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What is Yunnan black tea?

By Isabelle Wilkinson

Where is Yunnan?

The Yunnan province, one of 23 provinces, is located in the south of China, and has long been purported as the birthplace of tea. According to legend, circa 2700 BC the Chinese emperor and herbalist, Shennong, discovered tea ‘by accident’ after a tea leaf blew into a pot of boiling water, turning it a brown colour just before he drank it. Thanks to its mild, spring-like climate, Yunnan remains one of China’s most important tea producing regions, today producing orthodox Yunnan black tea, as well as Pu Erh and a number of green teas. The area is also home to some of the oldest tea trees in the world.

What is Yunnan black tea?

Yunnan black tea, also known as ‘Dianhong’ (‘Dian’ is the short name for Yunnan province, ‘hong’ meaning red after the deep, red liquor of the brewed tea) is a fully oxidised tea grown high in the mountainous region of Lincang between 1680-1900 metres above sea level. Thanks to the high elevations and mild climate, the growing season in the province is long, with picking taking place from March through to November. If you’ve never tried Yunnan black tea before, then you’re in for a treat. Offering a delicate smokiness on the nose and tongue, Yunnan has layers of caramel and cocoa with light, peppery notes on the finish.

Wet Yunnan leaf

What are the benefits of drinking black Chinese tea?

Thanks to the high altitudes, Chinese black tea is famous for its high content of tea polyphenols and catechins (phytonutrients that release antioxidants into the body). These are believed to have the potential to help the body fight everything from different types of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease to cardiovascular disease. Black tea also contains caffeine which is slowly released into the bloodstream providing a sustained, gentle energy boost. Read more about caffeine in tea here.

How best to enjoy Yunnan tea?

Like most other black teas, Yunnan is best brewed with water just off the boil. We suggest using 3.5g of tea for 200ml of water and leaving it to infuse for 3 minutes. At this point, the liquor will be a deep, dark red colour and the room will be filled with a sweet, smoky aroma. A true winter tea, Yunnan produces a cup you’ll want to wrap your hands around and settle in to somewhere comfy with. We think it’s delicious enjoyed black, but it can also take take milk as a wonderfully rich, breakfast tea.



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