Lao Gong Xiang (老工香黃茶, Lǎo Gōng Xiāng Huáng Chá, "Old Process Fragrant Yellow Tea") is an idiosyncratic and outstanding example of what small independent tea masters can produce when working outside the confines of tradition and generalized industry standards. This tea is grown in the Pan Ying mountain range of Guizhou, a remote and mountainous region of Southwestern China. Insulated from the rest of the country and foreign markets by the more famous tea-producing regions of Sichuan, Hunan, Yunnan, and Guangxi, Guizhou tea farmers have been quietly producing remarkable tea for centuries in relative isolation from the larger Chinese tea-producing community. Because of this they have developed some very unusual and unorthodox methods. This is reflected in the name by the use of the term Lǎo Gōng 老工 ("old process"), which involves an extended withering process of 30-50 days unseen in any other part of China. This long oxidation process results in an incredibly complex, fragrant, and sweet tea with a powerful orchid note up front and a light, lingering mouthfeel with a syrupy aftertaste. In many ways, this tea is more evocative of an oolong than a yellow tea, although the processing style is completely dissimilar to that of oolong.
Having tried both yellow teas currently available, my preference was for this one by far. It’s very gentle, a bit reminiscent of pure honey. I tend to like rich and earthy teas, and this was much more subtle than most sweet oolongs, but it’s complex enough that I enjoyed it quite a bit. Definitely had a bit of that thick syrupy quality that is one of my favorite characteristics in more floral-tasting varieties!