh, resulting in a rich experience for the tea drinker’s palate of this bold tea that can be smooth, fruity, peaty, grassy, musky, herbal and earthy.
History of Pu’er Tea
Pu’er tea can be traced back to the Yunnan Province during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220CE). Trade in Pu’er tea began in the Tang Dynasty, became famous during the Ming Dynasty and was popularized in the Qing Dynasty.Pu’er was transported by mules and horses in long caravans along established routes that became known as the Tea Horse Roads. Traders would barter for tea in the markets of Pu’er County and then hire the caravans to carry the tea back to their respective homes.The increasing demand for a tea that could be easily transported and did not spoil on long journeys sent suppliers on a frenzy to come up with ways to preserve the tea. It was found that with fermentation of the leaves, the tea not only kept fresh but it actually improved with age. People soon discovered that Pu’er also helped with digestion, provided other nutrients to their diet, and because it was so affordable, it quickly became a popular household amenity. Pu’er tea was highly prized and it became a powerful tool for bartering amongst travelling merchants.
Pu’er Tea Today
Today, Pu’er continues to be regarded as a highly prized commodity. Even in modern society, a well preserved pu-erh still maintains its value and remains a household treat. In western society, the popularity of pu-erh tea is only just now being introduced to the mainstream population of tea drinkers, propagated by new hype generated by mass-media about its many salubrious effects. It is only a matter of time before the beauty and benefits of Pu’er tea become commonplace household knowledge.
Pu’er Tea Types and Variants
There are two different ways a pu-erh tea can be classified: raw (sheng) and cooked/ripe (shou). This is due to the amount of processing that occurs after the tea leaves are picked and withered.With raw processing, the leaves are withered then heaped into piles, much like a compost pile, allowing bacteria to ferment. This is the most important step of the process, called “Wo Dui” (moist track). This is the point where the character of the tea begins to develop. The leaves are then partially pan fired in order to halt enzyme activity, lightly rolled and kneaded, then left to dry in a “Dry Storage” environment with enough moisture to allow the tea to slowly oxidize over time. At this point, the tea is immediately compressed into cakes or left in loose leaf form. The cooked processing method was developed in the early 1970’s by the Yunnan Kunming tea factory to speed up the process of production. With cooked processing, the tea leaves are picked and withered then mixed with a bacterial culture created to replicate the bacteria that would be created during natural fermentation. Then, the pu-erh is left to fully oxidize for up to 40 days in a hot and humid environment before firing, creating a dark, earthy infusion.During this time, the development of another type of pu-erh was also birthed. The method of half-cooked pu-erh came to be. This is actually a mixture of raw and cooked leaves that have been smoke-steamed and pressed, giving the tea a beautiful mixed color of light and dark leaves.
Post-fermentation by aging breaks down the caffeine levels in pu’er, meaning that the caffeine content naturally diminishes the older it gets. This means that a very old pu’er might have trace amounts of caffeine by the time it is consumed in comparison to a younger pu’er. That being said, the actual caffeine content present in a cup of pu’er tea varies upon how long the tea is steeped. The longer the steep time, the more caffeine the tea will contain. Caffeine content will lessen each time tea is re-steeped.
Pu’er Tea Plantation Areas in Yunnan
Yunnan, renowned for their climates and environments, which not only provide excellent growing conditions for Puer tea, but also produce unique taste profiles in the produced Puer tea. Pu’er tea is produced in almost every county and prefecture in the province. The best known Puer tea areas are the Six Famous Tea Mountains, a group of mountains in Xishuangbanna. Many other areas of Yunnan also produce Puer tea. Yunnan prefectures that are major producers of Puer tea include Lincang, Dehong, Simao, Xishuangbanna, and Wenshan. Region is one factor in assessing a Puer tea, and Puer from any region of Yunnan is as prized as any from the Six Famous Tea Mountains if it meets other criteria, such as being wild growth, hand-processed tea.
More about Tea plantations in Yunnan
Processing Methods of Pu’er Tea
What separates pu-erh from the other tea types is its processing–it’s not important which tea plant cultivar produces the leaves. Puer tea is typically made through the following steps:
- Green/raw 熟普: sun fixation杀青 – rolling 揉捻 – sun drying 晒干
- Dark/ripe 熟普: sun fixation 杀青 – rolling 揉捻 – Wo Dui (piling) 渥堆 -sun drying 晒干
- Aging: green and dark pu-erh can be compressed/shaped into cakes and aged. Both sheng and ripe pu’er can be shaped into cakes or bricks and aged with time.
More about Aged Pu-erh Tea
Pu’er Tea Tips & Preparation
Pu’er tea is most often steeped in either a yixing teapot or a gaiwan teabowl. Fill your choice of teaware with about 1 Tbsp tea leaves per 8oz water, and ‘awaken’ them by quickly rinsing with hot water at about 206°. Immediately flush out the water and re-steep. Pu’er is brewed gongfu style, meaning that the tea leaves are only immersed in hot water for a short time before the tea is poured into another container. The best Pu’er teas can be steeped up to 10-12 times before beginning to lose their flavor. Pu’er tea is best enjoyed when slurped. This allows for exposure to the air, which will activate the diverse flavors while providing greater contact with your taste buds
More about How to Drink Puer Tea
Yunnan Tea Benefits
Yunnan tea has many health benefits, including positive effects on weight loss, nausea, high cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases, digestive issues, inflammation, and certain forms of cancer. Most of these health benefits come from the low-calorie count and high antioxidant concentrations, including phenolic compounds, flavonoids, catechins, and a small amount of caffeine. These active compounds can prevent oxidative stress and reduce chronic diseases, while also suppressing appetite and balancing the bacterial environment in your gut.
Tea Culture in Yunnan
Yunnan is one of the top tea producers in China. The industry is the bread and butter of more than 10 million local people. The province has the largest tea garden area nationwide and has seen the tea industry maintain sustainable and rapid development and increasing output over the years.Pu’er tea has already been a world famous brand that has a history of more than 1,000 years. Yunnan black and Tuo teas also gain domestic popularity.The premium congou made by Yunnan Dianhong Group won a gold award at the Panama Pacific International Exposition and has been used to treat distinguished foreign guests by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1958. Xiaguan Tuo Tea received a national quality silver prize three times and the international gold crown food award three times as well. Royal Pu’er Tea made by SimaoLongsheng Group won the King of Pu’er Tea in the sixth Pu’er Tea Festival.Yunnan teas are very popular and more than 70 percent are sold outside the province every year.