Maofeng tea, also known as Huang Shan Mao Feng tea, is one of China’s most well-known teas. Surprisingly though, it hasn’t been around all that long.
Unlike some of the country’s other popular tea varieties like jasmine tea or oolong tea, which have been around for centuries, Huang Shan Mao Feng tea has only been around since the late 19th century. But don’t let its youth fool you… this new kid on the block tastes exactly how you would want a green tea to taste and is incredibly pleasant to drink.
If you’ve never tried this tea variety, it’s worth seeking out, especially if you’re a fan of green tea. And if you aren’t convinced yet, keep reading to learn all about this simple and, at times, understated brew.
Huang Shan Mao Feng tea (pronounced who-ang shan mow fung) translates to yellow mountain hair point or yellow mountain fur peak. Either translation can be attributed to the fuzzy coating on the leaves–almost like the outside of a peach–and the pointed tip of the leaves resembling the top of a mountain.
Interestingly enough, Huang Shan Mao Feng tea leaves are grown in the Huang Mountains (hence, the name), so the “peak” in its name can also refer to the location in which this plant is harvested. In fact, the Huang Shan Mountain region is actually an ideal locale for growing this type of tea.
As it turns out, these mountains happen to have the perfect growing conditions to give the tea leaves their signature flavor. Between the high altitudes, cool temperatures, fertile soil, and significant rainfall, the Huang Shan Mao Feng tea leaves are able to thrive.
The “kill-green” process (more on that later) has been synonymous with green tea since it was first created centuries ago. But we have a merchant by the name of Xie Yu Tai to thank for adjusting the process that brought about the Huang Shan Mao Feng tea we know and love today.
By changing just two simple steps, Xie Yu Tai was able to process the tea in a way that enhanced the leaves’ more favorable characteristics, while eliminating the less pleasant ones. The result was a hit and the rest, as they say, is history.
Harvesting and processing Huang Shan Mao Feng tea isn’t the most labor-intensive or complicated tea-making process, but it still takes a significant amount of attention and precise timing in order to produce the tea people have come to expect.
Similar to many other tea varieties, Huang Shan Mao Feng tea leaves are picked by hand. The harvest coincides with the Qing Ming Festival, a holiday dedicated to honoring the dead, which takes place at the beginning of April.
But harvesting isn’t the most detailed portion of the process. The key to harvesting Huang Shan Mao Feng tea is drying the leaves through multiple rounds of roasting over flames, as well as over charcoal with the use of bamboo baskets. Once this process is completed, the leaves are ready for packaging.
Take a moment and think about what happens to an apple once you cut it… if you don’t eat it right away, it eventually becomes brown and soft. This is due to a process called oxidation, which is basically just the inside of the apple reacting to the oxygen it’s been exposed to.
Oxidation is something you don’t want happening to your green tea leaves. It takes away from the flavor and signature properties tea drinkers look for in their green tea. So in order to stop oxidation from happening, the leaves are roasted, which helps to lock in the leaves’ fresh flavor.
Each sip of Huang Shan Mao Feng tea is a bit of a rollercoaster ride–in the best way possible! It leads with earthy notes but follows with a sweet, fruity flavor to balance out the more vegetal flavor. Some say the fruity notes taste most like peaches or apricots, which is a bit of a mystery but can perhaps be attributed to the peach trees that grow nearby. Ultimately, it’s a very light and refreshing tea that is smooth to drink, with a pleasant aroma.
This particular tea is best brewed at around 175 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius) for 2-3 minutes. Depending on your preferences for the strength of the tea, you can brew multiple times and vary the steep time to your liking.
This article includes a handy guide to determine how many times you’ll want to brew the tea. Essentially, a good rule of thumb is that the first brew will create the aroma, the second will make it sweet and the third will make it strong.
Green teas are well-known for their many health benefits and Huang Shan Mao Feng is no exception. Green tea has been used in China for thousands of years to address a wide range of issues, from medicinal to the more mundane. There certainly is something to be said about the effect antioxidants, amino acids, and polyphenols, which are abundant in green tea, can have on the body, including:
- Better brain function due to the caffeine and L-Theanine
- Lower risk of cardiovascular issues and reduced inflammation due to the antioxidants
- Warding off infections due to the catechins
And while you’ll notice there is caffeine in Huang Shan Mao Feng tea, green tea typically has a low to moderate level of caffeine that doesn’t come close to what you would find in a cup of coffee. So depending on your sensitivity, you may want to time your cup of tea carefully, but it shouldn’t have you up all night.
Bottom line, if you’re a green tea lover who hasn’t given Huang Shan Mao Feng tea a try, take this as a sign that you should! It packs the benefits of green tea while providing a crisp and refreshing flavor unlike any other tea out there. Trust me, you won’t regret it!