Yabao. Depending on who you ask, Yabao tea can be categorized as raw pu-erh, white tea, white raw pu-erh, pu-erh buds, or even as a tisane! These are just some of the many categories this elusive Chinese tea falls into. So what is Yabao? Actually, it's quite tricky to define and confine it to a particular tea category. What we do know is, it's incredibly delicious. So let's try to take a closer look at what makes it so.
What Is Yabao Tea?
Yabao comes from Yunnan province, China's ancient tea-growing region. It comes specifically from old tea trees, aged 200 years and up (known as gushu). These trees also grow wild. Since they are old, they often tower above tea farmers' heads, unlike the typical short bushes which grow other tea varieties.
Tea farmers pick Yabao during the colder months, from late winter to early spring. Much earlier than the first flush teas. You may notice Yabao buds have extra layers of "coats" — these protect them from the harsh weather. In fact, if not picked, these buds develop into new branches.
Farmers must harvest Yabao buds sparingly to ensure that the tree continues to thrive, producing new growth for the later harvests. After harvest, the tea is left to dry, after which it's ready for brewing. The minimal processing of this tea is, in fact, why it's considered a white tea by many.
Yabao tea is wonderful when aged. While the crispness fades, spiciness and maturity take place. If you can get your hands on some extra buds, we surely recommend aging them at home and keeping a tea journal to monitor it along the way. You can age Yabao similarly to how you would age pu-erh. Check out this article for more details on aging tea.
Different Varieties of Yabao Tea
Our Yabao comes from a tea plant known as Camellia Crassicolumna. A tea species quite different from our good friend Camellia Sinensis. It's characterized by a far wilder appearance and can reach much taller in height than the commonly cultivated tea bushes. This tea tree variety is scarce and grows almost exclusively in Yunnan's Qian Jia Zhai region. It is rare to find tea of this species on the market in China, and especially abroad.
Partnering tea farmers Mr.Young and Mr.Zhang from Yunnan specialize in sustainable Yabao production and harvest.
Since Camellia Crassicolumna is scarce, the Chinese government encourages tea farmers to practice sustainable tea production. This is achieved by carefully cultivating cuttings of the ancient tea trees and planting more in the area. Furthermore, scarcely harvesting the buds from the existing ancient tea trees.
We are very excited to be able to share this rare tea variety with the world!
The budsof this tea plant differ from the more common buds of Camellia Sinensis, which are short, plump, fuzzy, and silver. Our Yabao is large, long, and dark-colored. With tones of purples, browns, and yellows.
The more common Yabao of Camellia Sinensis
The taste is incredibly rich — filled with notes of pinewood, dried fruits, and berries. The aroma is that of a fresh forest. The brew — thick, viscous, and rich. It's like no other tea we've had.
Yabao — Caffeine Free Tea!?
What many might be surprised to find out — our Yabao is practically a caffeine-free tea. This is, in fact, a unique trait of its varietal. This tea is either caffeine free or contains such low levels of caffeine that it can be neglected. So feel free to drink this tea in the morning on an empty stomach or even before bed. Yabao is an excellent non-caffeinated tea for those with caffeine sensitivity.
On the other hand, it is exceptionally rich in antioxidants, surpassing any other tea of the Camellia Sinensis plant. Thanks to these two qualities, our Yabao has a very relaxing effect on the body, yet highly elevating. Anyone who drinks it is likely to feel much happier and lighter! Read more on the subject here.
How To Make Yabao Tea
This is one of the reasons we love Yabao as much as we do — it's impossible to ruin!
You can use boiling water and brew it gong fu style. Or, you can brew it grandpa style (as the locals who have been drinking it for centuries like to enjoy it). Or even on-the-go in a thermos, making it the ideal travel tea! We recommend using glass or white porcelain teaware to admire the soft colors of the tea. This tea really doesn't succumb to multiple infusions when brewed gong fu style, easily going past 15!
Gong Fu Brewing Instructions:
212℉ / 100℃
6g per 110ml 15sec + 5sec for each subsequent infusion
Sometimes the brew can be quite light, we recommend experimenting with the infusion times to your liking!
Cold Brewed Yabao Tea
If you would like to try this tea cold-brewed, use 10 grams of tea for every liter of water and infuse for a minimum of 8 hours.