Blind Tea Tasting Set #2 — Reveal

In this blind tasting set, the taster encounters three teas from one category, and another from a very similar one. That there were some green teas present will probably be obvious to even the novice; if you've been around the (tea) block a few times, you may well have guessed the black sheep: a yellow tea!

From the leaves, this can be more or less obvious: yellow teas are usually distinctly darker, but we chose some pretty dark green teas to try and challenge you. If you tasted them leaf-blind, however, you may have had more of a challenge, as green teas can get pretty nutty and savory, and yellow teas fairly refreshing. We even have a green tea from the same origin as the yellow one. But without further ado, let's get to some unmasking:

Tea #1: Xiang Ya

  • Meaning: 'Fragrant sprout'
  • Origin: Mingshan, Ya'an City, Sichuan Province
  • Cultivar: Unknown
  • Harvest Time: Mid-March 2021

This softer, yet still savory green tea was grown in the same place as the yellow one below. Both the processing and age (or rather youth) keep the flavors fresh, with a much more subtle nuttiness.

Tea #2: Mengding Huang Cha

  • Meaning: 'Mengding yellow tea'
  • Origin: Mingshan, Ya'an City, Sichuan Province
  • Cultivar: Zhongcha 302
  • Harvest Time: 5 April 2018

One of the few classic yellow tea types, this tea has been piled and briefly fermented, and this process seems to make its way into the flavor as a slightly tangy note. Otherwise, it can resemble a green tea quite a bit, and seems to cross the juicy mouthfeel common to steamed green teas with the astringency of pan-fried ones. After a few years of storage, though, its yellower colors are showing more and more.

Tea #3: Xiang Cha

  • Meaning: 'fragrant tea'
  • Origin: Songyang County, Lishui City, Zhejiang Province
  • Cultivar: Zhe Nong
  • Harvest Time: 12 April 2021

Though named similarly to the Xiang Ya above, there is little relation between these two green teas; Xiang Cha is not quite as refined as the others, but boasts a rich flavor with some vegetable notes that one could find in a yellow tea.

Tea #4: Lu'an Gua Pian

  • Meaning: 'Lu'an melon seed', for shape of leaves
  • Origin: Qituoshan, Jinzhai County, Lu'an City, Anhui Province
  • Cultivar: From seed
  • Harvest Time: 6 April 2021

The leaves are fairly dark, but are an intense green; moreover, the flavor is similarly verdant, with notes of kale and a subtle ginger spiciness. This is a classic Chinese green tea, and for good reason.


This selection certainly presents something of a spectrum, even if the yellow tea is on one end of that spectrum; indeed, one could even look at this tasting the other way around, as a demonstration of the range of green teas!

Looking at the dry leaves, the Mengding Huang Cha is more of a muted, forest green than the others, while the wet leaves even begin to approach a bronzy yellow. The liquor, too, is the least green, though without as stark of a difference. Tasting the teas without looking at the leaves is definitely more of a challenge.

Depending on how one brews the teas (and we kept the recommended parameters a little vague), one could have some quite different experiences. Almost certainly, Lu'an Gua Pian will be the whitest of these sheep, so to speak, with a juicy mouthfeel that can almost approach that of a sencha, and a bright green infusion. Moving through the spectrum, Xiang Ya is the next most typical green tea in flavor, but is more complex, showing more bitterness or more softness depending on its preparation. Xiang Cha can be very nutty, and if one is already looking for a yellow tea amongst greens, might seem a nice candidate, being even nuttier than the Mengding. The giveaway flavor, though, is a fermented note in the yellow tea. Can you detect a slight sourness, perhaps reminiscent of apple cider or red wine vinegar? That note, while present elsewhere, is very common in yellow teas while rare in greens.

But, tasting the teas again, what do you find that distinguishes the yellow from the greens? And what, on the other hand, ties this rather diverse group of green teas together?