What’s in a name? “Plenty“, is often the case when it comes to the naming of Chinese teas.
A class of green teas known as Hyson teas originated in Anhui province in the 17th. century.
That most excellent source Babelcarp attributes this name to a corruption of the Chinese “Xi Chun“, meaning “Splendid Springtime“, although other sources state that the tea is named after a certain Philip Hyson, the merchant who first imported it to England.
The very best of Hyson tea was named “Young Hyson“, and was of a better quality because it was plucked earlier in the season, “before the rains“, when the leaves were younger and more tender.
In turn, Chun Mee is the name that is often used for the best quality Young Hyson. Nowadays, it seems to be the case that Chun Mee is more associated with Jiangxi province, although production does still seem to take place in Anhui province, as well as Zhejiang province.
The name Chun Mee is an anglicised form of “Zhun Mei“, which means “Precious Eyebrow”, which, as is so often the case with tea related names, refers to the shape of the dried leaf, which is said to resemble a lady’s plucked and shaped eyebrow.
In “The Tea Lover’s Companion” James Norwood Pratt likens Chun Mee to China’s “vin ordinaire” of tea, noting that although it is consumed in vast quantities, the tea itself is somewhat unexceptional, although to be fair he goes on to mention that “Special” grades of Chun Mee have a distinctive plum like flavour, and an egg yolk yellow colour.
In my opinion this more or less sums up Chun Mee in a nutshell. It makes for a good workaday tea, one that just gets on with the job at hand without making a fuss. This is certainly not a “look at me” kind of a tea.
The Chun Mee I’m drinking here was purchased at Ehsan och Pappas Tehus, a 100g packet costing 39 Swedish Crowns.
The dried tea has a grey, flinty, dusty appearance, and looks as though it is made up of Green Gunpowder leaves that never received the memo about being tightly rolled up into balls.
In fact, everything about the tea is like a slightly milder version of Green Gunpowder, from the hay-like, slightly smoky aroma of the dried leaf, to the somewhat bitter, subtle grassy flavour.
I infused this tea Asian style in the Samadoyo E-01 teapot, as well as Western style in a clay teapot.
The tea/water ratios were 5g:150ml Asian, and 2½ teaspoons:500ml Western. The Asian infusions were 5, 10, 15, and then 20 seconds in duration. The 2 Western infusions were for 2 and three minutes respectively. For both styles of infusion the water temperature was 80°C.
One important thing to note – with this being a small leaf tea, and thus having a larger surface area, you need to pay special attention to the steeping times. Oversteeping this tea is remarkably easy, and will result in an unpleasant amount of astringency finding its way into your cup.
To be frank, the only real noticeable difference between the 2 styles of infusion was that the paper tea filter I used in the Western steeping did a better job than the mesh filter of the Samadoyo pot in keeping the tea’s dust out of the finished cup.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive green tea to drink all day every day, but find Green Gunpowder style tea a little too strong or not quite to your taste, then Chun Mee could be just the ticket.